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Lucas Oil Pro Motocross: Year in Review

by Chris Leone // Website // Twitter
Images via Lucas Oil Pro Motocross

It’s Eli Tomac’s world—we’re just living in it.

Considering how many races he won in 2018, it’s a bit of a surprise that it took the Monster Energy Kawasaki all the way until Saturday’s season finale at Ironman Raceway to finally lock up his second straight Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 championship. Tomac scored wins in 15 of 24 motos to hang onto a 16-point margin of victory over rival Marvin Musquin of Red Bull KTM.

At the start of the year, the defending 450 champion made clear that he had designs on becoming the first repeat winner since Ricky Carmichael in 2006. It wasn’t until the seventh moto of the season, the first leg of the High Point National, that somebody else finally took a victory. Tomac swept five events in all in 2018, compared to three last year, and won eight motos compared to four in 2017.

Only twice during the course of an event did Tomac fail to win at least one race. The first occurrence was at RedBud in July, when he briefly lost the championship lead to Musquin. The second was at Ironman, where Tomac needed only to be consistent enough not to lose too much ground to the French rider to keep the number 1 for 2019. With results of second and ninth, despite going down in the first moto, he was able to do just that.

Although they were well behind Tomac and Musquin, Ken Roczen and Justin Barcia battled intensely for third. In the end, it was Roczen who took the spot by a single point, even as Barcia swept the finale at Ironman. The Team Honda HRC rider took two moto wins of his own, at RedBud and Budds Creek, establishing that he’s come all the way back from the injuries that cost him a chance at defending his 2016 Pro Motocross title last year, and half of the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross season.

Barcia’s efforts as a fill-in rider for Monster Energy Yamaha this season have been rewarded with a new contract for 2019, where he’ll partner this year’s 250 champion, Aaron Plessinger. After going into the outdoor season with the 250SX West title in his back pocket, Plessinger continued his winning ways, taking 11 of the 24 motos on offer this year. But even though he clinched the championship a race early at Budds Creek, he didn’t simply use Ironman as a victory lap, instead earning his fifth sweep of the season and sixth overall victory.

Unfortunately, the 2018 Pro Motocross season saw the field ravaged by injury in both classes. 2018 Supercross 450 champion Jason Anderson missed most of the season with a broken foot, while top 250 riders Zach Osborne and Jeremy Martin both failed to make it to the end of the season. Even some of the riders who made midseason returns (Justin Bogle at AutoTrader/Yoshimura Suzuki), and others who were drafted in from elsewhere (Kailub Russell at Red Bull KTM), couldn’t finish out the year.

But we did get to see a number of different faces get a shot on top equipment, from Alex Ray’s stint on a Yamaha until Cooper Webb returned to Suzuki rider Justin Hill’s early promotion out of the 250 class. Even Chad Reed got back into the outdoor game for the first time since 2015 when he joined Hill on a Suzuki at Ironman; the most prolific Supercross main event starter of all time posted an impressive 5-8 with two holeshots and finished eighth overall in the round.

Things may quiet down for the month of September, but that doesn’t mean these riders are done for the year. October 6’s Motocross of Nations will see the sport’s top riders return to action at RedBud, and a week later, the non-points Monster Energy Cup at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas will see riders chase up to $1 million if they can sweep all three 10-lap main events.

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