The Good: Stilez Robertson and Ty Masterpool
Stilez Robertson hasn't set the world on fire like some young guns do when they come into the pro ranks, but he has been solid. He has five moto top-15s, two moto top-10s, and only one moto DNF through five rounds. For a guy who wasn't even sure if he'd be turning pro after the Loretta Lynn's Amateur Championship, I'd say he's doing just fine. I'm not sure how many 250 riders Rockstar Energy Husqvarna is planning to have on their squad next year. Still, if they keep three riders, I'd imagine the roster will be RJ Hampshire, Michael Mosiman, and Stilez Robertson. Husqvarna has struggled to get a rider from their amateur program to "hit," but I do think Robertson is their best prospect since Mosiman.
Ty Masterpool made his return to racing at RedBud. And while he did have one good moto and one bad moto each day, it was clear that he's eventually going to be really good. He still seems to have some fitness issues to work out, and he's still prone to making rookie mistakes...but the potential is clearly there. I did find it a bit curious that he decided to sit out of Supercross earlier this year, but it sounds like he just didn't feel like he was ready yet. I do respect him making a hard decision like that. I'd much rather him spend another year preparing than going out there and crashing his brains out, but next year will be his third year as a professional rider, and I think it'll be time for him to get his feet wet with Supercross.
The Good Bonus: RJ Hampshire
RJ continued his impressive outdoor season at RedBud. He claimed his first overall win in a long time at RedBud 2 with 2-3 moto scores, and he continues to prove that moving to Husqvarna is the best decision he has made in his career. I really wouldn't be surprised to see him steal another win in the remaining four rounds, especially if entanglements between Dylan Ferrandis and Jeremy Martin become more frequent. However, I still don't think he's legitimately in this title fight. He's over 30 points behind Ferrandis for second in the standings, and he'd need something catastrophic to happen to both Ferrandis and Martin for him to make up that kind of gap. If he can take one more small step forward between now and next year's outdoors, I think he'll challenge for the title even with Jeremy Martin returning for another 250 season.
The Bad: Derek Drake
Derek finds himself in a tough situation, as Steve Matthes recently reported that the Troy Lee Designs team would have to choose between him and Brandon Hartranft for the final roster spot next year. These kinds of situations always suck as Derek hasn't even been around for very long, but he's already in danger of losing his factory ride. I've always thought it's crazy how riders get two years (and in some cases, one year) to prove their worth at the professional level. Our athletes typically turn pro at a much younger age than other sports, which generally give prospects more time to develop. With the new talent in the amateur pool each year, this is just how things have panned out for our sport. Derek has been around for one motocross season and one Supercross season, and while I wouldn't say that he has set the world on fire with his results, I think there's a chance he would take a decent step forward if he was given one more year. However, I think the team is going to look at who has delivered for them this year and who is the most likely to deliver a win and multiple podiums next year, and that's Brandon Hartranft. I do hope Derek lands on a decent bike somewhere if this is how things shake out, though.
The Ugly: Jalek Swoll
Jalek finds himself in a similar situation to Derek Drake. This is his first full year as a pro, but with Stilez Robertson moving up, I'd imagine the pressure is starting to build for Jalek. Husqvarna may carry four riders into 2021, and Jalek may be safe for another year, but he'll still have to deliver big time for the team next year despite not being in the pro ranks for very long. It also doesn't help that Jalek's outdoor results have...not been good. He did miss two rounds with a concussion, but in the six motos he has raced he has only scored points in two of them. He seems like a really cool kid, and he did show some potential later in this year's Supercross season, but I wouldn't want to be in his boots right now.
The Good: Adam Cianciarulo and Zach Osborne
It was a great weekend of racing for both of these guys as they each picked up an overall win and proved that the Eli Tomac era of dominance is truly over. Adam very well could end the season as the highest-ranked Kawasaki rider if he's able to stay off the ground, which would be absolute bonkers, and Zacho has solidified that he is the title favorite at this point. I don't think Adam or Marvin Musquin will be able to make up enough points on Zacho in the four remaining rounds to make it an actual championship fight. 2020 has been one weird year as a whole, and it even made sure to provide us with an odd outdoor season. If Zacho can bring this thing home and win a 450 outdoor title, how many people can genuinely say they predicted he would win a 450 title when he left the 250 class? I remember some people predicted that he would race for a year or two and then head off into GNCC due to his age...
The Good Bonus: Blake Baggett
Well, alright? Blake Baggett suddenly showed up in the second moto of RedBud 2 and won it by nearly 14 seconds. Judging by how his podium speech was less excitement about winning and more relief that he proved to himself that he can still win, it's pretty clear he has struggled with the mental side of the sport this season. Maybe this will set him back on the right track, or maybe this will be his only moto win the of the season; it's hard to tell whenever someone regains their footing out of nowhere like this. After listening to him talk about it all after RedBud 2, though, I'm definitely rooting for him to pick up a couple of more podiums before this season is over.
The Bad: Dean Wilson
Deano actually just signed a one-year extension with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna, which is cool to see. And even though I've listed him as "The Bad" this week, I do really like Deano, and I'm glad he won't have to privateer it next year. However, he has been essentially invisible this season. His results haven't been horrible, as he is 10th in the standings with nine top 15 finishes out of 10 motos. He's never really been in the fight up front, though, and he was basically an 11th place guy at RedBud. Deano can do much better than that outdoors, and I hope he can sneak into the top five before we head into the offseason.
The Ugly: Eli Tomac
The Mystery of Eli Tomac has indeed returned this outdoor season. Since the 2017 season, he has been so solid that we haven't had to really talk about the two completely different Tomacs that can show up to a race. There's the Tomac with otherworldly speed, and then there's the Tomac that will finish in seventh place and look like he's out for a Sunday cruise. There's no way to truly know what it is because there's no figuring out Eli Tomac. He came back and made up some points last week, and then he lost points at both of the RedBud rounds with three unimpressive motos out of four. He's now 47 points down with four rounds left, and I think it is now the appropriate time to stick a fork in his aspirations for four-straight titles. Will he win some in the final eight motos? I don't doubt it. Will he also finish outside the top five in a few of them while Zach Osborne wins? Probably.
Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson