A Champion Crowned At A Wild Unadilla
It probably doesn’t come as any surprise that Ryan Dungey’s dominance has brought him to his second 450 class championship. With two rounds still remaining in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Series, Dungey managed to accomplish a second championship, and in a similar way to his title just two years ago in 2010. Only this time, his title came in historical fashion as he won the first ever 450 championship for manufacturer KTM.
Looking back at the start of the season, things didn’t look promising for Dungey to stand on top of the podium with that No. 1 plate. Dungey struggled when James Stewart was on, but as his style, Dungey remained consistent. He was right there when Stewart made his mistakes and took full advantage. He did not lose a single overall since Stewart’s retreat and even with his reemergence to the series. Regardless of any argument about top-rider absence such as Chad Reed or Ryan Villopoto, Dungey has proven in the past he can win against the best. This year was just a little easier for him to win.
While Dungey was busy racking up enough points to clinch the title at Unadilla, there was one wild and crazy opening moto that took place. Stewart had been absent for a few rounds and decided that Unadilla was where he would give it another try. Honestly, based on his history at the track, he should have waited. Stewart and the legendary course in New Berlin, N.Y. haven’t normally got along. Even in 2008 when he went 1-1, the weather conditions were not on his side with lightning and rain threatening his perfection. Though not one to usually back down to a challenge, Stewart lined up and took over the early lead in the opening 450 moto. The hope for non-Dungey fans was back, but it wasn’t long after he took that lead that he went down.
Next to the lead was Michael Byrne, who was right there to capitalize, but Jake Weimer seemed to be a man on a mission and took over the lead from Byrne just one lap later. Again, the leader went down with Weimer enduring a pretty gnarly high-side, but thankfully got up uninjured. With Byrne back to the lead, he opened a huge gap on the rest of the field - at one point it was over 15 seconds. Then with just six laps to go, Byrne was sitting on the side of the track with a broken leg. He didn’t crash, but the deep and rough track had been strong enough to take him out of the season. (The same also happened to Les Smith, who broke his leg as well without a crash that same moto.)
Now it was up to Broc Tickle to try and take another moto win from Dungey. Unfortunately, Dungey had made his way back from a crash on the opening lap to take over the lead with just two laps to go. Like I said, one wild and crazy 30 plus 2 opening moto! Spectators can only hope - without the same injuries - that every moto is that exciting now that the chase for the championship is complete.
On to the class where the championship hasn’t been decided, but is definitely favored to one rider. Blake Baggett entered the day at Unadilla 24 points ahead of Justin Barcia, but it would be either of these riders that really shined in New York. Marvin Musquin and Ken Roczen were out to prove that they can handle the intensity of racing in the states. In the opening moto Roczen FINALLY got his moto win that he had desperately needed. Coming into the day, Roczen had led 65 laps, but had yet to turn out a moto or overall win. Saturday was his day and he was so excited he nearly went down doing a fist pump when he crossed the finish line. It was the first time that a KTM rider had stood on top of the podium for a moto win this season.
Another first for KTM this season came after the second moto. While Barcia and Eli Tomac were out front, Musquin was riding a steady and consistent race. When the checkered flag came out, Musquin’s 2-3 moto result put him at the top of the daily points, giving KTM their first overall victory of the season. It’s pretty safe to say that KTM had an amazing Unadilla experience in 2012.
So where was the points leader? Baggett finished the day with a 3-5 for FIFTH overall. Yikes. An argument could be made that Baggett is in full cruise mode now that he has a 24-point lead with two rounds to go (he neither gained nor lost points at Unadilla), but judging by his face following the second moto, he was disappointed with his ride. It would be safe to say that he’ll be out to collect those final two overall wins of the season, rather than sit back and cruise. We’ll just all have to tune in and see if KTM can win again, if Barcia or Tomac can close the gap on Baggett, and if Baggett is ready to settle for average finishes to claim his first professional championship.