It’s been the Eli Tomac show so far in ’18. Photo by: Octopi
“Cooksey’s Hard Truth” presented by Scott Sports is a weekly editorial written by Chris Cooksey. Chris will be diving in and out of controversial subjects and bringing you his hard truth about the racing and the riders from around the world of Supercross and Motocross.
As a huge fan of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, typically my focus is centered around the 450 class. The 450 class is supposed to be the premier class, but this year the 250 class is proving to be far more entertaining. The 250 class has factory-supported riders battling throughout the top 20 which is providing so much more action. In the 450 class, we can only hope Ken Roczen gets his fitness back ASAP. Until then, Eli Tomac will continue to put on a clinic. His newfound maturity should scare his competition. The 450 class currently resembles AMA Superbike Racing with 8-10 factory riders battling themselves, followed by a huge gap then the privateers in a practically separate race.
As the series heads into a week off before advancing to High Point, Jeremy Martin looks to have found his championship form that previously led him to two National Championships. His main rival and last year’s champion, Zach Osborne appears to have found the bad luck he was able to avoid last year. After starting the series at Hangtown and looking like a guy who could go undefeated, Zach crashed the following week practicing at Pala. Zach injured his thumb and when he showed me the injury at Glen Helen, I couldn’t help but notice the massive surgical scar around the thumb. Obviously, this is not the first time he has injured this thumb. A thumb injury for a Motocross racer can be destructive to their season; just ask Blake Baggett who had his Championship run in 2017 ended by a thumb injury. (Breaking news, Zach Osborne having surgery)
Usually the injury is not bad enough to warrant sitting out, especially with the pain tolerance of these warriors. Unfortunately, the thumb is constantly being used while riding a motorcycle, and without taking time off the bike, these injuries rarely heal during the season. In addition to the nasty thumb injury, karma served Zach a little unintentional payback from his whipping boy, Joey Savatgy. Think back to 2017 when Zach smashed Savatgy on the last lap in Vegas for the Supercross Championship. Zach has appeared to bully Savatgy and his Pro Circuit teammates on the regular—so much so that the AMA had two conversations with him and put him on an official probation.
Savatgy is always fast in Colorado and looked to have the first moto win wrapped up before a mechanical issue caused a DNF. Unfortunately, the starting gate pick is determined from the previous moto finish, so in the second moto Savatgy started all the way on the outside. Savatgy, aware of how important a good start was with the incredibly deep field threw a Hail Mary going into the first turn. He attempted to beat the pack to the inside, but they got there at the same time and a massive collision ensued. I am sure Savatgy did not intend to cause the pile up, but I am also sure he did not shed a tear over taking out Zach. By my count, Savatgy owes Zach about six more take-outs to be even. I wonder, at 29 years old, can Zach heal in time to defend his championship and does he regret not moving to the 450 class for the 2018 outdoor season like previously planned?
Aaron Plessinger continued his dominance followed by mediocrity trend. Now, going 6-4 in this incredibly competitive class is hardly mediocre, but after the beat down, Plessinger put on the field at Glen Helen, I expected more. I knew he would struggle at the high altitude, as he is one of the larger riders in the 250 class. The lack of power at the high altitude surely hurt him more than others, but his rookie teammate Justin Cooper won the first moto, showing their Yamahas were running just fine. If Plessinger is going to be a factor for this championship, he is going to have to find a way to get on the podium during his bad days too.
Enough about the title contenders, here are some other riders who have grabbed my attention in both good and bad ways. Justin Hill is one of the most naturally talented riders to throw a leg over a dirt bike, but clearly isn’t into the outdoor nationals. He is signed with JGR to race a 450 next year and isn’t giving a full effort this summer. His rookie “fill in” teammate Enzo Lopes is kicking his ass on a regular basis, so you can’t blame the bike. Hill has been a podium guy outdoors in the past, so I know he has the skill. I really like Hill, but this performance is insulting to his fans and the team. I would rather he opt out and get ready for Supercross next year.
Another rider I have my eye on is Gage Schehr, a rookie I know all too well. We had a run in at a practice track outside of Las Vegas. Basically, he treated me much like Osborne treats Savatgy; I had words with him. Let’s just say cooler heads prevailed and we agreed to disagree. So far, he is making the best out of his rookie season. Gage has speed, and if he can figure a way to keep it on two wheels, we might see some good results. He rides with reckless abandon and that can be both amazing and disastrous. Hopefully we see more amazing than disastrous.
In a year where the 450 class is much more like exhibition racing than a premier class, I look to the 250 class to continue to steal the spotlight and offer storylines throughout the field. Instead of complaining about how boring the 450 class has become, I am embracing the new premier class in Motocross: THE 250 CLASS!!