Muddy Creek Race Preview

By Shawn Smith, ProMotocross.com


MEET THE NEW BOSS, SAME AS THE OLD BOSS

Once again, Ryan Dungey finds himself at the head of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 450 Class point standings after Eli Tomac's season-ending crash. It's a similar situation to 2012, when James Stewart won the first four motos of the season, then got hurt (also at Thunder Valley). With Stewart no longer operating at 100%, Dungey was able to cruise to his second 450MX championship.

The difference is that, this time, Dungey will be facing much tougher competition.

Positions 2-5 in the point standings reads like a who's who of title contenders from 2012 in the 250 Class - Tomac, Blake Baggett, Ken Roczen, Justin Barcia. With Tomac now out of the running, Roczen is expected to be the biggest threat to Dungey from here on out.


Dungey (5), Roczen (1) and Barcia (51) are all in the top five in 450MX points. (Photo: Chris Ortiz)

The bad news for Roczen is that his early-season back troubles have put him in an early deficit - he's currently 35 points back of his former teammate in the standings. However Roczen has improved each week - both in terms of his health and his results - and he expects to continue that trend as the season goes on. Even if he starts racking up the wins though, it will be no easy task to take that red plate back because of Dungey's consistency.

After working his way up to third in points, Baggett deserves a ton of credit in his rookie 450MX season, and he could prove to be a factor down the stretch. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider has yet to finish worse than seventh in a moto this year. The only other rider who has matched that feat is Dungey.

Consistent podium finishes and a lack of crashes have been a hallmark of Dungey's over the years, always putting him in a position to take advantage when others falter. If it weren't for mechanical issues in the first moto at Glen Helen, he could have an even larger points lead right now. Now that he holds the red plate once again, how will he (and the rest of the field) respond this weekend at Muddy Creek?


Dungey's KTM will sport the red plate for the first time this season. (Photo: George Crosland)

 

AS THE 250 CLASS TURNS...

The 250 Class has experienced see-saw-like shifts in momentum over the past two weeks. After the first race, Jeremy Martin and Musquin were co-point leaders and shared the red plate at the next round. Then Martin had his issues at Glen Helen - mechanical and otherwise - and lost 19 points to the Red Bull KTM rider. But Musquin's surprising first moto crash at Thunder Valley gave almost all of those points right back, and Martin's second moto win officially put him back in control of the championship.

Entering Muddy Creek, Martin and Musquin are separated by just two points, so if both riders avoid mistakes, there could be some epic racing in store between these two.

Last season, neither rider had a particularly memorable day at Muddy Creek. Musquin - who was still working his way back after ACL surgery - was fifth overall with 5-5 moto finishes, and Martin was seventh overall with 10-6 finishes. Musquin did win the 250 Class overall here in 2013 though.


This title fight could go down to the final round. (Photo: George Crosland)

 

RIDERS TO WATCH

Several riders turned in strong performances last weekend at Thunder Valley. Will they be able to keep it going Saturday in Tennessee?

Broc Tickle: His fourth place finish at Thunder Valley was his best result since 2012. He tends to be a pretty steady top-ten finisher, but a pair of top-five moto finishes last weekend have the RCH Suzuki rider on the upswing.

Cole Seely: In what was essentially his second career 450 Class race (he crashed right at the start at Hangtown and was immediately done for the day), the American Honda rider finished fifth overall. The impressive part came in the second moto when the rookie got off to a great start, grabbing the MotoSport.com Holeshot Award. Although a few riders got by him, Seely hung tough for a fourth-place moto finish, and although he's traditionally been a stronger supercross rider, he's showing that he can be solid outdoors when he gets good starts.


Seely was on hand for Thursday's press day at Muddy Creek. (Photo: Matt Rice)

Zach Osborne: After a dismal start to the season, Zacho's second-place finish (2-3 moto results) in the 250 Class was a new career high. Is the Rockstar Husqvarna rider about to turn a corner? Remember, this was a guy who collected a few top-three moto finishes just two years ago. The one caveat here: last week's race was in Colorado, where Osborne has been living with Eli Tomac and training at altitude. We'll see what happens this weekend when the series returns to normal elevation.

Christian Craig: When GEICO Honda pulled the 23-year-old out of retirement to replace Justin Bogle, could the expectations have been anywhere near this level, especially from a guy who had never raced a National in the 250 Class? Winning the Bud Light Fastest Qualifier Award in practice, 4-6 moto finishes, fifth-place overall - it was all in a day's work for Craig, as neither the bike adjustment or his fitness level seemed to be much of an issue.

Jordon Smith: The rookie's sixth-place overall finish at Thunder Valley was solid enough, but had he not been passed by Adam Cianciarulo on the final lap of Moto 2, Smith would have actually finished fourth overall. With Justin Bogle sidelined with injury, the GEICO Honda team is in full rebuilding mode, but if Smith can continue to impress after last week's 6-5 moto finishes, there could be a bright future ahead.


Osborne is in search of back-to-back podium finishes. (Photo: George Crosland)

Live coverage from Muddy Creek begins Saturday at 9:45 a.m. ET, with second practice sessions streaming live on ProMotocross.com and NBC Sports Live Extra. The live stream will resume at 11 a.m. ET with the pre-race show, followed by first motos in both classes at 12 p.m. ET and second motos at 2 p.m. ET.

MAVTV will televise live coverage of first motos at 12 p.m. ET, and NBC will show the second 450 Class moto live at 2 p.m. ET. The second 250 Class moto will air at 11 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Click here for the detailed viewing guide.