2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Outdoor National Championship Preview

Brent Jaswinski
by Brent Jaswinski

With Monster Energy Supercross having wrapped up two weeks ago, the Outdoor motocross season is upon us, and it all starts this weekend at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, just outside Sacramento, California. There’s a lot to look forward to this summer. Can Eli Tomac defend his title? Or will Jason Anderson come out swinging fresh off his Supercross Championship? There’s also Ken Roczen to consider, how will he fare coming back from injury?

Though Anderson won the overall 2018 Supercross Championship, most would probably argue Tomac is a faster rider. That’s not to say Jason isn’t fast – he’s definitely a top three guy – but Eli has been riding with a chip on his shoulder ever since Ryan Dungey stole the 2017 Supercross Championship out from under him with only one round to go. To further rub salt in Eli’s wound, Dungey retired on top right after.

All eyes will be on Kenny this weekend, as well. At 24 years old, he’s already one of the sports greatest athletes with multiple world championships to his name, but the horrific injuries he’s faced in the past year have put a serious damper on his racing career. Can he return and be as competitive as he once was? Or are his glory years behind him already? Either way, we’ll be rooting for number 94.

Can Ken Roczen return to his old form this summer? | Photo: Chris Ortiz

Then there’s the 250 class to consider. The 450 guys are some of our sport’s biggest rock stars but only because they survived on 250s. The 250 action has been as intense and exciting as ever, as the hungry up-and-comers fight for their spot in the limelight. The 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross 250 Champion, Zach Osborne, just won the 2018 Monster Energy Supercross 250 East Title as well, however, he won’t be defending it because he’ll be moving up to race with the big boys. So it looks like Aaron Plessinger – who’s fresh off his 250 SX West Championship, as well – will be the one everyone’s chasing. But then again, who knows? It’s racing after all…

There are countless reasons to get excited for this summer’s 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Outdoor National Championship, and I could go on forever, but it’s best left to just watch it all unfold for yourself.

Begin Press Release:

Deeply Talented Field Poised for Highly Competitive Summer During 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship

With race week officially underway, final preparations are being made for the start of the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing. This Saturday, May 19, the 47th season of the world’s most prestigious championship will kick off with the longest running event in American motocross, the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic. The 2018 season will signify the 50th running of this iconic event, which fittingly serves as the opening round of what will be 12 grueling summer weekends of world-class competition amongst the most talented riders on the planet.

Headlining the storylines entering the 2018 season is the title defense of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac in the premier 450 Class. After he emerged as a true star in the making back in 2015, Tomac was able to achieve his lifelong goal of becoming AMA National Champion last season following a dramatic summer filled with ups and downs. Ever since his history-making pro debut at the Hangtown Classic in 2010, the racing world has watched Tomac’s ascension into becoming arguably the biggest motocross star on the planet. With a title under his belt, Tomac will now look to become the first rider to successfully defend the No.1 plate since “The G.O.A.T.” Ricky Carmichael did so during his seven-year reign of dominance that ended more than a decade ago in 2006.

Will Musquin (25) and defending champion Tomac (3) pick up where they left off last season in the battle for the 450 Class title? | Photo: Jeff Kardas

Last season’s path to the championship was by no means easy for Tomac, and this year he’s poised to receive even more pressure from his rivals. Last year’s championship runner-up Marvin Musquin and his Team Red Bull KTM Factory Racing effort are more determined than ever to claim the title that slipped from their grasp one year ago, while RMATV/MC-WPS-KTM’s Blake Baggett is surely going to build off the breakout season he enjoyed last summer. Fresh off capturing the first national title of his career just a couple weeks ago, the coveted AMA Supercross Championship, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Jason Anderson is perhaps bringing more momentum than any other rider into Hangtown. While Anderson is still in search of his first Pro Motocross victory, his confidence has never been higher. Rounding out a star-studded list of serious contenders is two-time 450 Class Champion Ken Roczen. The past two years have been hard on the young German, to say the least, but there isn’t a rider fans are more looking forward to making his return to the Nationals than the Team Honda HRC rider.

The battle for the 250 Class championship appears destined to be a convergence of veteran experience and youthful excitement. Reigning champion Zach Osborne has continued his winning ways thus far in the 2018 season for Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, and he’ll line up on the gate on Saturday to defend his title as one of the most favored riders in recent memory. While his time at the top of the division is still in its infancy, Osborne’s wealth of experience in the division is unrivaled, and it’s why many believe the path to the 250 Class title will run through him. Complementing Osborne’s veteran status in the division is GEICO Honda’s Jeremy Martin, the only other former champion in the class. Martin’s back-to-back titles in 2014 and 2015 didn’t come by accident and after a full year aboard the Honda he looks ready to get back to the level that made him a champion. In addition to Osborne and Martin, perennial title contenders like Alex Martin (Troy Lee Designs/Red Bull/KTM) and Joey Savatgy (Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki) are sure to be a factor in the battle for victory week in and week out.

Zach Osborne (16) will lead a deep field of 250 Class talent into the summer as he seeks to defend his title. | Photo: Jeff Kardas

While the more well traveled competitors in the 250 Class enter Hangtown with a bit of a leg up on their younger rivals, the rising stars of the division will show no signs of intimidation in their quest for a championship. With each passing season Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha rider Aaron Plessinger appears destined to be a champion. The second-generation racer possesses a unique skill set that stands out from his fellow competitors, and now that he’s earned his first professional title as West Region 250SX Class Champion he’ll be riding a wave of confidence into the summer. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner was forced to miss the majority of Pro Motocross last season due to injury, but the Missouri native has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his young career and continues to develop into a consistent threat entering his third season. In addition to Plessinger and Forkner, European import Dylan Ferrandis turned a lot of heads as a Pro Motocross rookie last summer for Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha, as did GEICO Honda’s Chase Sexton, who enters Hangtown off an impressively solid supercross season. Collectively, the depth of the 250 Class is at an all-time high, and there’s a potential to see a record number of different overall winners over the course of 12 rounds.

While the stars of the 450 Class and 250 Class will share the spotlight on Saturday afternoon in California’s capital city, the celebration of the landmark 50th Hangtown Motocross Classic will also include the opening round of the new 125cc All-Star Series. The sound of two-strokes is returning to American motocross with a nine-round support series that will feature eight qualifiers and a finale at the season-ending Ironman National on August 25. Notably for Hangtown, five-time Pro Motocross Champion and future Hall of Famer Ryan Villopoto will compete aboard a factory-tuned Yamaha.

While tickets to the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic are still available, fans outside of California can watch all the action unfold LIVE, including qualifying, by subscribing to the “ Pro Motocross Pass” on NBC Sports Gold for just $54.99. Broadcast coverage of the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic kicks off with LIVE coverage of the opening motos for both the 450 Class and 250 Class on MAVTV at 1 p.m. PT / 4 p.m. ET, followed by tape-delayed coverage of the second motos of both classes on NBC Sports Network at 5:30 p.m. PT / 8:30 p.m. ET.

For information about the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, please visit ProMotocross.com and be sure to follow all of the Pro Motocross social media channels for exclusive content and additional information on the latest news:

Facebook: @americanmotocross
Instagram: @promotocross
Twitter: @ProMotocross
YouTube: AmericanMotocross

Brent Jaswinski
Brent Jaswinski

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