Motocross

Intensifying 450 Class Title Fight Resumes Legendary Unadilla

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After its final off week of the 2014 season the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, prepares for its stretch run to the respective titles in the 450 and 250 Classes.

While Red Bull KTM's Ken Roczen (450 Class) and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha's Jeremy Martin (250 Class) continue to lead the way atop the standings, their challengers and the rest of the field in the series will look to close the gap at the Red Bull Unadilla National.

Legendary Unadilla in New Berlin, New York, will host the 10th stop of the 12-round season this Saturday, August 9.

At the previous stop of the championship from Washougal MX Park in the Pacific Northwest two weeks ago, the momentum in the 450 Class title fight took a major swing into Red Bull KTM Ryan Dungey's favor as he looks to continue to close his deficit to teammate Roczen.

Dungey raced to his third win of the summer and his second triumphant effort in the last three rounds, but more importantly his dominant 1-1 outing resulted in a 10-point gain on Roczen, who had arguably one of his worst races of the season with a pair of third-place moto finishes. Now just 14 points separate the KTM duo with six motos remaining.

While Dungey appears to be hitting his stride at the season's most critical point, a defining trait that has helped him become the second-winningest rider in the history of the sport, Roczen appears to be looking to get back into the groove that saw him win four of the first six races and six motos in that span.

No doubt Dungey's vast championship experience in the premier class will give him an edge over the rookie Roczen, who is still in search of his first national title on U.S. soil, but it's been the German who's been the most consistent rider in the entire series this season. With three rounds remaining, Roczen's average finish is still an incredible 1.8, while Dungey has dropped his to 2.2 and continues to close. Additionally, Dungey has two Unadilla wins on his resume.

While the lead pair continues to duke it out, GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac has fully embraced the role of spoiler. The other highly touted rookie in the 450 Class has only been racing since the fifth round of the season, but he's been in the thick of the fight between Dungey and Roczen since making his premier class debut. After breaking through for his first career win at Spring Creek two rounds ago, Tomac knows the feeling of winning at the sport's highest level and wants nothing more than to experience that as often as he can during the final few rounds.

If either of the KTM riders are a casualty of this, as each have at moments already this season, so be it. As a result, Tomac plays arguably the biggest role in the outcome of the championship battle despite not being in contention for it. Despite that, Tomac has still had an impressive climb of his own in the standings, already sitting inside the top 10.
Even with the field breathing down his neck, Martin (19) continues to ride with speed and patience. - Credit: Simon Cudby
As the drama builds in the 450 Class, Martin still looks comfortably in control of the 250 Class despite having virtually no championship experience in his second year of competition. At Washougal he rode patiently, keeping himself out of trouble and not forcing the issue but still serving as a fixture up front en route to third overall.

When all was said and done, what could be considered a conservative effort by Martin saw him lose just two points in the standings to his closest rivals, his Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha teammate Cooper Webb and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Blake Baggett.

As the season enters its final stage, Martin carries a 43-point margin over Webb and a 54-point lead over Baggett. Very few points have been traded between this trio throughout the bulk of the season, but Martin's incredible 5-0 start in motos, combined with some ups and downs by both Webb and Baggett, have put the Minnesota native into a comfortable position.

Martin is in full control of his own destiny, as evidenced by his Washougal effort. He can afford to give up some ground to his contenders and still be in an enviable position heading into the final weekend of the season.

Although Martin's advantage makes for an incredible challenge for Webb and Baggett to surmount, the sport of motocross still boasts an element of unpredictability that is hard to match in the sporting world. All three of these riders have found themselves on the ground at some point this summer and another instance of that could have a major impact in how this championship plays out. Martin may be in control, but both Webb and Baggett know they need to give it everything they have all the way until the final checkered flag falls.

Unadilla is arguably the most globally recognizable track in all of motocross. Its European style layout combined with American flair has made for some of the sport's most iconic moments and it remains one of the country's most prominent symbols of American motocross. While the track doesn't feature any major changes this season, its sprawling nature nestled in the rolling hills of Central New York means high speed, big air and rough conditions. It's a challenge unlike anywhere else in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

Last year at Unadilla, Ryan Villopoto put himself in a position to clinch the 450 Class title by sweeping the day's motos and earning his sixth win of the season. In the 250 Class, Tomac went 1-1 for his fifth win of the year and also moved into clinching position for that title.

Joining the fold in the 250 Class this weekend will be graduates of the Rocky Mountain AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship at Loretta Lynn's, which took place last week in Tennessee. Many of the sport's most promising young talent will make their professional debuts in hopes of making an impact and getting their careers off to a flying start.

Leading this contingent will be AMA Horizon Award Winner RJ Hampshire, who won all six of the motos he entered en route to a pair of AMA National Championships. He will join the contingent of GEICO Honda riders. Another rider joining the professional ranks at Unadilla is two-time AMA National Champion Luke Renzland, who will ride under the CycleTrader.com/Rock River Yamaha tent.

Top Image: Roczen versus Dungey is heating up at the right time.

Credit: Simon Cudby

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