After 17 rounds of stadium action in the winter and early spring months, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross returns this weekend to take two-wheel fans through the summer. The 12-event championship kicks off at the fabled Hangtown, just outside of Sacramento, as Eli Tomac (450MX) and Zach Osborne (250MX) look to defend last year’s championships and overall victories in the season-opening event.
Between the two-moto format for each event and the longer, more sweeping outdoor tracks, riders will need to take a different approach to be successful in their second championships of 2018. With that in mind, here are some of the early storylines we’ll be watching out for as the schedule kicks off today:
Can Eli Tomac go back-to-back with another outdoor title?
If you’ve tried to pick a winner over the past two Monster Energy Supercross seasons, Tomac has been your best bet; he’s won 17 out of 34 rounds in 2017 and 2018. But he didn’t win the title in either of those seasons—Ryan Dungey outdueled him last year, and inconsistency (and a missed round in Houston) derailed him this year. He’s the defending Pro Motocross champion in 450MX, though, and he’ll look to pay off the impressive form he’s shown over the past couple of years with another outdoor title.
Which fresh faces will step up to replace some of the big names who are missing?
Dean Wilson tore his ACL while testing at Glen Helen. Broc Tickle lost his KTM deal after the second sample from a February drug test came up positive, and is focused on fighting his current suspension. Josh Grant and Cooper Webb will miss the start of the season as they continue to recover from broken legs, Justin Bogle is still healing from a neck injury, and Cole Seely just started walking again last month after a pelvis injury. Will replacements like Christian Craig and Alex Ray be able to step into their shoes?
How will Ken Roczen perform in his return from injury?
As lengthy as the injury list is coming into this weekend, Roczen finally returns to his factory Honda after another aborted Supercross title run this year. Having missed the entire outdoor season last year, Hangtown will be his first Pro Motocross race with the team, and he seems to be reluctant to place too much pressure on himself in the first few events. Still, he’s won outdoor titles in 2014 and 2016, and it won’t be a surprise to see him post more moto or overall victories before the season wraps up.