After a two-week layoff, the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship returns to action this weekend with a four -week run towards the season championships, which will be awarded on Labor Day weekend. The series’ annual trip to Central New York and the Unadilla Valley Sports Center takes on a little more meaning in 2009 as Unadilla celebrates its 40th year as one of America’s premier motocross facilities. In honor of Unadilla’s accomplishment of four decades of memorable racing, MX Sports Pro Racing introduced the inaugural Unadilla Retro Motocross National. Teams, riders and fans are encouraged to get into the old-school spirit and showcase their pride in the sports heritage. Coverage of Saturday’s race can be seen on SPEED beginning at 7 p.m. ET.The Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki team continued its recent run of controlling the series with its second straight sweep of the overall victories at Washougal MX Park. The 450 class leader Chad Reed extended his already impressive points lead and sits in firm control of the premier class championship heading into the final four. Teammate Ryan Dungey took his second consecutive overall victory and fourth win of 2009 in his continued fight with rival Christophe Pourcel in the 250 class. The pair now sits tied atop the standings with only one month remaining in the series.450 ClassRockstar/Makita/Suzuki
Reed’s 37-point lead heading into Washington nearly doubled once the motos were completed. The Australian rider considered his 1-1 performance to be his best of the season thanks to a hard-earned second-moto victory in which he had to work his way through the field. He is now just four races away from capping off one of the most impressive careers in the history of the sport.
Teammate Michael Byrne has also been strong in the second half of the season. His fifth place run at round eight didn’t live up to the fellow Aussies expectations, but he continues a late-season surge through the standings. If his runner-up finish at Unadilla one year ago is any indication, Byrne will continue that trend.”We had three weeks off after the last race and I just took some time to keep working on my health and to have some fun out on the lake,” said Reed. “This weekend at Unadilla will be a lot like Washougal was for me – it’s not my best track, but it’s a very challenging track because of the lack of traction and the rocks. So for that, I want to really do well so I can continue to work on my weaknesses and be a better, more complete rider.””I hurt my knee at Washougal so I’m fairly thankful that we had three weeks off,” explained Byrne. “I had originally planned to train a lot during the break and continue to build strength in my shoulder, but as it turned out, I tried to rest up and get my knee better. It took a while to heal up but I’m feeling stronger now and ready for Unadilla.”JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha
A promising weekend at Washougal that saw Josh Grant move into second in the standings turned to heartache just one week later when the California-native suffered a season-ending injury to his ankles while competing at the X Games. Grant adds to a talented list of riders sidelined for the 2009 season but the speed he has shown and experience he has gained will translate into an all out run at the title in 2010. Teammate Cody Cooper would rather forget his experience in the Northwest after scoring no points a taking a hit in the standings. One year ago at Unadilla, New Zealand-native Cooper burst onto the American Motocross map with one of the most impressive rides from a privateer, nearly ending James Stewart’s run at a perfect season in a memorable mudfest. The performance gave Cooper his first career podium finish and he is eager to return there for the first time in 2009 for his JGR team. With Grants’ absence, talented young rider Christian Craig will make his professional debut at Unadilla.Honda Red Bull Racing
After a rough outing for the entire Honda team at Washougal, the two-week break came at a good time for the Red Bull stable. As a team, Andrew Short, Ivan Tedesco and Davi Millsaps had their worst outing of the 2009 season. Hard luck hit all three riders throughout each moto and left Tedesco as the best performer with a pair of 11th-place finishes for ninth overall. Short brought home 12th overall, while Millsaps finished 16th. Now after two weeks to get away from the stress that comes with the championship, the trio is refreshed and ready to attack the front of the field, resuming the consistency that has characterized the team throughout the season. Short and Tedesco’s third and fourth place positions in the standings will likely move up in Grants absence, keeping them in the title hunt.”It’s been great having two weeks off to recoup and I’m looking forward to racing Unadilla this weekend,” said Short. “There are only four rounds left to race this season and I’m currently third in the series points, which is good. My goal is put in a solid effort at Unadilla and score good results as I want to be second overall in points by the end of this weekend.””Unadilla is a good track and I’m ready to race on it this weekend,” remarked Tedesco. “I’ve always ridden well on this track, so I’m pumped to see how I’ll do this time around. I’ve spent the last two weeks training and just preparing myself for Unadilla after a not so good Washougal event. I want to get more wins and be more consistent.”Monster Energy Kawasaki
