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Images from the Fox Raceway National in Pala, California

Monster Energy Off to Dominant Start in Pro Motocross

May 252019

The reign of dominance from the stacked lineup of Monster Energy athletes has continued from Monster Energy Supercross into the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship. Through the first two rounds of the summer season Monster Energy riders have already shown that the path to both the 450 Class and 250 Class titles will run through them, particularly in the 250 Class.

The season-opening Hangtown Motocross Classic saw Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo lead a Monster Energy sweep of the overall podium alongside the Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing duo of Justin Cooper and Colt Nichols. One week later, Cianciarulo doubled up with another winning effort at Pala’s Fox Raceway, once again spearheading a 1-2-3 sweep for Monster Energy. Cooper captured his second straight runner-up finish, while Dylan Ferrandis became the fourth different Monster athlete to put himself on the overall podium.

After just two weekends of action, Monster Energy athletes occupy the top four spots in the 250 Class standings, and they have shown no signs of slowing. Cianciarulo and his Star Racing rivals have seized control of the division, and Monster’s banner year of 250cc success seems sure to continue.

Over in the 450 Class, reigning back-to-back champion Eli Tomac has assumed his position as the point leader, following a dominant performance at Fox Raceway. By his standards, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider got off to a slow start at Hangtown, yet he still finished second overall. Nevertheless, the lost of the red plate left a chip on his shoulder, and he responded with an emphatic outing this past weekend to not only grab his first victory of 2019, but also reclaim his familiar position atop the championship.

450 Class

Rainy conditions made things a little more challenging and unpredictable than normal at Hangtown, which left Tomac miffed at his own riding, but he stood tough and minimized the damage. That resiliency gave him a chance at redemption this past weekend, which he took full advantage of.

The Pro Motocross Championship had not visited Pala’s Fox Raceway since the 2011 season, when the vast majority of the field had yet to turn pro, or were still competing in the 250 Class. Since then, the track has evolved considerably and was essentially all new to every competitor in the field. The layout turned out to be one of the fastest in the championship, and while it still carried the technical trademarks of American motocross tracks, it led to much more competitiveness where the top riders were quite close on speed.

Tomac began the afternoon with the second-fastest lap of the day, while the Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing duo of Justin Barcia and Australian Dean Ferris slotted into 11th and 18th, respectively.

When the opening moto got underway, Barcia emerged with the best start amongst Monster riders in fifth, with Tomac right behind him in seventh. Out front, point leader Ken Roczen wasted little time in getting to the lead and pushed the pace to build a gap on the field. Knowing he had his work cut out for him Tomac put his head down and went to work. He surged past Barcia and found his way into the top five after just a couple laps, and soon he was all over Jason Anderson for third.

Anderson was impressive in his defense of Tomac, and their battle ended up carrying them forward. They closed in on Marvin Musquin in second, and not long after that had Roczen within reach. The close lap times amongst the lead foursome forced Tomac to be patient, and he didn’t force the issue until the waning minutes of the moto. He pulled the trigger on a pass on Anderson to move into podium position, and took advantage of Musquin’s pass attempt on Roczen to steal second. Tomac’s attack didn’t stop there and Roczen was no match for the hard-charging Kawasaki. Within the span of two laps Tomac had climbed from fourth to first, and once he was clear of his rivals the champ was able to check out and storm to the moto win. Barcia held on for a solid seventh-place finish, while Ferris battled his way to a top-10 finish.

When the second moto got underway, it was Musquin who seized the early lead and sought to put some distance between he and everyone else. Unfortunately for the Frenchman, Tomac got a much better start this time around and slotted into second before the completion of the opening lap. Barcia circulated in 10th, with Ferris just a few spots behind in 13th.

Much like the first moto, Tomac bided his time in his pursuit of Musquin. The Frenchman held a strong grasp on the lead throughout the first half of the moto, but he was never able to shake Tomac. The champ mirrored Musquin’s every move and easily matched his lap times, but it was clear Tomac was faster. He simply needed to find a way around.

At the halfway point of the moto Tomac’s patience had worn thin and he started to force the issue with his nemesis. A few alternative lines put Musquin on alert, and soon enough Tomac muscled his way into the lead. Once he found his way to the front Tomac left the field in his dust. He was in a class of his own and cruised to an easy 1-1 sweep of the day’s motos. Barcia grabbed the final spot in the top 10 while Ferris maintained his position in 13th.

The first perfect afternoon of the season for Tomac gave him max points and vaulted him past Roczen to the top of the 450 Class standings. It was the first 1-1 outing for Tomac since Washougal of the 2018 season, and marked the 18th victory of his 450 Class career, tying him with Kent Howerton for sixth on the all-time wins list.

