Archives: The 2017 Pro Motocross Season
The 2017 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season came to a close last week in Crawfordsville, Indiana, and it was Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac breaking through to earn his first AMA Pro 450 Motocross Championship. Tomac was the 24th different 450 Class Champion in history. He also becomes the just the 11th rider in history to win a national title in both the 250 Class and 450 Class.
That was not easy at all. I went back after the first moto and thought ‘is it really going like this? I think I let my ego get the best of me in the first moto and needed to take it all in before the second moto, said Tomac after the Ironman. We went out there and did what we needed to do. This [championship] has been a long time coming and it feels amazing to finally accomplish it. I m kind of at a loss for words right now.
Tomac finished the season with a 17-point lead over Marvin Musquin, who moved from third to second, in the final championship standings. Blake Baggett was just an additional two points back in third.
It marked the first time since 2014 that the 450 class title came down to the final round.
Outside of Tomac’s title, perhaps the biggest headline of the 2017 season was the Jeff Herlings appearance in the season finale in Crawfordsville, Indiana. Herlings became the 68th different overall winner in 450 Class history and is just the second Dutch rider to earn a Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship victory, joining Pierre Karsmakers. He was the fourth different rider to break through with a first career 450 win this season, along with Marvin Musquin, Blake Baggett, and Justin Bogle.
I was fastest all day, from practice to the first moto and the second moto, said Herlings. I was so mad at myself for crashing in the second moto, so I just kept charging the entire time. I kind of got lucky that Marvin [Musquin] crashed there at the end, but it doesn t matter, I got a 1-1 and proved I was the best today.
Many are pointing to the victory by Herlings as a sign that the U.S. is no longer the dominant force in motocross racing. There’s no question that the Dutchman’s performance was very impressive and will go down as one of the most memorable wins in the history of the series, using his win as the sign of the demise of American motocross is likely premature. Remember, last fall had Jason Anderson not been landed on by another rider after winning race two, forcing him out, Team USA would have very likely walked away with the Chamberlain Cup. And that was with an underdog squad.
And remember Sébastien Tortelli’s victory at Glen Helen in 1999? That win did not ultimately change the balance of power in the world of motocross racing.
There’s no doubt that MX World Championship competitors have drawn closer to the overall talent in the American series, but is in no way represents a total collapse of the strength of American motocross on the world stage, that we experienced in road racing in recent years.
Tomac and Musquin each scored four overall wins in the 450 class this season. That moved Tomac’s career total to nine 450 national wins placing him 17th on the all-time wins list, just one behind Chad Reed and Kevin Windham.
Interestingly, Musquin finished 2017 with the most 450 podium finishes with nine to his credit, over seven by Tomac. Baggett was third with six rostrum results.
It marked the 12th AMA 450 Championship for Kawasaki and the first for Team Green since Ryan Villopoto’s title four years ago. That moved Kawasaki out of second-place a tie with Suzuki for 450 class title. Kawasaki is now only one championship away from tying Honda’s class leading 13 AMA 450 Championships (which includes the old 250cc two-stroke class).
It was a big year for Husqvarna. The maker won its first ever 250 Motocross class championship with first time 250 Motocross National Champ Zach Osborne bringing Husky the honor. As big of a name as Husqvarna is in motocross, Osborne’s 2017 title marks only the second AMA National Motocross Championship for the maker. It was 41 years ago when Husky last earned that honor when Kent Howerton brought home the old 500cc National title for the then Swedish maker.
Osborne was the 28th winner of the 250 class.
Osborne was the 250 class wins leader with five overalls in 2017. As in the 450 class, there were five different winners in the 250 class this season with Joey Savatgy (3 wins), Jeremy Martin (2 wins), Aaron Plessinger and Adam Cianciarulo with one overall win each.
Osborne is now tied for 31st on the all-time 250 class wins list with his five wins this season pushing his career tally to six. He’s now tied with Tyla Rattray and Mike LaRocco.
Cianciarulo finally earning victory was one of the headlines from 2017 we’ll likely remember. He came into the pro ranks in 2013 after a standout amateur career and was expected to be a contender from the very beginning. But Cianciarulo faced a series of injuries that saw him constantly on the comeback trail. He finally got the monkey off his back with sweet victory in his 37th-career start in the 250 MX class.
Chase Sexton, of GEICO Honda, won the Rookie of the Year Award.
As we draw the curtain on 2017, we already look to what the 2018 season holds in store for us. Perhaps the answer to the biggest question for the future is if Ken Roczen can make a comeback from his devastating arm injuries and once again do battle with the likes of Tomac, Musquin, Baggett, Osborne and the rest of 450 class riders in 2018.