2009 has been a tough season for the factory Kawasaki team. After losing Ryan Villopoto early and Timmy Ferry enduring a tough road to recovery from injury, the team hasn’t had the season they hoped for after capturing the 2008 title. This weekend, Ferry returns after a midseason break from the action to allow the heel he broke during the Supercross season to continue to improve. Joining Ferry will be FIM World Motocross GP rider Gareth Swanepoel. The South African currently sits eighth in the MX1 standings and will look to make the best of his opportunity aboard one of the fastest and most successful bikes in the pits.Jagermeister KTM
Justin Brayton posted a career best fourth-place finish at Washougal, continuing to prove himself as a top level 450-class competitor. The California-native’s rookie season has been impressive and since the midway point, he has been one of the strongest riders in the series. He currently sits eighth in the standings and continues to move up.250 ClassRockstar/Makita/Suzuki
For the last two rounds, Ryan Dungey has been on a roll. The Minnesota rider has two overall victories and has taken three of the last four moto wins. He has overcome a nine-point deficit to climb into a tie for the points lead with rival Pourcel. His four overall victories work into his favor as the series heads to the home stretch as he currently would have the tie breaker should the pair finished the season knotted in first. Last season at Unadilla, Dungey gained considerable confidence challenging Villopoto for the win on each moto. His second overall was the boost he needed to break into the win column, going on to win three of the final four races in 2008.”I enjoyed some time hanging out with my friends and family during the break,” stated Dungey. “But three weeks is a long time between races. I also spent some time working on the little stuff on the Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki RM-Z250, because I think we can always keep improving and keep working as a team. But things are going great and I’m looking forward to Unadilla this weekend.”Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Despite losing his points lead, Christophe Pourcel has been the picture of consistency in 2009 with overall podium results in each of the eight rounds. His worst finish of the season came in Washougal with a third, his first finish outside of the top two. Furthermore, Pourcel has shown a knack for rebounding with tenacity. In instances in which he has found misfortune, Pourcel has proven to be an extremely resilient rider, not letting the circumstances get the best of him and performing his best at the next opportunity. Something that will surely pay off as the season goes on. His teammate Jake Weimer has quietly put together a very strong second half of the season, including two victories.Weimer finished fifth overall in Washougal, bouncing back from an early fall. While he did not have a strong result in Unadilla one year ago, Weimer is a much different rider this season and has consistently been at the front of the pack.GEICO Powersports Honda
After one of his worst outings two rounds ago in Millville, Blake Wharton sure turned things around at Washougal, showing that he has the ability to run up front and possibly steal a victory in this highly competitive 2009 season. The rookie led early in the first moto and brought home a third-place finish, which he backed up in moto two by duplicating the result. The pair of third-place finishes gave Wharton his best career finish of second, missing out on the win by a single point. It gave the Texas-native the confidence he needs to be a consistent front-runner and he will add to the list of riders looking to break through.Teammate Brett Metcalfe remains one of the strongest riders this season, quietly asserting himself in third place in the standings. While he is regularly in the top five, Metcalfe’s results haven’t shown how strong he has been this season. Still looking for that elusive first win, don’t be surprised if the Australian makes his way to the top of the podium before season’s end.For Justin