It’s time for the best riders in the world to take it outside. For 12 race weekends, the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross championship will pick up where Monster Energy Supercross left off, bringing the 450 and 250 class riders across America at the sport’s most iconic venues. This summer’s battles will feature two new additions to the schedule, but it all gets going this Saturday at the sport’s traditional season opener, the Hangtown Motocross Classic in Rancho Cordova, California.
A new season means a fresh start for everybody, and that means the riders who missed significant time in Supercross are back in the championship mix starting this weekend. Here’s a preview of the 2019 championship opener:
Eli Tomac is, and has been, the rider to beat in the premier outdoor class for years now, winning multiple 450 titles and establishing his dominance at top tracks from coast to coast. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider won last year’s title by 16 points over Red Bull KTM rival Marvin Musquin, while Honda’s Ken Roczen was a distant third in the mix.
But if we learned anything from Supercross, it’s that Cooper Webb has the talent to change the game now that he’s also riding for KTM. While his ninth place finish in last year’s outdoor season saw him score less than half of the points that Tomac did, the floodgates opened for the North Carolina native after he finally took a victory at Anaheim 2 during the indoor season. Could we see the same thing this summer from the 2016 250 class champion?
In fact, all three of the most recent 250 title winners have a shot at 450 glory this year. 2017 champion Zach Osborne came on strong for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna at the end of the Supercross season, while 2018 title winner Aaron Plessinger had some solid indoor performances for Monster Energy Yamaha. Like their respective teammates, Jason Anderson and Justin Barcia, Osborne and Plessinger will look to make up for lost time in the indoor season with a new points title to chase starting this weekend.
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season also gets silly season started, with a number of riders looking to set up deals for 2020 and beyond. Although Roczen has already re-signed with Honda and Webb is set at KTM, both Tomac and Musquin are due new contracts after the season, and Tomac’s teammate Joey Savatgy may be on the hot seat with his one-year deal. Savatgy was Supercross’ top 450 rookie this year, but with multiple talented 450 riders also running green, strong outdoor results could lead to an intriguing offseason.
Unlike Supercross, the 250 class in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross is a national championship, meaning all of the top 250 riders will be on track every single weekend. The two East/West Showdown races we got earlier this year indicated that the West riders may be slightly stronger when they go head to head, but it’s always a mistake to count anybody out before race one.
The biggest disappointment of the outdoor season will be Austin Forkner’s absence, as the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider’s torn ACL from his 250SX East title pursuit will have him on the sidelines. His teammate, Adam Cianciarulo, will look to earn redemption after losing out on the 250SX West title to Dylan Ferrandis in the Las Vegas season finale, despite missing the 2018 Pro Motocross season.
Alongside Cianciarulo and Ferrandis, 2019 250SX East title adversaries Chase Sexton (sixth last year) and Justin Cooper (third) will be in contention to take this year’s outdoor title. JGRMX’s Alex Martin is the top returning rider from last year, although he finished 109 points behind Plessinger in the standings, while Jeremy Martin’s preseason injury means there are no returning champions on the grid.