Ryan Dungey and Eli Tomac swept both motos of their respective classes to claim the overall wins at the penultimate round of the Lucas Oil/AMA Pro Motocross Championship at Steel City Raceway in Delmont, Pennsylvania, today.
Dungey, on the Red Bull KTM, who clinched the 450 title last week, led all laps of the first 450 moto but had to work to get around Mike Alessi before taking the second-moto victory and the overall, his ninth of the season. Tomac, on the other hand, fought passed his GEICO Honda teammate Justin Barcia in what was a close race before taking the checkered flag in the first moto, but he had it much easier in the second moto after basically leading it from start to finish.
Much of the drama on the day focused on the 250 class, where the race for the 2012 championship is still very much up in the air. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Blake Baggett, the series leader, saw his points cushion get smaller after posting a pair of conservative fourth-place finishes for fourth overall. He now leads Tomac, who passed Barcia in the standings, by 14 points, and third-place Barcia by 18 points with one round left to go. The next-best rider in the standings is Red Bull KTM's Ken Roczen, who finished second overall on the day with a 3-2, but is 45 points in back of Baggett.
On a damp and cloudy day that left the Steel City track slick and extremely rutted, Barcia led the first 12 laps of the first 250 moto before Tomac, who started off fourth, caught and passed his teammate and series rival, Barcia. Three laps later, Tomac took the checkered flag three seconds ahead of Barcia.
Roczen finished 13 seconds behind Barcia in third, while Baggett finished three second behind Roczen in fourth.
Tomac jumped out to an early lead in the second moto, just ahead of Roczen and Barcia. Baggett started off about seventh but would eventually work his way into fourth.
Tomac felt right at home on the tricky Steel City track and steadily pulled away from Roczen. In fact, the lead pack ended up becoming fairly spread out for most of the race. Tomac finished out the 14-lap race 10 seconds ahead of Roczen, who took the checkers six seconds ahead of Barcia. Eight seconds later, Baggett rode across the finish line.
After the race, Tomac was thrilled to make a series move in the championship.
"It was another great day for the GEICO Honda team," Tomac said. "I'm super pumped right now. To cut Baggett's lead in half in one day is pretty encouraging. If we can go to Lake Elsinore and do the same thing, we'll be tied. It's going to be very interesting. I wish we were racing tomorrow."
Barcia, on the other hand, was obviously disappointed for losing some ground. "I'm a little bummed," he said. "I gave it my all but I just didn't have it."
Baggett seems to be playing it safe by staying out of trouble while carefully manipulating the points. He did say, however, "I rode the best I could but it wasn't my best day. But I have to stay consistent."
Fifth overall went to last week's winner Marvin Musquin who said before the race that he wasn't feeling 100 percent, but the Red Bull KTM rider still went 5-5 on the day.
GEICO Honda's Wil Hahn finished sixth overall with a 9-6, while Eleven10 Mods Honda rider Alex Martin finished seventh overall with an 8-9. Rockstar Energy Suzuki's Blake Wharton (7-11), JDR/J-Star KTM's Malcolm Stewart (6-12) and MotoConcepts Suzuki rider Jake Canada (11-10) rounded out the top 10 overall.
In the 450 class, a brief rainfall in the first moto made things quite slick, but Dungey rode super smooth and delicately and ran away with an easy win, taking the checkered flag 31 seconds ahead of Chaparral Honda's Andrew Short and 37 seconds ahead of Alessi, on the MotoConcepts Suzuki. DNA/Jeff Ward Racing Kawasaki's Josh Grant finished a distant fourth, followed by JGR Toyota Yamaha's Davi Millsaps, Monster Energy Kawasaki's Tyla Rattray and Jake Weimer, Star Valli/Rockstar Yamaha's Nico Izzi, TLD/Lucas Oil Honda's Christian Craig and DNA/JWR Kawasaki's Kyle Chisholm.
Alessi grabbed the holeshot in the second 450 moto ahead of Grant, Weimer, Dungey and Short. He opened up a commanding lead, but Dungey started moving to the front.
Dungey first got by Weimer, then Grant and was in second by the fourth lap.
Dungey still had some ground to make up. He eventually caught Alessi a couple of times only to make a few mistakes and have to catch back up again. On the 11th lap, he caught Alessi again but this time, he cut underneath the Suzuki rider and took the lead cleanly. He led the remaining four laps to take the win and overall victory.
The win puts Dungey third on the all-time win list, overtaking Rick Johnson with 23 wins in the premier class. He's now four wins from catching Bob Hannah.
Alessi's second-place finish at Steel City gives him a lock on second place in the class championship with still one race remaining.
Third in the moto went to Weimer. His 7-3 on the day gave him fourth overall.
Grant enjoyed his best overall finish of the year, getting on the podium for the first time with a 4-4.
Rounding out the top five overall was Rattray with a 6-9.
Sixth overall went to Izzi with an 8-8, followed by Millsaps with a 5-11, and Eleven10 Mods Phil Nicoletti, who had a great day, with an 11-6.
After placing second in the first moto, Short was credited with 32nd in the second moto after crashing with Kyle Chisholm, damaging his bike. He still finished out the day ninth overall, while Honda Muscle Milk's Justin Brayton completed the top 10 overall with a 12-10.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki Brock Tickle took a big hit in the race for third in points when a mechanical problem put him out of the first moto. He came back to finish fifth in the second moto.
Short leads the race for third place with 333 points. Weimer is next with 327 points, followed by Tickle with 309 points.