MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will make its annual visit to one of its most challenging and legendary venues this Saturday as Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minn., hosts the eighth round of the 2016 season with the La Crescent Wine & Spirit Spring Creek National.
Following his anticipated return to the top step of the overall podium this past weekend, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac has added competitive intrigue to the 450 Class as he continues to chase RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen atop the championship standings.
In the 250 Class, the midseason surge by Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb continued with yet another victorious outing, giving him a chance to chase four straight wins and continue to build on his current points lead.
Tomac had been knocking on the door of his first win of 2016 for several weeks. The Colorado native recorded five straight second-place moto finishes heading into last weekend’s return to Southwick and finished runner-up to Roczen in the overall classification at Muddy Creek and RedBud, nearly stealing victory in Tennessee.
Ever since major shoulder injuries forced Tomac out of the 2015 title fight that he dominated up until his season-ending crash, fans have been patiently waiting for him to return to the form that cemented his status as a future star. He rose to the occasion at The Wick 338, tracking down and passing Roczen in both motos en route to a 1-1 sweep, and became the sixth rider in track history to claim victory in both the 250 Class and 450 Class.
Tomac was the last 250 Class winner at Southwick at the championship’s previous visit back in 2013, and became its first 450 Class winner to usher in the track’s new era in 2016. The win wasn’t only a much-needed confidence booster for Tomac, it was arguably even more important to the Monster Energy Kawasaki effort, who has patiently waited for two-and-a-half seasons to get back atop the overall podium. Ryan Villopoto last won for the brand at the final round of his championship-winning 2013 season.
Despite missing out on a moto win for the first time this season, Roczen left Southwick with his head held high. The German rider acknowledged that the team’s overall approach to the sands at The Wick 338 added to their challenge of chasing the win, but he hounded Tomac throughout the entirety of the second moto and was just over a second away from grabbing his sixth victory. Moreover, he minimized the damage done by Tomac in the championship by finishing second in each moto, giving up just six points. As a result, Roczen still holds a very comfortable lead in his quest for a second 450 Class title, currently sitting at 47 points.
Joining the championship’s lead duo on the podium was Autotrader/Monster Energy/Yamaha’s Justin Barcia, who broke through for his first overall podium finish of the season but probably left Southwick wondering what might have been. After posting the fastest overall lap of practice, Barcia was favored to contend for the win once the motos got underway. Unfortunately, adversity struck in the first turn and Barcia was left to pick his bike out of a pileup and start at the tail end of the field. He did well to recover and completed the first lap in 24th, eventually fighting back all the way up to sixth.
Barcia took advantage of a cleaner start in the second moto to finish third, ultimately landing him on the box in the overall classification. The 2016 season hasn’t gone as well as he would have hoped for thus far, especially considering his breakout 2015 campaign, but he’s been trending upward and looks poised for more success.
With the dynamic challenges of Spring Creek on the horizon, Tomac enters Minnesota as the only past winner currently competing. He earned his first career victory in Millville in 2014.
Roczen’s career at the track is a mixed bag of results, but he’s arguably the best he’s ever been coming into Millville, which sets the stage for another thrilling battle between he and Tomac.