Washougal preview: As title chases hit the stretch run, new riders gain confidence

July 27, 2017

Tomac and Baggett are still racing for the 450MX championship, but several riders are emerging as potential spoilers down the stretch

Eli Tomac had to work hard to add one extra points to his title lead last weekend. (Photo: Rich Shepherd / Racer X Online)

Two-thirds of the 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship are in the books, and the series now visits the scenic Pacific Northwest for the Peterson CAT Washougal National on Saturday.

The championship battle in the 450 Class remains close, while exciting racing continues to be the calling card of the 250 Class. Here are a few of the storylines to follow once the gates drop at Washougal.

450 Class
It certainly feels as though Eli Tomac is in control of this title race, but as we've seen plenty of times before (and nearly saw last week), a 20-point lead is never safe. All it would take is one bad moto for his chief rival, Blake Baggett, to leapfrog him in the standings.

Tomac has historically had a fair amount of success at Washougal. His last four appearances have gone like this: 2-3 for 2nd overall in the 250 Class (2012), 1-1 for 1st overall in the 250 Class (2013), 2-2 for 2nd overall in the 450 Class (2014), 2-1 for 1st overall in the 450 Class (2016). (Tomac did not race Washougal in 2015 due to injury.)

But Tomac and Baggett aren't the only players in the 450 Class. Marvin Musquin was dominant at Spring Creek, sweeping both motos and proving he was over the knee injury that had previously plagued him for a few races. As far as the championship goes, a 60-point deficit would be tough to overcome barring disaster from the top two riders, but at the very least, he's going to play a role down the stretch, even if it's as a spoiler.

Dean Wilson: Still just one of two riders to finish in the top ten of every 450 moto. (Photo: Jeff Kardas / Racer X Online)

The last two rounds haven't been kind to Jason Anderson — he couldn't race Southwick, then he pulled out of Spring Creek during the first moto — but fortunately for the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna team, their other riders have stepped up to the plate. With Anderson out, Dean Wilson has landed on the overall podium at two straight rounds — the first 450MX podiums of his career. Perhaps it's a mental thing, as he has been riding with confidence lately and getting much better starts. Fresh off a second-place overall finish (3-3 moto results) at Spring Creek for a new career high, his confidence could be even higher this weekend.

And Wilson's not the only Husqvarna rider turning in solid results in the absence of Anderson. Martin Davalos, the 30-year-old who is in the midst of his maiden season in the 450 Class after years and years aboard a 250, is starting to click as well. He has a fourth-place moto finish at two consecutive rounds, with both of those results coming in the second motos.

250 Class
The 250 Class lost some of its championship drama on Wednesday when the Troy Lee/Lucas Oil Red Bull KTM team announced that Alex Martin will miss Washougal after suffering collarbone and scapula injuries while training.

Martin, who is currently second in the 250MX championship standings and 43 points behind Zach Osborne, is effectively out of title contention now unless something drastic happens in these final weeks. That means Osborne's biggest threats right now are Jeremy Martin (63 points back) and Joey Savatgy (97 points back), but he has a large cushion over both of them and has been consistent all year long. Entering Washougal, only Osborne and Alex Martin have finished in the top ten of all 16 motos run this season, and Osborne's worst moto finish is just eighth place.

Considering all that, there's a decent chance that we might be discussing title-clinching scenarios in this spot before the start of the next round.

Jeremy Martin looks like the last rider with a realistic shot at unseating Zach Osborne before the season ends. (Photo: Jeff Kardas / Racer X Online)

But despite what's shaping up to be an anticlimactic end to the championship battle, this class has featured exciting racing throughout the whole summer, so there's no reason to think that will stop anytime soon.

Two riders looking to build some momentum after last week are Joey Savatgy and Shane McElrath. Savatgy was strong in 2016 but had thus far struggled to follow that campaign up with anything close in 2017. But after going 1-2 at Spring Creek and winning his second overall of the season, perhaps his growing confidence will carry him onto the podium again.

As for McElrath, his third-place result in Moto 2 at Spring Creek came out of nowhere, as his last top-five finish was at RedBud back in 2016.  With Alex Martin, Mitchell Oldenburg and Jordon Smith all sidelined, it'll be up to McElrath and rookie Sean Cantrell to deliver solid results for Troy Lee/Lucas Oil Red Bull KTM.

Watch the Peterson CAT Washougal National live on Saturday, July 29. Click here for info on how to watch.