Southwick preview: Fortunes shifting as season enters second half

July 6, 2017

Who's rising, and who's falling?

Eli Tomac has three consecutive moto wins. Jason Anderson has five consecutive overall podiums. (Photo: Rich Shepherd / Racer X Online)

The first half of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is over, and now it's time for the second half to kick off at the sandy site known as Southwick.

Just when it seems that we may be gaining a little clarity in both title fights in the midst of a crazy season, the series is shifting to a track known for producing some surprising results thanks to its unique, sandy composition.

Here's what to know for Round 7, the Red Bull Southwick National.

State of the 450 Class
The first 450 Class moto at RedBud delivered the Blake Baggett/Eli Tomac head-to-head battle that fans were longing to see. Tomac had to overcome a subpar start to pass Baggett, then had to withstand a late charge from his championship rival. Tomac eked out the victory by just one second, but it was really the second moto that altered this title race when Baggett went down on the opening lap and dropped back to last place.

Although Baggett battled back to salvage a 10th-place finish, the damage was done, and the red plate changed hands once again. This time it was Tomac gaining possession, as he will enter Southwick with a 13-point lead over Baggett and a 25-point lead over Jason Anderson. In addition, Tomac heads into Round 7 with a streak of three consecutive moto wins.

Like Baggett, Anderson is still very much alive in this title fight, even if Tomac seems to have the momentum right now. Anderson has finished on the overall podium in five consecutive rounds, and he was second overall in four of those.

After 3-3 moto finishes and a couple laps led at RedBud, Marvin Musquin appears to be the strongest he's been since suffering a knee injury just a few weeks ago. That's the good news. Unfortunately for Musquin, his recent results have put him into a 40-point hole. While a title might end up being too far out of reach, it certainly seems that Musquin is ready to battle for wins again.

It hasn't been a banner season overall for the JGR team, which switched from Yamaha to Suzuki back in the offseason, but the tide may finally be turning. Weston Peick and Justin Barcia are No. 4 and No. 5, respectively, in cumulative points over the last two weeks. Peick has been particularly impressive, taking fourth place in three of the last four motos.

Meanwhile Dean Wilson just continues to churn out top-ten finishes and has moved into a tie for fifth in points. One of only two riders to finish in the top ten in every single moto so far this season, Wilson has been a model of consistency — he has finished somewhere between seventh and ninth in all of his last nine motos.

Alex Martin and the rest of the field need to work quickly if they hope to chip into Zach Osborne's title lead. (Photo: Rich Shepherd / Racer X Online)

State of the 250 Class
After taking his third overall win of the season last week at RedBud, Zach Osborne has opened up a 38-point lead in the 250 Class championship battle and is threatening to take this year's title without much resistance. Even in a season ripe with parity, Osborne has been the one steady force.

Alex Martin is currently second in the point standings. Although he has yet to finish worse than seventh in any moto this season, he's been held back by a lack of podium results (just three motos so far, with two of them coming at RedBud).

But even with Osborne continuing to separate from the pack, this class has proven to be wildly unpredictable on a week-to-week basis. We'll explore that further in the next section.

Stock watch
Now that we've reached the official midway point of the season, it's a good time to look at emerging trends in the motocross marketplace. For this exercise, we looked at total points accrued by each 250 Class rider in Rounds 1-3 vs. total points accrued in Rounds 4-6. Only riders who have raced at each round were analyzed.

First, we have the biggest risers in the 250 Class. These are the riders who have shown the most improvement since the end of Round 3, based on point totals. The number in parentheses represents how many more points they earned in the last three rounds than in the first three.

Aaron Plessinger (+34)
Luke Renzland (+33)
Dylan Ferrandis (+24)
Kyle Cunningham (+18)

Over the last three rounds, Aaron Plessinger is No. 2 in 250MX points behind only Zach Osborne. During that stretch, he finished on the podium in four consecutive motos and earned his first moto win and overall win of the season. … A whopping 77% of Luke Renzland's 61 points have come since the start of Round 4. His sixth-place finish in Moto 2 at RedBud was easily a new career high.

Dylan Ferrandis had a dominant moto win — his only win of the season — in Round 2 but was largely inconsistent early in the year. Since the start of Round 4 though, he has finished top five in four of the last six motos. … After failing to score a single point at either of the first two rounds, Kyle Cunningham has scored at least four points (the equivalent of a 17th-place finish or better) in every moto since.

Aaron Plessinger has landed on the podium in six of 12 motos so far this year. (Photo: Jeff Kardas / Racer X Online)

Next, we have the 250 Class riders who are currently in a bit of a slump.  These are the riders who have faded in recent weeks. The number in parentheses represents how many fewer points they earned in the last three rounds than in the first three.

Colt Nichols (-34)
Sean Cantrell (-24)
Joey Savatgy (-21)
Justin Hill (-16)

Colt Nichols started the season off right, finishing sixth or better in each of his first five motos. That consistency has since disappeared, as he only has three top-ten finishes since then, and his best result in that timeframe is just eighth. … First, the good for Sean Cantrell: He is still the top true rookie in 250MX points right now — we're leaving out Ferrandis here because of his GP experience — and is just two weeks removed from a career-best seventh-place moto finish at Muddy Creek. But that has been his only top-ten result since the start of Round 4.

At this time last year, Joey Savatgy was just 11 points out of the 250MX championship lead. But after a moto (and overall) win and a second-place finish earlier this season, he has not finished higher than seventh in a moto over the last three rounds. … Savatgy's teammate, Justin Hill, has struggled to achieve top-ten finishes all summer despite winning a regional supercross title earlier this year. Perhaps his fifth-place finish in Moto 2 at RedBud can help get him jumpstarted.

What will happen next? Watch the Red Bull Southwick National live on Saturday, July 8 to find out. Click here for details on how to watch.