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Ken Roczen set to tie up 450 championship this weekend

With just two rounds remaining for the 2016 season, both the 450 Class and 250 Class titles have the opportunity to be clinched this Saturday, August 20, as the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, makes its annual visit to Budds Creek Motocross Park. The legendary Southern Maryland facility, located in Mechanicsville, sits in the shadow of the nation’s capital of Washington, D.C., adding another layer of excitement to the GEICO Motorcycle Budds Creek National, where RCH Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s/Suzuki Factory Racing’s Ken Roczen and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb will each look to secure their respective championships.

A pair of podium finishes for Roczen at Budds Creek will clinch his second career 450 Class title. Photo: Simon Cudby
A pair of podium finishes for Roczen at Budds Creek will
clinch his second career 450 Class title.
Photo: Simon Cudby

Last weekend at Unadilla in Central New York, Roczen returned to his dominant ways, putting his Suzuki at the front of the field early in both 450 Class motos before pulling away from the field. Roczen’s innate ability to get to the front on the opening lap and sprint out to a healthy lead shortly thereafter has been the trademark of his 2016 campaign and was emphasized even more at Unadilla when factoring arguably the most challenging track conditions of the entire season. Roczen made it look easy, taking the checkered flag by more than 13 seconds in the first moto and the largest winning margin of the season in Moto 2 at more than 52 seconds. The dominant outing gave Roczen his seventh overall win of the season, in which he’s swept the motos every time.

Now, with just two rounds and four motos remaining, the German rider has the chance to not only clinch his second 450 Class title in three seasons and once again hoist the Edison Dye Cup, but become the just the third rider over the past decade to lead the championship from start to finish, joining James Stewart (2008) and Ryan Villopoto (2013). Roczen has undoubtedly been the most consistent rider in the championship this summer and while Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac has been a thorn in Roczen’s side throughout the second half of the season, the 2014 titleholder has never faltered, even as an alarmingly large contingent of elite riders continued to bow out of action due to injury. It’s been one of the most incredibly dominant championship performances in history at a time when the level of competition is higher than it’s ever been before in 45 years of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

Roczen carries a 63-point lead into Budds Creek, a track he has never won at before, with Tomac as the lone rider remaining with a mathematical shot at the title. In order to clinch the championship Roczen will need to complete Saturday’s motos with a minimum lead of 50 points. As a result, should Tomac sweep the motos at Budds Creek, Roczen will need to accumulate a total of 37 points across both motos in order to secure the number one plate. In 20 motos this season, Roczen has failed to finish on the podium just once, following an issue with his front suspension in the opening moto of the second round this season from Glen Helen. If he continues that podium trend on Saturday, Roczen will walk away with another championship.

Over in the 250 Class, Webb enters Budds Creek in a more comfortable position than his fellow points leader Roczen, giving him an even better shot at lifting the Gary Jones Cup on Saturday afternoon. At Unadilla, Webb’s impressive 1-1 win came on an afternoon where each of his closest championship rivals endured through their own misfortune. As has been the case in several of his triumphant outings this season, Webb stalked the early leader before making a strong push over the second half of the moto, taking over the lead and carrying on to the win. In the final moto at Unadilla Webb took the lead away from Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rookie Austin Forkner just one lap prior to a red flag condition that ultimately ended the race just past the 24-minute mark of the 30-minute plus two-lap moto. It was Webb’s fourth win of the season and his second sweep of the motos, which proved to be a major windfall in the championship standings.

Just a pair of top-10 finishes at Budds Creek is all Webb needs to clinch his first career national title. Photo: Simon Cudby
Just a pair of top-10 finishes at Budds Creek is all Webb needs to clinch his first career national title.
Photo: Simon Cudby

While Webb was celebrating arguably his most successful outing of the season, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Joey Savatgy and Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Alex Martin were left wondering what could have been. Both Savatgy and Alex Martin were dealt some adversity at Unadilla, with Martin experiencing trouble on the opening lap of Moto 1 that dropped him to the tail end of the field. He would make a spirited run to 13th, but after posting the fastest lap of practice his hopes of victory were dashed. For Savatgy, a strong runner-up finish in Moto 1 was complemented by a DNF in Moto 2 after he began feeling ill. When the overall results were tallied, Martin was seventh (13-5) while Savatgy was 10th (2-32), with both riders giving up more than a moto’s worth of points to Webb. Their hard luck, combined with the announcement mere days before the race from defending back-to-back champion Jeremy Martin in which he stated he’d miss the remainder of the season with injury, meant Webb’s victory was more impactful than any previous result.

Heading into Budds Creek, Webb carries an 81-point lead over both Savatgy and Alex Martin, who currently sit tied for second. Webb will need to finish Saturday’s race with a minimum advantage of 50 points in the standings in order to clinch his first career national championship, meaning he’ll need to score just 19 total points should either Savatgy or Martin sweep the motos. A pair of top 10 finishes by Webb would ensure that, and he’s finished no worse than eighth in a moto all season. All three of these riders will chase their first career win at Budds Creek, where Martin just missed out on his first career victory last season via a tiebreaker.

Regardless of what happens on Saturday, both Savatgy and Martin are locks to complete the championship podium, resulting in career-best season for Martin no matter how things shake out. After finishing third in the championship last season, Savatgy would like nothing more than to improve one position.

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