The Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship will make its eighth stop of the 2012 tour this Saturday at the picturesque Washougal MX Park, located a short drive from both Portland, Oregon, and Vancouver, Washington. The Peterson CAT Washougal National will see Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey try for his 11th and 12th consecutive moto wins of the year in the 450 class, and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Blake Baggett try to extend his points lead in the 250 class and get back to his winning ways after throwing away a sure win last week at Millville, Minnesota's Spring Creek National MX. Both riders won here last year, with Dungey trading moto wins with home state favorite Ryan Villopoto, and Baggett edging out Tyla Rattray (2-2) with a 1-3.
Racers will no doubt be happy to leave the hot and humid conditions of the last two races in Minnesota and Michigan for much cooler and drier conditions of the Pacific Northwest. Weather forecasters are predicting ideal 75-degree temperatures for Saturday's race. And, as of now, no rain is in sight (except for some possible rain on Friday morning).
The following is a preview of the Washougal National by MX Sport's Brandon Short.
Red Bull KTM
Since capturing his first win at his hometown track back in 2008 in the 250 Class, Dungey has stood atop the podium ever since, posting a third straight 450 Class victory to remain undefeated at Millville in the premier division. With another 1-1 effort under his belt, Dungey has now won 10 consecutive motos and heads to a track where he has seen equal success at Washougal. The KTM rider's first career motocross victory came at Washougal in 2008 and he has won there every year since, aiming for a third 450 Class win on Saturday.
Mike Alessi experienced his toughest outing of the season at the round prior to Millville, but was back out front last weekend. Alessi was a fixture in the top three during both motos, even leading in the early stages of Moto 1. In the end, his 3-2 moto scores helped him edge out Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jake Weimer for second overall and secure his fifth podium result in seven rounds.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
Jake Weimer has been a regular presence in the battle for the podium this season and at Millville, he made his return to the overall podium. Weimer backed up his runner-up finish in the opening moto with a third-place effort in Moto 2 to tie Alessi in points for the day, but assume third place by virtue of the second moto tiebreaker. Only 12 points separate Weimer from Alessi in the 450 Class standings.
"I'm excited to get to Washougal," said Weimer. "I've got family there and grew up racing (the track) as an amateur. The goal is to close the gap on the leaders and be up there racing and learning. Two good starts are going to be really important for this weekend."
After missing nearly the entire first half of the season with an injury, Tyla Rattray is getting himself back into top form. The South African's day started off well with a sixth-place finish, but he encountered misfortune in Moto 2, posting a 28th-place result to land ninth overall. While his day at Millville did not go as planned, Rattray is looking forward to Washougal, where he finished second last season in the 250 Class.
"Washougal is a bit different than most of the tracks," said Rattray. "The dirt there is deceiving and pretty tricky, but it's a lot of fun to ride. A good start is important because the roost is really bad. Hopefully, I can rip a good start and be up front in both motos."
Team Chaparral Honda
Andrew Short's consistent 2012 season continued at Millville as the veteran rider once again asserted himself into the top five. Short began his afternoon with a fifth-place finish and backed it up with a sixth-place effort to claim fifth overall and further solidify fourth place in the championship standings.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Broc Tickle showed some resiliency at Spring Creek en route to a sixth-place finish. After starting the day off with a 12th-place finish, Tickle rebounded in Moto 2, battling at the front half of the field to finish fifth and vault himself to sixth overall. He maintains fifth place in the championship standings, looking to close the gap on Short in fourth.
"I always seem to ride pretty good at Washougal," said Tickle. "I've been making it hard on myself having to come through the pack, but at Washougal you don't want to do that because that roost hurts! If I get some (good) starts this weekend, ride the best I can, not rush myself, and stay smooth, I should be able to come away with a podium."
Team Honda Muscle Milk
Thanks to a strong start to the second half of the season, Justin Brayton has made huge strides in the championship. Last weekend, Brayton challenged for a podium result in both motos, finishing with a pair of fourth-place finishes to secure fourth overall. By virtue of his strong performance, Brayton jumped to sixth in the points and will look for continued improvement this weekend at Washougal, where he posted a solid fifth-place finish one year ago.
