Southwick made its return to the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series this past weekend, and I don’t think there is one person out there that wasn’t pumped to see the sandbox back. It provided us with some great racing, some big crashes, and an awesome crowd. So with that being said, let’s dive straight into our picks for the best and the worst of Southwick.
The Good: Jeremy Martin | 2nd Place
Southwick was a step in the right direction for Jeremy. He’s been struggling all season with “something”… None of us really know what it is, and while we can speculate all day, we may never know what has been troubling the defending champ. What we do know, though, is that he is getting better every week. His pace was much better than it has been for the majority of the season, and he seemed to be much more aggressive when he was trying to make passes. Unfortunately, he fell towards the middle of moto two and took quite a while to get going again. He eventually got up in tenth, and at that point any hopes he had of taking his first overall win of the season were long gone. Second overall is progress though, and at this point progress is all Jeremy can ask for.
The Good Bonus: Austin Forker | 3rd Place
The Austin Forkner bandwagon is growing in size every week, and I may be the latest to jump on. He’s had a great rookie season, but to land his first professional podium at one of the roughest tracks on the circuit is even more impressive. Props to Mitch Payton for locking down this guy for the next three years, because he has some serious potential.
The Bad: Motorcycle Superstore Suzuki
It’s no secret that this year has not gone well for Motorcycle Superstore Suzuki. The team struggled with injuries during Supercross and has not performed well outdoors. Team leader Kyle Cunningham has hovered around 11th-18th for most of the motocross season with Josh Osby and Jimmy Albertson struggling to score points. There’s no way Suzuki is super-pumped about those results, but we do have to consider that this is Suzuki’s first year supporting a 250 team in a long time. Wins and podiums won’t happen overnight, and their biggest concern for 2016 should be developing the bike and getting better every week. Next year is when they should place an emphasis on results — and maybe consider hiring a big-name free agent.
The Ugly: Shane McElrath’s Crash
Shane crashed so hard at the end of moto two his wrist brace flew off. That’s when you know he hit hard. What makes the whole situation worse is that he’s been getting better every week. He nearly won a moto at Muddy Creek, and he was battling Alex Martin for a podium position on the final lap when he went down. Luckily, he didn’t sustain any serious injuries in the crash, but I don’t expect to see him back before the end of the season. A concussion alone could keep him out for the remainder of the season and when you throw in seven broken ribs plus an AC separation… I don’t think he’s going to be back on the bike anytime soon. I hope he’s feeling better and that the recovery process is going well. If you haven't seen it, you can check out the crash for yourself here.
The Good: Eli Tomac | 1st Place
I was lucky enough to be at Southwick in person, and I must say watching Eli rail some of the outside lines was insane. His sand skills were no secret coming in (he was on rails at Southwick in 2013 and at the Motocross of Nations in 2014) but with Ken Roczen absolutely dominating this season I think most people automatically placed Eli in second before the gate even dropped. The biggest question is whether or not this will be his Daytona of the motocross season. Will his only win of the year come at the only sand track of the year? Or is this the turning point of the season, like Millville in 2013, where he'll find another gear and challenge Roczen in every moto? I guess we'll find out the answer this coming weekend.
The Good Bonus: Benny Bloss | 7th Place
Benny is basically a giant. He makes the BTO Sport KTM 450 machine look like a mini bike, and he manhandles it around the track without any problems. What many spectators probably don't know is that he's a rookie, so his seventh place overall at the 'Wick is quite impressive. If he throws together a couple of more top ten results before the end of the season, he may be looking at a factory-supported ride for 2017.
The Bad: Ken Roczen and His Bike
After losing the first moto by over 20 seconds, Ken Roczen talked about how unhappy he was with the bike on the podium. This has become a common occurrence from him this year, and even when he's won by a decent gap he has voiced some complaints about the bike. The main issue he appears to be having is with the forks, and I'm not sure what he could do to make it better. Even when he was on the KTM he was never really happy with the bike, so I've started to come to the conclusion that he may never be completely satisfied with his suspension setup. Is that a rip on Ken? I don't believe so, because there are many other riders are constantly struggling with suspension, too. His issues are just amplified due to his constant presence on the podium. In the end, he'll still be in contention for the win at Millville whether he's comfortable or not. Stamp it.
The Ugly: Yoshimura Suzuki Factory Racing
"Is 2016 over yet?" That's what Mike Webb has to be asking himself every time he wakes up these days. It's been a dreadful year for the entire Yoshimura Suzuki team since Anaheim 1 in January, and their year hasn't gotten a whole lot better since then. Blake Baggett started off the motocross season great, and then broke his collarbone. He's been racing his way back into shape these past few rounds but crashed three times this past weekend and didn't score a point. Luckily fill-in rider Matt Bisceglia has been a solid top ten guy for the team in James Stewart's mysterious absence (this time he's apparently sitting out until his kid is born), but he pulled a Superman during practice, and ended up sitting out the day. Boy, the off-season really can't come fast enough for these guys. I hope they get the train back on the tracks at Millville.
Photos by Steve Giberson
Article by Grant Dawson