Glen Helen preview: Eli Tomac, Zach Osborne carry red plates into Round 2

May 25, 2017

Tomac and Osborne were in command at Hangtown. Will Round 2 be more of the same?

Musquin vs. Tomac: A battle we're likely to see more of this summer. (Photo: George Crosland)

As the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship enters the second round of the season, the series stays in California but heads south to Glen Helen Raceway.

While the first round of the summer featured some exciting battles, it ultimately concluded with 1-1 moto sweeps in both classes. Are those results a sign of things to come, or should you just push the recency bias aside entirely? We dive in to what to watch for in both classes below as we preview Saturday's FMF Glen Helen National.

450 Class
In the 450 Class, Eli Tomac did nothing to diminish his standing as the title favorite. He won both motos even though he wasn't perfect. His first moto included a tip-over, but it ultimately didn't hurt him because he had already amassed a fairly large lead. Then his second moto featured a relatively poor start, something that's been a recurring trend at times throughout his career. With 30+ minutes of time on the clock though, Tomac was able to patiently work his way toward the front of the field, eventually taking the lead away from Marvin Musquin after an exciting, lengthy duel between the two.

On one hand, Tomac's moto sweep was pretty much expected. On the other hand, it wasn't as dominant of a performance as what he'd done at the same track two years prior when he won a moto by 91 seconds over Ryan Dungey.

When Tomac swept Hangtown two years ago, he followed it up with another 1-1 sweep at Glen Helen a week later. Will history repeat, or could someone stop him?

Musquin was widely expected to be Tomac's biggest challenger this year, and his 2-2 finishes at Hangtown validated that. He'll get another crack at taking down Tomac this week. Jason Anderson was another rider widely pegged to challenge for wins and podiums, but he had to pull out of the first moto when he got hit above the eye by a rock (he finished 6th in Moto 2 after getting the wound stitched up). He finished 4th overall (2-5 moto results) at Glen Helen last year and should be a bigger threat now that he's a week removed from the rock incident.

One of the most eye-opening results at Hangtown was Josh Grant finishing 3rd in both motos. He also led seven of 16 laps in the second moto. Now the series heads to Glen Helen, where Grant won a moto in 2014. It will be intriguing to see if the 30-year-old Grant remains a podium guy throughout the rest of the summer, but for this week at the very least, expectations will be high.

Another rider to keep an eye on is Dean Wilson. Wilson, who is in his first year with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna, had a new 450MX career-best moto finish (4th in Moto 2) and overall finish (4th) last week. After years of being plagued by injuries, is this the summer that 2011's 250MX champion starts to deliver on his potential?

Then there's Cooper Webb, who spent the latter parts of the supercross season testing for outdoors during the week. The premier class rookie finished 5-9 in last week's motos for 7th overall. How fast will he develop into a podium rider and potentially a race winner?

Wilson turned in a career day in Round 1 but still fell shy of the podium. (Photo: Chris Ortiz)
250 Class

The 250 Class is incredibly deep this year, and before Hangtown, it looked like we might see a whole bevy of riders win races before the end of the season.

Then Zach Osborne went out and swept both motos.

On top of that, no other riders were able to put together two podium results, and Jeremy Martin — one of the leading title contenders — had a DNF in Moto 1. The result: Osborne has a 14-point lead over the next best rider in the 250MX point standings, and Martin himself has a 30-point hole to dig out of.

So, should we expect to see Osborne and his brand-new red plate taking the checkered flag again this week?

Well, if you go by recent history, you may want to hold off on penciling him in to that top spot. Which brings us to "Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Stat of the Week #1":

Since 2005, only one rider (Jeremy Martin, 2014) has won back-to-back rounds to start the season in the lites class.

That includes multiple years where a rider swept the opening round, such as last season when Joey Savatgy went 1-1 at Hangtown. The Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider followed that up with 9-7 results a week later at Glen Helen.

The takeaway: As phenomenal as Osborne was, this is still a wide-open field right now.

Adam Cianciarulo, Aaron Plessinger, Austin Forkner and Jeremy Martin all had a moto podium last week. Cianciarulo and Savatgy both led laps. Alex Martin and Colt Nichols had solid rides in and around the top five in both motos.

Osborne is getting used to that winning feeling. (Photo: George Crosland)

If Osborne pulls off another sweep though, then his competitors will likely start feeling the heat.

One rider who might be feeling pressure already is Jeremy Martin. In his first season with GEICO Honda, the two-time 250MX champion was a leading preseason title favorite. Afterall, he's the only rider in the field who has won a championship, and he entered the season with more wins than everyone else combined. But his first moto of the summer resulted in a DNF. And that should trouble fans of the Minnesota native because of "Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Stat of the Week #2":

No rider who has recorded a DNF at any point in the season has gone on to win the championship in the lites class since 2008 (Ryan Villopoto).

There's still 22 motos left this year, and his performance in Moto 2 was encouraging, but history suggests that J-Mart can't afford any mistakes or any more technical issues from here on out. Can he start clawing his way toward the top of the standings this weekend?

Another storyline to watch: the 250 Class rookies. Two riders making pro debuts last weekend, Sean Cantrell and Michael Mosiman, both had some bright spots despite finishing outside the top ten overall. Troy Lee/Red Bull KTM's Cantrell (10-13, 12th overall) got a great start in Moto 1 and was riding in the top three for the first few laps of the race before fading back. Meanwhile, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna's Mosiman (12-14, 14th overall) took the opposite path. He came from way back (26th after Lap 2) all the way up to 12th in that same moto.

Dylan Ferrandis, who came over from the Grand Prix series this year, also made his American motocross debut. He was No. 2 in qualifying (behind Osborne) and worked his way up to 4th in Moto 1 before a hard crash midway through the race ended his day. Ferrandis said afterward on Instagram that he suffered a "small concussion" and hopes to be able to return for Glen Helen.

Jeremy Martin finds himself in an early hole after one round. (Photo: Chris Ortiz)
The FMF Glen Helen National, Round 2 of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, will take place on Saturday, May 27. Purchase the NBC Sports Gold "Pro Motocross Pass" to watch every race live, on-demand and commercial-free online. MAVTV and NBCSN will also have live television coverage of Glen Helen. Click here for more info on how to watch.