"Millville was a good day for me; not on the podium where I want to be, but I'm happy to be running up front where I belong," stated Brayton. "I got a bad start in Moto 1 and had to spend most of the race making my way towards the front of the pack. In Moto 2, I got a better start and finished fourth for fourth overall."
Team Yoshimura Suzuki
Late last week, news broke that James Stewart would not compete at the Spring Creek or Washougal rounds. A press release from Suzuki stated Stewart had not seen enough progress in his rehab from an injury suffered earlier this season and with the team, decided it was best to take some additional time off and return to action at Southwick in August for the ninth round of the season.
"At this point in time it doesn't make sense to push it," said Team Yoshimura Suzuki Manager, Mike Webb in the release. "From a safety standpoint, for both James and the other riders, we just don't want to take the chance. The injury is a little more than we thought and will simply require a bit more rehab. The plan is to stay off the bike for a couple weeks and then ride and test and come back strong for Southwick."
Fellow Suzuki rider Brett Metcalfe is also out of action for the remainder of the 2012 season after suffering multiple injuries in a testing crash.
Jeff Ward Racing Kawasaki
It looked like Millville could be a strong day for Josh Grant after posting a solid eighth-place finish in the opening moto. However, misfortune relegated Grant to 34th in Moto 2, dropping him to 14th overall. Despite that, Grant still sits eighth in the championship standings, just one point behind an inactive Stewart.
Kyle Chisholm had a similar day at Spring Creek to his teammate, posting nearly identical results, but experiencing his misfortune in the first moto. Chisholm started the day with a 33rd-place finish in Moto 1, but battled back to secure eighth in Moto 2 and land 12th overall.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
It looked like Blake Baggett was in for another dominant day at Millville after he put forth one of the most impressive rides through the field this season in the opening moto. After starting in eighth, Baggett overcame a multiple-second deficit to catch the leaders and pass them, ultimately pulling away for the win. In Moto 2, Baggett moved into the lead early, only to experience misfortune when he lost traction with his rear tire. After dropping positions, Baggett battled back to finish fourth in the moto and secure third overall, losing only a few points to his championship rivals. Now, he heads to Washougal where he emerged triumphant one year ago, looking to get back atop the podium.
"I was able to take the overall here last year," said Baggett. "I went 1-3 last year, so we'll see if we can better that moto score. The bike is perfect right now, so I'm pretty confident we can make it happen. We got after it first thing Monday back in California after spending some time in Florida and we're ready for the weekend."
Justin Barcia was once again a fixture at the front of the field at Spring Creek, battling for the overall win by days end. Barcia led the majority of the first moto, but ultimately settled for second. In Moto 2, he asserted himself in a runner-up position and carried it through to the finish to claim second overall and miss out on his second overall win of the season by just one point. Barcia maintains firm control of second in the championship, 18 points behind Baggett.
"The heat and humidity made it really tough (at Millville)," stated Barcia. "We didn't have much time between races, so we had to recover quick. The track was intense and I pushed as hard as I could. I was happy with second because consistency is everything, but I obviously want to win."
Eli Tomac's hard charging paid off with his third overall win this season at Millville. The Colorado native was one of a handful of riders battling for the win in the opening moto, ultimately finishing third. In Moto 2, he battled with Baggett for the lead, but capitalized on his rival's misfortune to take the moto win and secure the overall. He'll look to keep the momentum going at Washougal and close the deficit to his teammate in second in the championship.
"It was so awesome to be back on top of the podium," said Tomac. "The first moto felt like the most intense race of the season so far because we were all so close the whole time. I finished third, but had to come from behind after not getting the greatest start. In Moto 2, I was able to get out front early, but was passed by Blake (Baggett). I focused on just staying consistent and applying pressure to him, which worked because he made a mistake and went down, allowing me to capitalize and take back the lead."
