The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Opening Rounds are Complete

Roczen gets career-best start

The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, has completed its opening segment of the 2016 season, with the first three stops of the 12-round season producing high drama and breakthrough achievements. Spearheading the storylines thus far is the career-best start of former 450 Class Champion Ken Roczen, while the 250 Class has began with an intriguing four-rider battle atop the standings.

Roczen has been almost perfect aboard his RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John's/Suzuki Factory Racing bike through three rounds. He's won five of six motos, with two overall wins at the GoPro Hangtown Motocross Classic and True Value Thunder Valley National, and has surged out to a double-digit lead in the championship standings. Roczen was just minutes from being undefeated until an issue with his front suspension while leading the opening moto at the FMF Glen Helen National resulted in a fourth-place finish. His 143 points through three rounds is the most of his U.S. career, two more than his championship-winning 2014 season.

Ken Roczen, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Opening Rounds
Roczen is enjoying a career-best start to the 2016 season, winning five of the first six motos with two overall wins.Photo Courtesy of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and Simon Cudby

The only rider able to keep pace with Roczen through the opening rounds is reigning 450 Class Champion Ryan Dungey. The Red Bull KTM rider opened with five consecutive moto podium finishes, highlighted by a win at Glen Helen. He entered last weekend's Thunder Valley National just two points behind Roczen and was in a position to make up ground to start the second moto in Colorado. However, as he looked to apply pressure on early leader and Team Honda HRC rider Trey Canard, Dungey crashed and fell back to 19th. He showed impressive resilience to fight back to fourth and earn a runner-up finish behind Roczen, albeit at the expense of 10 points.

Unfortunately, the continued rivalry between Roczen and Dungey, who have battled one another for the title during each of the past two seasons, will be put on hold following a season-altering announcement from KTM late Tuesday. During his crash in the second moto at Thunder Valley Dungey suffered a cracked C6 vertebrae, and while the effects of the injury didn't prevent him from an impressive comeback, lingering effects and further tests revealed the issue that will sideline the champion for 6-8 weeks.

Ryan Dungey, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Opening Rounds
A recent announcement by KTM revealed that defending 450 Class Champion Dungey will be forced to miss 6-8 weeks of action with a cracked vertebrae, changing the landscape of the title fight.Photo Courtesy of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and Simon Cudby

Dungey's absence means Roczen's next closed competitor will need to overcome a 29-point deficit. That rider currently sitting third in the 450 Class standings is Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac. Like Roczen currently, the third-year 450 Class rider enjoyed a similarly dominant start to the 2015 season until a crash at Thunder Valley left him with season-ending injuries. His return to Pro Motocross this season has resulted in an overall podium result at each of the first three rounds, with a season-best moto finish of second coming in the last moto at Thunder Valley. Tomac has proven he has the ability to win, and he's gotten faster with each passing moto this season. If he can improve his consistency with starts in each moto, many believe Tomac can keep pace with Roczen and become his primarily threat for the title.

Eli Tomac, Ryan Dungey, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Opening Rounds
Tomac has shown consistent improvement with each passing moto and will now become Roczen's fiercest challenger in Dungey's absence.Photo Courtesy of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and Simon Cudby

In the 250 Class the competition at the front of the field has been incredible. The depth of the division has been showcased at each round, producing three different moto winners, two different overall winners, and seven different moto podium finishers. Four riders have asserted themselves in the thick of the early title fight - Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Joey Savatgy and the Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha trio of Alex Martin, Jeremy Martin, and Cooper Webb.

Savatgy currently leads the 250 Class standings thanks to his second overall win of the season last weekend at Thunder Valley. He's won a class-leading three motos, highlighted by a 1-1 sweep at the opening round from Hangtown, and holds a slim three-point lead over Jeremy Martin. Martin, the reigning back-to-back champion, got off to an uncharacteristically slow start this season as he battled through an illness but has picked up momentum recently. He's won two of the last three motos and although he's still chasing his first overall win of the season, he's within reach of reclaiming control of the red number plate as points leader.

Joey Savatgy, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Opening Rounds
Savatgy has been strong to start the 2016 season, claiming three motos and a pair of overall wins to reclaim control of the red number plate.Photo Courtesy of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and Simon Cudby

The first three rounds have also served as the stage for Alex Martin's emergence as a championship contender. The eight-year veteran is taking advantage of his first season as a full factory rider and has become the breakout rider of the 2016 season thanks to his first-career win at Glen Helen, which resulted in his first opportunity to carry the red number plate. He's the only rider in the 250 Class to finish on the overall podium at each round but fell nine points out of the lead last weekend, largely due to a crash in the first moto at Thunder Valley that forced him to come-from-behind to salvage eighth. Despite the adversity, Martin appears ready for the challenge ahead.

Quietly sitting fourth in the championship is Webb, who's been enduring through a slow-healing wrist injury since the start of the season. Webb has been a fixture at the front of the field and has two overall podium results and a moto win to his credit. He posted his season-worst moto finish in the last moto at Thunder Valley, but his tenacity and determination are enough to give him an opportunity to start chipping away at his 13-point deficit to Savatgy.

Alex Martin, Jeremy Martin, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Opening Rounds
Alex (26) and Jeremy Martin (1) have both positioned themselves in the thick of the early championship battle, and each have carried the red number plate at one round this season.Photo Courtesy of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and Simon Cudby

Through three rounds the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship has lived up to the anticipation surrounding the 2016 season and the injury to Dungey opens the opportunity for a new 450 Class Champion. The world's most prestigious off-road motorcycle championship will observe its first off weekend of the season and the fastest riders on the planet will return to action on Saturday, June 18. Legendary High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania, will celebrate 40 years of Pro Motocross in the Keystone State with the Red Bull High Point National, which will serve as the network television premiere of the championship on NBC.

Cooper Webb, Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, Opening Rounds
Webb has quietly maintained his presence in the title fight as he continues to heal from a wrist injury suffered prior to the start of the season.Photo Courtesy of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship and Simon Cudby
Current Championship Standings (After Three Rounds):
450 Class Championship Standings
1. Ken Roczen, Germany, Suzuki - 143
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, MN, KTM - 131
3. Eli Tomac, Cortez, CO, Kawasaki - 114
4. Trey Canard, Shawnee, OK, Honda - 97
5. Cole Seely, Newbury Park, CA, Honda - 89
6. Josh Grant, Riverside, CA, Kawasaki - 88
7. Jason Anderson, Edgewood NM, Husqvarna - 73
8. Mavin Musquin, France, KTM - 64
9. Justin Barcia, Monroe, NY, Yamaha - 62
10. Bro Tickle, Holly, MI, Suzuki - 50
250 Class Championship Standings:
1. Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, GA, Kawasaki - 123
2. Jeremy Martin, Millville, MN, Yamaha - 120
3. Alex Martin, Millville, MN, Yamaha - 114
4. Cooper Webb, Newport, NC, Yamaha - 110
5. Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, OH, Yamaha - 81
6. Austin Forkner, Richards, MO, Kawasaki - 80
7. Zach Osborne, Abingdon, VA, Husqvarna - 78
8. Jessy Nelson, Paso Robles, CA, KTM - 65
9. RJ Hampshire, Hudson, FL, Honda - 59
10. Jordon Smith, Belmont, NC, Honda - 52