Good, Bad, 'n Ugly: Thunder Valley

250 Class

The Good: Justin Cooper | 1st Place Overall

After a season of struggles, Justin Cooper was able to put it all together in Thunder Valley and took home the overall win. Considering he's in the pre-season contender talk every year, I'd imagine this season has been a tough pill to swallow for Justin. We have to consider that he picked up an injury while testing for outdoors and it would appear riding through that injury is the reason for his odd results throughout the season. But injured or not, these guys never want to regress to a 5th-to-9th place guy after multiple years of fighting up front. The good news is that he's clearly over the injury or, at the very least, it's not much of a factor anymore, as he grabbed a moto podium at Spring Creek followed by an overall podium at WW Ranch and now an overall win at Thunder Valley. If he can stay healthy through the final round of this series and have a smooth off season, he should be back to his normal self and contend for both titles in 2021. He's expected to be "The Man" at Star Racing Yamaha once Dylan Ferrandis departs.

Justin Cooper.

The Bad: Alex Martin | 11th Place Overall

Alex Martin needs at least third place in the championship to land a nice bonus from JGR Suzuki, but with his 12-12 performance, it's looking like that incentive of his contract may be out of his reach. He currently sits in fifth place in the standings, and he's nine points behind Justin Cooper and 12 points behind Shane McElrath. So...he'll have to have a monster day at Fox Raceway for him to pass both of those guys in the standings and secure that payday, and I don't think that will happen. He'll have a nice bounce-back round, and I'd bet he'll be inside the top five in both motos, but with Justin Cooper riding like himself again, Alex will need some help to get where he wants to be. 

Alex Martin.

The Ugly: RJ Hampshire | 43rd Place Overall

RJ started to wad himself quite often towards the end of this season, and I'm not sure what brought that on, but it has finally cost him the season. He first had a crash at Spring Creek that tweaked his hip, then he had that massive crash at WW Ranch that resulted in some jacked-up ribs, and the final dagger was a crash at Thunder Valley that resulted in a broken hand. He'll only miss one round, and it doesn't sound like any of the injuries are serious, but it was a very discouraging end to his season, and this will probably push back his prep for 2021 as well. I thought that RJ signing with Husqvarna would lead to his resurgence as a front runner, and for a minute, it did, but now I'm back to being unsure. He needs to stay healthy for all of 2021. 

RJ Hampshire.

450 Class

The Good: Max Anstie | 7th Place Overall

Max Anstie has had a really solid season in his first year back racing in the United States, and I hope he's back with HEP Suzuki next year to give it another shot. He has shown that he still has that blazing speed that he showed throughout his many years in the MXGP circuit. Also, he'd not only get a chance to finally race Supercross again, but he'd be one year into living here in the U.S. again, and I'd imagine he would be more comfortable in all aspects of his life. 

Max Anstie.

The Good Bonus: Eli Tomac | 1st Place Overall

I guess Eli Tomac is fully back to being himself now. He looked great in both motos and his performance in the second moto was a classic Eli Tomac performance. As I've said a million times, we'll never figure this dude out, but whenever he's on, he is an absolute pleasure to watch. He has the momentum rolling his way, he looks to be comfortable on the bike, and with Zach Osborne looking to wrap up the title this coming weekend, I wouldn't be surprised to see Eli win another overall and head into the offseason feeling pretty good.

Eli Tomac.

The Bad: Blake Baggett and Justin Barcia

Blake Baggett is dealing with an issue where he'll randomly lose all of his hand strength while riding, and the plan is for him to get it looked at this week. (GuyB note: He's now sitting out the rest of the season.) I'm not sure if this is related to the issues he was having in Supercross as well or if this just recently developed. Still, it could explain his oddball season where he has looked like a regressing rider at times and the El Chupacabra we've come to know and expect at other times. Of course, the hope is that this won't be a long-term injury, as that could severely impact his 2021 season at this point. We're sending good vibes Blake's way.

Justin Barcia and Blake Baggett.

Justin's outdoor season has been solid up to this point but crashing hard at the penultimate round is not the ideal way to cap it off. There hasn't been any word if he'll try to race at Fox Raceway this weekend, but if I were him, I'd ride off into the sunset instead of risking another crash right before a shortened offseason. I'm not sure if he'd be able to move up any in the standings anyway. 

The Ugly: Alex Ray | 38th Place Overall

Alex Ray has raced pretty much the entire series, and he only has seven (yes, seven) points to show for it. He has had some disappointing rides in there, but most of his struggles this season have been caused by the fact that his bike absolutely hates his guts. It has straight-up quit on him a number of times this season, and I'm also sure he has had some of his signature crashes, but we'll just gloss over that and blame the bike. He may not be a top 10 guy, but he's talented enough to score more points than he has this season. Hopefully, 2021 goes better for him. 

Oh, he also injured his finger at Thunder Valley, so that's also something he has to deal with now...

Alex Ray.

Words by Grant Dawson
Photos by Steve Giberson

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