Wil Hahn's impressive 2012 season continued at Millville with a strong sixth-place effort. The veteran rider began the afternoon with a fifth-place finish and backed it up with a seventh-place effort in Moto 2. He currently sits sixth in the 250 Class standings.
"I got good starts in both motos (at Spring Creek) which really helped set the tone for the rest of the race," said Hahn. "I don't think I rode as good as I should have in the first moto, but I came out of the day sixth overall and (I'm) still sixth in points, so I'm happy with that."
Justin Bogle made his return to action at Spring Creek following an injury that kept him out of action for several rounds. Despite being away from competition for some time, Bogle asserted himself well, posting 10-8 moto results to finish eighth overall.
"My knee feels good and I am happy to be back at the races," said Bogle. "I need to go home and work on my endurance, but for my first race back I am happy with a top-10 finish."
Red Bull KTM
Ken Roczen was looking for a breakthrough day at Millville, but ultimately settled for fourth overall, just missing out on the podium. The German rider was a factor at the front of the field all afternoon long and continues to be one of the most consistent riders in the division. His 4-3 moto scores further solidified his position of fourth in the 250 Class point standings
Marvin Musquin was also looking for a strong day at Spring Creek. The French rider was part of a captivating battle for fifth overall and after posting 7-6 moto scores, settled for seventh overall. He'll look to be in the mix for a podium finish on Saturday in Washougal.
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki
Blake Wharton posted one of his best performances of the season in Millville, coming out on top of a close battle with both Hahn and Musquin. Wharton's 6-5 moto scores landed him fifth overall. He is currently seventh in the 250 Class championship and will look for more strong results on Saturday.
"Millville was real good for me," said Wharton. "My starts weren't where I wanted them to be, but I felt like I was able to ride well. My bike was handling good and I feel one step closer to where I need to be. I'm looking forward to next weekend. I like the track at Washougal and we'll see if we can do some damage."
Jason Anderson earned a solid top-10 finish of his own at Spring Creek. The second-year rider continues to run well and has made huge gains through the first half of the season. At Millville, his 8-10 moto scores landed him ninth overall. He currently sits eighth in the championship, just 11 points behind his teammate.
"It was a decent weekend (at Spring Creek)," said Anderson. "I had two pretty good motos. I ended up going 8-10 for ninth overall, and now I'm ready to head to Washougal. I had a few issues in the second moto, but all in all, it was a good day. I have a few areas to work on, but I'm looking forward to taking care of that and racing at Washougal."
Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda
Jessy Nelson just missed out on a top-10 finish at Millville, posting 11-12 moto scores to finish 11th overall. However, he still holds on to ninth in the 250 Class point standings and will look to improve this weekend at Washougal.
Jake Canada, who is battling Nelson in the points, edged out his counterpart for a spot inside the top 10 at Spring Creek. The Honda rider's 9-13 moto scores gave him 10th overall, which is the same spot he occupies in the championship, three points out of ninth.
After a one-week break in action, the Women's Motocross Championship continues its eight-race season at Washougal. At the previous round at RedBud, Team Honda Muscle Milk's Ashley Fiolek captured her second win of the 2012 season with a dominant 1-1 outing. Current points leader Jessica Patterson is battling her way through a broken hand suffered prior to RedBud, but the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki rider refused to sit on the sidelines, posting a 14th-place finish. The three-race winner looked to take advantage of a much-needed break and will return on Saturday with a slim nine-point lead over Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda's Tarah Gieger, who finished third at RedBud.
Additionally, the WMX Class will receive presenting support from Motosport.com for this weekend's Washougal round.
Television coverage from Washougal begins on Saturday, July 21, with live first moto coverage of the 450 and 250 Classes on FUEL TV, beginning at 4 p.m. Eastern. Both motos will also be streamed live on AlliSports.com. NBC Sports Network will provide same day coverage of the second 450 Class moto at 11 p.m. Eastern, in addition to final-moto coverage of the 250 Class on Sunday at 11 a.m. Eastern.