For the first time since 2011, Fox Raceway at Pala plays host to Lucas Oil Pro Motocross this weekend as the Lucas Oil Fox Raceway National marks the second event of the 12-round season. Coming off a stellar opening round at Hangtown last weekend, not to mention replacing Glen Helen on the schedule, Pala will have lots to live up to in the excitement factor—but the sport’s top riders will be ready to make it happen on Saturday.
We’re still early enough in the season that talking too much about points is silly, but Hangtown certainly clued us in on who’s going to be fighting for the title this year. Here’s a look ahead at this weekend’s action:
What better way to pay off a multi-year contract extension than with a victory? Both Honda’s Ken Roczen and Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac did just that from Hangtown, as they split the two 450 motos on offer. It was Roczen who took the overall win, though, sending a message to the world that he’s back and ready to reclaim the Pro Motocross crown. After multiple years of domination from Tomac, it looks like we might be shaping up for one of the best championship fights of the year—indoors or outdoors.
But don’t sleep on the rest of the field, especially a recharged Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team. With its Supercross season ruined by injuries to multiple riders, 2018 Supercross 450 champion Jason Anderson and 2018 Supercross 250 East champion Zach Osborne scored a podium and top-five finish each from Hangtown. Now that they’re both healthy and on an equal playing field in the standings, both riders will look to fight for number 1 plates yet again.
Red Bull KTM will also be a factor this year, even if their indoor dominance didn’t immediately transfer to Hangtown. Cooper Webb’s 3-6 and Marvin Musquin’s 7-4 were good for fifth and sixth overall on the weekend, a respectable if not desired start to the season.
Finally, don’t forget about Justin Barcia. The Monster Energy Yamaha rider opened last year with dual podiums at Hangtown and swept the Ironman season finale, and rode to top five finishes in a majority of last year’s motos. An 8-7 to open 2019 was a bit flat for a rider who only finished worse than sixth once all season last year, but don’t expect it to become a trend. After all, Barcia’s third place here in 2011 makes him the most successful returning rider from the last time Pala was on the schedule.
Adam Cianciarulo may not have totally erased his narrow 250SX West title defeat from his mind yet, but a stellar opening round of the season at Hangtown should have helped. Cianciarulo’s 2-1 continued a streak of first or second place finishes in his six most recent motos, dating back to Budds Creek in 2017 (he missed the entire 2018 season). In fact, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider has only missed the top five once in his last 10 motos.
Behind him, Monster Energy/Star Racing Yamaha riders Justin Cooper and Colt Nichols completed the overall podium, with Cooper winning the first moto. 2019 Supercross champions Dylan Ferrandis and Chase Sexton completed the overall top five, while veterans Alex Martin and Shane McElrath finished toward the low end of the top 10 thanks to first moto struggles.
Unsurprisingly, there aren’t a lot of big names on this weekend’s 250 entry list who ran also 250s the last time the series visited Pala in 2011. Most of the returning riders, like Musquin, Anderson, Tomac, and Blake Baggett, have long since moved up. Of the list, Alex Martin (10th in 2011) and Martin Davalos (14th) are the most notable names, but neither had stellar results in the season opener. Could their familiarity with Pala in a race session, however long ago, prove to be an advantage?