Unadilla preview: Title fights, pro debuts and silly season showcases

August 10, 2017

Tomac and Osborne are closing in on titles, while other riders are doing everything they can to just make sure they have a ride in 2018

Eli Tomac may be in control of the 450 Class title race, but Marvin Musquin has been setting the pace lately. (Photo: Jeff Kardas / Racer X Online)

The 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is winding down, with just three rounds left.

Before we get into the storylines that we'll be keeping an eye on this weekend at Unadilla, a quick update about the NBC Sports Gold "Pro Motocross Pass": The rate has been discounted to $24.99 for the final three rounds. So if you haven't subscribed yet for whatever reason, now would be the time to make that move. (Don't forget, the subscription includes access to the archives for all 2017 races, as well as 2015 and 2016.)

In case you're wondering what's still left on the line for the rest of the season, here's a look at some of the top stories for Unadilla.

Tomac nears a championship
Despite some inconsistency in the early part of the season, Eli Tomac has been hanging strong and is putting himself in position to win his first 450 Class title.

Injuries have created a lot of issues for his competitors, be it Musquin's knee or Anderson's hands or Baggett's thumb. Baggett looks like the last rider with a realistic shot at challenging Tomac for the championship, but he just hasn't been the same since the thumb injury. After his disappointing result at Washougal in the last round, he has fallen 32 points behind Tomac.

While it won't be possible for Tomac to clinch anything at Unadilla, he's setting himself up for a strong possibility of making it happen at the next round.

Musquin on fire
While Tomac has been getting his personal mission (winning the title) accomplished via smart racing and podium finishes, he's been far from the most dominant 450 Class rider on the track. That honor goes to Marvin Musquin, who enters Unadilla riding a streak of four consecutive moto victories.

It hasn't really been much of a challenge for Musquin either. In that span, he's led 57 of 62 laps (92%) and has won those races by an average of about 14 seconds.

Will Red Bull KTM's alpha dog keep rolling, or can someone bring an end to the Frenchman's streak?

Musical chairs
Even though the championship is well out of reach, there are quite a few riders that will be highly motivated over these final three rounds. That's because we're getting into silly season, the time of year when contracts are up for several riders and teams, leaving both parties in search of new deals for 2018.

If you're interested in the latest rumors going around, you can read what Steve Matthes had to say about it on mxvice.com last week. But two riders who appear to be in unsettled situations right now are Justin Barcia and Justin Bogle.

Bogle's current team (RCH Suzuki) is folding after this season, while Barcia's current squad (JGR Suzuki) will take over for them as Suzuki's factory effort in 2018. Bogle and Barcia are both scheduled to hit the free agent market at the conclusion of the current season, so they'll be hoping to use these final races to showcase themselves. Meanwhile, Suzuki is expected to have one open 450 spot available alongside Weston Peick next year.

Osborne's title to lose
The 250 Class championship is nearly within Zach Osborne's clutches. Unadilla will provide his first opportunity to mathematically lock up the title, though a lot would need to happen in order for that to occur.

To clinch, Osborne would need to leave Unadilla with every single 250MX rider trailing him by more than 100 points in the standings. That means he would need to pick up 27 points on Jeremy Martin, 20 points on Alex Martin (who missed the last race with a collarbone injury and was supposed to be reassessed during the break to determine if he'd return to action) and five points on Joey Savatgy.

It's more likely that Osborne's title will become official next week at Budds Creek. But barring injury, he should be able to wrap this one up sooner than later.

Cooper's debut
The first race after Loretta Lynn's always brings about an injection of new youth into the sport. This time, the spotlight is on Justin Cooper.

After winning two more titles (Open Pro Sport and 250 A) at Loretta's this year, Cooper was awarded the AMA Horizon Award, which is annually presented to the most promising rider graduating to the pro ranks. Cooper has a deal in place with Star Racing Yamaha for 2018 but will finish out the current Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season racing a 250 with the Rock River Yamaha team.

Final chance to notch a win
The season started off strong in the 250 Class with five different winners in the first six motos, but things slowed down from there. Since then, only Aaron Plessinger has added his name to the win column.

The question remains: Can anyone else notch a win before the season ends?

The two most likely candidates appear to be Adam Cianciarulo and RJ Hampshire. They both had runner-up finishes last week (Cianciarulo in Moto 1, Hampshire in Moto 2), and Cianciarulo nearly won the overall, while Hampshire led several laps. Both are in search of their first career wins and are starting to heat up on the track.

Watch Round 10 from Unadilla live on Saturday, August 12. Click here for detailed info on how to watch.