Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Notes: Red Bull Lake Elsinore National
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (September 7, 2012) - The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, hosted members of the media on Thursday afternoon for a press conference to kick off festivities for the inaugural Red Bull Lake Elsinore National. The top three riders from each of the three respective divisions of competition - the 450 Class, 250 Class, and WMX Class - were on hand to talk about the new venue and give their thoughts on the Saturday's season finale.
Following the press conference, the riders and their respective teams took to the brand new Lake Elsinore track for the first time, getting familiar with the layout and setting the foundation for what is sure to be an exciting day of action to wrap up the 2012 season.
"Having a National in Southern California is essential to the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship," said Event Director Tim Cotter. "The group behind this facility has pulled out all the stops in preparing Lake Elsinore for this big weekend and I am confident that everyone will be impressed with what they've been able to accomplish here. Lake Elsinore has everything the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is looking for in a Southern California home, and we look forward to coming back here for many years to come."
Mike Alessi rides a lap on the vast Lake Elsinore layout.
(Courtesy Simon Cudby)
Red Bull KTM
Although he already wrapped up the championship at the Red Bull Unadilla National just a few weeks ago, Ryan Dungey hasn't let up on his competitors. Last weekend at the FMF Steel City National, Dungey captured his ninth consecutive victory with his seventh moto sweep of the season and now heads to Lake Elsinore with his sights on a 10th straight win. A victory on Saturday would match Dungey's win total from his championship-winning 2010 rookie campaign capping off a memorable debut season with KTM.
"It's an amazing feeling (to have the championship wrapped up)," said Dungey. "Especially knowing how hard we all worked for this moment. Starting out with just the 450, a brand new bike, we were able to really dissect it and get things (working) really well and now it feels great to be sitting here at Lake Elsinore in the position we're in. We've got a whole season worth of notes on the bike, so we have a direction for which way we want to go with things."
With another strong runner-up effort at Steel City (3-2), Mike Alessi secured second place in the championship. The veteran rider has helped vault MotoConcepts into the upper echelon of the field and establish the team as a formidable championship contender. He is one of just three riders to beat Dungey in a moto this season and his success has him looking forward to a Southern California homecoming, and potentially become the first Lake Elsinore winner.
"My confidence has been getting better and better," exclaimed Alessi. "It's really refreshing to have a good season and not get injured and just progressing to be better and stronger and faster and fitter every single race. I'm happy and (I'm) having fun here at MotoConcepts and having fun racing again. Monday morning we're going to be right back at it testing and getting that motorcycle the best we can for 2013. We're going to work our tails off this offseason to make the bike better and faster. You can never stop working on improving the bike."
Team Chaparral Honda
Andrew Short will have to fend off the challenges of Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jake Weimer and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Broc Tickle on Saturday, as both riders sit within striking distance of the Honda rider. Short's ninth-place finish at Steel City (2-32) closed the margin between the trio coming into Lake Elsinore, but he hopes his experience works to his advantage on Saturday.
Ryan Dungey led the 450 Class riders onto the track for the first time.
(Courtesy Simon Cudby)
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
After winning his fourth race of the season at the Southwick National in August, Blake Baggett has missed out on the overall podium at the previous two rounds. At Steel City, Baggett's pair of fourth-place finishes left him just off the overall podium, but still in possession of the red number plate. He enters his hometown race at Lake Elsinore on Saturday with a 14-point lead and his sights set on capturing Pro Circuit Kawasaki's 100th motocross victory and its 10th Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
"Coming into (Lake Elsinore), it's the closest one to my house and I just want to have fun with it," said Baggett. "Nobody has raced this track yet. We've all ridden it, but nobody has ridden it in this direction or with this layout yet, so we're all going to go for it. I'm just going to go out there, do the best I can, and have some fun with it."