Barcia, this weekend marks the return to his native state of New York. Growing up just a few hours from Unadilla, Saturday will undoubtedly be an exciting day for the rookie. He continues to learn how to harness his speed to last an entire moto and is becoming a very talented and dangerous competitor. The opportunity to do well in front of family and friends could be the extra boost he needs to capture that first career win.Rounding out the GEICO Honda team’s 250-class effort is legend and fan favorite Kevin Windham. Making his return to the series after focusing primarily on Supercross, Windham will join the highly-talented 250 field, racing in the lower division for the first time since 1997. It will surely be interesting to see how Windham’s experience pays off against his considerably younger opponents.”Things are going well so far this season,” said Metcalfe. “I’m currently third in the series points with four rounds to go. I’ve been fairly consistent, finishing amongst the top five places all season long and that’s been great. My goal is to finish on the podium at each of the remaining rounds so I end up on the overall championship podium.””I can’t wait to race this week,” boasted Barcia. “Unadilla is like a home race for me and I will have quite a few family and friends there cheering me on. I want to do well for them and for the GEICO Powersports Honda team. I’m sixth overall in points right now which is pretty good. I know if I do well this weekend I’ll have a good chance of moving further up the points ladder because that’s where I want to be.”Muscle Milk/MDK/KTM
British transplant Tommy Searle has been the only member of the KTM squad to avoid injury this season. Injuries have hurt the team’s presence on the track, but Searle has performed well and proven that KTM is capable of winning. After capturing three straight podium results, Searle has hit somewhat of a bump in his progress over the past couple rounds. His sixth place result at Washougal was solid, but it left him behind Metcalfe who has become a target for Searle in his quest to break into the top three in the standings. As of now, he sits eight points out of third and it will be interesting to watch the international duo battle for that final spot on the championship podium throughout the final month of action. While injuries have plagued the team, it will welcome the return of a pair of its riders with Martin Davalos and Ryan Sipes ready to go at Unadilla.Round 8 Series Statistical Report
* Chad Reed now has the most wins in the 450 Class with three, surpassing injured teammate Mike Alessi with his victory at Washougal.
* The win was Reed’s 42nd career AMA victory but just his fourth in AMA Motocross. The remaining 38 have come in AMA Supercross.
* As a whole, Roger DeCoster’s riders have won 56% of the overall victories across both classes (9 of 16).
* Ryan Dungey remains the winningest rider in the series, capturing his fourth victory of the season at the site of his first career win in Washougal.
* Christophe Pourcel is the only rider in the series to finish on the overall podium at all seven races. His worst finish of the season came at Washougal with third overall. It is the first time he hasn’t finished in the top two.
* Dungey and Pourcel are in the midst of one of the most competitive championship battles in the history of the sport, deadlocked atop the 250 Class standings.
* All three points leaders currently have 337 points.
* Kevin Windham makes his 2009 motocross debut this weekend at Unadilla. He will be competing in the 250 class, making the step down for the first time since 1997.
* Unadilla was part of the inaugural Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship season in 1972.450-Class Stats:
* The first race held at Unadilla was July 16, 1972. Gary Jones would win on a Yamaha.
* This will be the 19th time the gate will drop for a 450 Class race at Unadilla.
* Only nine riders have won at Unadilla in 18 events.
* Kevin Windham, Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart are the only riders to win at Unadilla in both classes. Windham is the only past winner in the field for 2009.
* In 2005, Ricky Carmichael and Broc Hepler swept Unadilla for Suzuki. It was the first time Suzuki swept a national since May 10th, 1981 at Road Atlanta. This season alone, Suzuki has swept three nationals between Mike Alessi, Chad Reed (450 Class) and Ryan Dungey (250 Class).
* Kawasaki has swept at Unadilla an astonishing four times.
* Unadilla has been used for Inter-am events, Trans-am events, and US GP’s in the 1970s and 1980s. The track hosted a 500 national in 1976, 1977, 1989, 1990 and 1991.
* Rick Johnson won his last AMA race at Unadilla on October 14th, 1990, in the 500cc class.
* Yamaha has not won a 450 Class event at Unadilla since 1973.