Just 24 hours after the on-track action of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, came to a dramatic conclusion, MX Sports Pro Racing and Alli Sports, a division of NBC Sports, honored and recognized the moments and individuals that helped make the 2012 season memorable with its annual Season Celebration this past Sunday evening.
South Coast Winery, located in Southern California's wine country of Temecula, was the setting for the festivities, as the industry gathered to celebrate 12 rounds of captivating Nationals competition across three classes, in addition to the 10-race AMA ATV Motocross National Championship Series.
FUEL TV and NBC Sports host Jason Weigandt emceed the event, along with MX Sports' Tim Cotter. The pair led the way in bringing the motocross community together to pay respect to those who played an integral role in establishing 2012 as one of the most decorated seasons for each of these prestigious championships.
Prior to 2012, the Austrian-based KTM brand had never experienced success on U.S. soil in the 450 Class. This season, the manufacturer signed former champion Ryan Dungey to lead its Red Bull KTM effort, ultimately producing a historic and dominant season that resulted in the brand's first victories and inaugural championship in the premier division, and helped pushed the entire organization into the forefront of American motocross. On Sunday, KTM was recognized as the Motocross Team of the Year in addition to receiving the Manufacturer's Cup as the most competitive brand across the 450 and 250 Classes. Additionally, Hall of Famer Roger DeCoster was given well-deserved recognition as Team Manager of the Year.
Mike Alessi achieved arguably the most successful season of his career in 2012, finishing second to Dungey in the 450 Class title hunt and becoming one of just three riders to beat Dungey in a single moto this summer. All of Alessi's success came as a member of the privateer MotoConcepts Racing team, and despite not possessing the same factory support as most of his competitors, Alessi helped the team emerge as a formidable effort by consistently battling for wins every weekend. Because of his commitment to succeed despite not having the same resources as the top teams in the sport, Alessi was recognized as the Sportsperson of the Year.
Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda rider Jessy Nelson received Rookie of the Year honors for 2012, after finishing ninth in the 250 Class championship. The two-time AMA Amateur National Motocross Champion showed consistent improvement throughout the season and gained valuable experience by leading several laps of competition thanks to his ability to grab strong starts. With a full season under his belt, Nelson is sure to be a contender next summer and beyond.
For the second time in three seasons, Ryan Dungey was crowned 450 Class Champion following a dominant 10-win season in which he won every overall since the third round. Dungey was awarded the coveted Edison Dye Motocross Cup on behalf of his Red Bull KTM team by MX Sports' Roy Janson (pictured, right). With 24 career victories in the 450 Class, Dungey already sits alone in third on the all time wins list after just three seasons of competition. Dungey shared the celebration with his mechanic, Carlos Rivera, who was also honored as the 450 Class Champion Mechanic.
Blake Baggett's (pictured, left) victory at last Saturday's season finale was the 100th Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship win for his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team. The triumph also solidified Baggett's inaugural professional title as the 250 Class Champion, which is the 10th title for Pro Circuit. As a member of the winningest team in motocross history, Baggett took control of the division, winning a class-leading five races and sitting atop the point standings since the opening race of the season in May. Baggett is the first rider lead the championship wire-to-wire since the inception of the red number plate, used to distinguish the current points leader in each class. Baggett accepted the Gary Jones Motocross Cup on behalf of his team, while his mechanic, Shawn Irwin, was recognized at the 250 Class Champion Mechanic.
Team Honda Muscle Milk's Ashley Fiolek emerged as the Women's champion following a wild and dramatic WMX Class season that witnessed three riders with a chance to win the title entering the final round. Fiolek's hard-fought championship was her fourth in five seasons as a pro and was made even more significant due to the fact that she missed a round of competition with an injury early in the season. Her mechanic, Nagatoshi Chiba, was honored as the WMX Class Champion Mechanic, while Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda's Tarah Gieger provided some laughs following a career-best runner-up finish in the championship.
As the festivities concluded, attendees enjoyed the scenic landscape of South Coast Winery with live music, dancing, and appetizers under the stars.
Many other individuals and companies were recognized on Sunday, including Lucas Oil, whose commitment to the sport of motocross as title sponsor of the Nationals has helped the most prestigious championship on the planet reach new heights in terms of attendance and exposure. Additionally, Red Bull was honored for its first year as a premier sponsor of the Nationals, while GoPro's one-of-a-kind perspective of this physically-demanding, yet highly-competitive sport was given the Cutting Edge Award, recognizing innovation in raising the awareness and profile of the sport of motocross. Longtime supporters like the Asterisk Mobile Medical Center and Gear Services were also given special recognition, while the Oakley Bomb Award program highlighted the company's second year of series sponsorship.
The awards presented on Sunday evening included:
Edison Dye Motocross Cup: Ryan Dungey - Red Bull KTM
450 Class Champion Mechanic: Carlos Rivera - Red Bull KTM
Motocross Manufacturer's Cup: KTM North America
Motocross Team of the Year: Red Bull KTM
Team Manager of the Year: Roger DeCoster - Red Bull KTM
Gary Jones Motocross Cup: Blake Baggett - Pro Circuit Kawasaki
250 Class Champion Mechanic: Shawn Irwin - Pro Circuit Kawasaki
Women's Motocross Cup: Ashley Fiolek - Team Honda Muscle Milk
WMX Class Champion Mechanic: Nagatoshi Chiba - Team Honda Muscle Milk
Sportsperson of the Year: Mike Alessi - MotoConcepts Racing
MX Rookie of the Year: Jessy Nelson - Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda
Cutting Edge Award: GoPro
Transport Driver of the Year: Dirk Houghton - JDR/J-Star KTM
Oakley Bomb Award - 450 Class: Ryan Dungey - Red Bull KTM
Oakley Bomb Award - 250 Class: Eli Tomac - GEICO Honda
*All images courtesy of Carl Stone