After his impressive 1-1 performance one week ago at Steel City, Eli Tomac has arguably the most momentum of any rider in the 250 Class coming into Lake Elsinore. Over the last two rounds, Tomac has gained 18 points on Baggett in the championship and by virtue of his fourth win of the season last weekend, has moved into second in the standings. He'll look to keep the ball rolling on Saturday afternoon and potentially capture his first Lucas Oil Motocross title.
"Anytime you go out there and win an overall (like last weekend), you're (thinking) I can do this again next week," said Tomac. "It's not going to be easy this weekend, the best case scenario for me is to get a 1-1, but it's going to take some other things to happen too. I just have to go out there and get good starts. We'll see what happens."
Justin Barcia's consistency has put him in position to win his first championship on Saturday. The Honda rider has been one of the best riders out of the gate in 2012, putting him contention for the win on any given weekend. With two wins to his credit, Barcia enters Lake Elsinore with an 18-point deficit to Baggett atop the standings. His solid third-place effort at Steel City (2-3) has him feeling confident for Saturday, where he'll look to pull out all the stops in hopes of winning.
"You can't make miracles in this sport," said Barcia. "All I can do is go out there, give it everything I can, and just see what happens. I'm looking forward to it."
Blake Baggett led the way for the 250 Class riders on the new National Track.
(Courtesy Simon Cudby)
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki
As the most successful Women's Motocross rider in history, Jessica Patterson knows what it takes to win a championship. However, the 2012 season has presented some unique challenges for the six-time champion, most notably a broken hand she suffered at the halfway point of the season. Despite the injury, Patterson has refused to sit on the sidelines, which has helped her maintain control of the points lead all season. She has a scant 10-point lead over her two closest competitors coming into Saturday, but is ready to take on their challenges in hopes of a seventh title.
"The last few weeks I've actually been riding during the week, which is different because I've been just racing on the weekends to give my hand time to heal," explained Patterson. "The track looks really good right now and I'm very excited because it looks totally different. I live about 10 minutes down the street, so I have ridden here quite a bit, but it's going to be like a new track for everyone. It looks like it's going to be fun and good for racing."
Like her longtime rival Patterson, Ashley Fiolek has also been forced to deal with some adversity this summer. The defending WMX Class champion suffered a concussion at the third round of the season at Thunder Valley, which ultimately forced her to sit out the following event at High Point. From there it appeared as though Fiolek's hopes of defending her crown were over, but upon returning, she has won the last three rounds to claw her way back into second in the championship, just five points out of the lead and a shot at her fourth WMX title in five seasons.
"I didn't think this would happen (being in championship battle), but here we are," said Fiolek. "I was hurt in Colorado, but you know, it's part of racing. I was out at High Point, so I'm happy to be here, I'm lucky to be here and looking forward to the racing on Saturday. I haven't ridden at this track before, but it looks really good. I know for a lot of us this is really new and the first time for everybody, so I'm just going to go out there, try my best, and have fun. Hopefully I can get a good start, stay out front, and hope for a win. I'm just going to do the best I can and see what happens."
Tarah Gieger's consistency this season has been the key to her being in the best position of her career to win the WMX Class championship. Gieger sits only 10 points out of the points lead coming into Lake Elsinore and while she has yet to win in 2012, she's been the one rider to steer clear of major misfortune and has been a fixture at the front of the field. Despite the pressure that can come with being in such a position, Gieger is taking this weekend like any other and will give it her best effort in hopes of surpassing her rivals.
"I've basically just kept my normal routine leading up to this weekend," said Gieger. "It's going to be all about fun for me. I haven't had a real good look at the track, but I know the roost here hurts really bad, so I'd love to get a couple of holeshots. If I can go out there and get a couple wins I couldn't ask for more. That's pretty much the game plan. (For the past few years) this is the closest I've been to winning a championship. I just want to have a good race at this new track, have fun, and end the year on a good note."
Tarah Gieger is a part of a captivating battle for the WMX Class title.
(Courtesy Simon Cudby)
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