“Man, today is one of those days where all of that hard work pays off. I came back out to California this past week to do some testing with the team and as you can see it really paid off. I had that feeling today where you are just one with the motorcycle and when you find that flow there is nothing stopping you. That first moto at the halfway point I just got angry and was over the roost, so I was stoked to get the win. In the second moto I had a much better start and just waited for the right time to strike. I can’t thank my whole Monster Energy Kawasaki team for all of their hard work this past week. It was rewarding to repay them by going 1-1 and getting that red plate back. I am excited to go to Colorado next weekend and defend my home turf."

Barcia earned a top-10 overall finish in eighth (7-10), while Ferris just missed out on it in 11th (10-13).

Tomac surged to the top of the 450 Class standings and will once again carry the red plate heading to his home National at Colorado’s Thunder Valley. He holds a four-point lead over Roczen, while Barcia and Ferris hold down seventh and eighth, respectively.

450 Class Results
1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki (1-1)
2. Marvin Musquin, KTM (3-2)
3. Ken Roczen, Honda (2-3)
4. Zach Osborne, Husqvarna (5-4)
5. Jason Anderson, Husqvarna (4-5)
8. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing (7-10)
11. Dean Ferris, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing (10-13)

450 Class Standings
1. Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 93 
2. Ken Roczen, Honda – 89 
3. Marvin Musquin, KTM – 74
4. Jason Anderson, Husqvarna – 72 
5. Zach Osborne, Husqvarna – 70 
7. Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 52
8. Dean Ferris, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 42

250 Class

Many expected Cianciarulo to emerge as one of the front-runners in the battle for the 250 Class title, and he’s made it clear through the first two rounds that there’s no hangover from his heartbreaking loss of the 250SX West Region title just a few weeks ago.

What’s been more impressive about Cianciarulo’s back-to-back wins is how he’s done it by stepping up to take matters into his own hands in the second moto. He’s battled his way to solid results in each opening moto, and has rose to the occasion when it matters most. At Hangtown, the rainy conditions meant a strong start was crucial to a shot at victory, and he put himself at the front and rode to the win. At Fox Raceway, Cianciaurlo had to dig deep to pull things out. 

The afternoon qualifying session saw Monster Energy go 1-2-3 atop the time sheets with Cooper, Cianciarulo, and Nichols. Ferrandis posted the sixth-fastest lap, with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki riders Garrett Marchbanks and Martin Davalos in ninth and 13th, respectively.

Thus far in 2019 the opening motos have belonged the Cooper. The rising star has abundant speed and more often than not he’s able to find his way to the front on the first gate drop. He held off Cianciarulo at Hangtown, and in Pala he was even better, going wire-to-wire for the second straight weekend. For Cianciarulo, the first moto was a bit of an adventure. He gambled on a far outside gate pick, which didn’t pay off and left him outside the top 10. He didn’t panic and methodically worked himself into the top 10. He got his way to the verge of the top five, and after Hunter Lawrence and Jordon Smith took each other out, it moved Cianciarulo up to fifth about halfway through the moto. He knew there was little time to waste and proceeded to pick up the pace. After he moved into fourth the battled that ensued between he, RJ Hampshire, and Nichols for the remaining spots on the podium was thrilling. Hampshire withstood Cianciarulo’s challenge and managed to fight his way around Nichols for second. Nichols’ strong hold on the podium came to an end a short time later when Cianciarulo bullied his way into third. Cooper took a drama-free win, while Cianciarulo showed his resiliency in third. Nichols settled for fourth, while Ferrandis rebounded from an early crash to finish seventh. Marchbanks followed in ninth, while Davalos endured to finish 18th.

When the second moto got underway Cianciarulo put himself into a much better position by slotting into third, right behind Shane McElrath and Alex Martin. He wasted little time in getting around both riders and took control of the lead just a few minutes in. Behind him, Cooper and Ferrandis were making their way to the front as well and soon occupied third and fourth.

Cianciarulo appeared to be on his way to a relatively easy moto win, but Australian rookie Hunter Lawrence came on strong to steal the top spot away. That pass threw the overall into Cooper’s favor, but the drama wasn’t over. Lawrence crashed out of the lead to hand the top spot back to Cianciarulo, while Cooper lost a spot to Ferrandis. Lawrence recovered and closed back in on Cianciarulo, but it was too late. The Kawasaki rider did what he had to do to earn his third career win with a hard-fought 3-1 effort.

"Today definitely wasn't an easy win, but man does it feel good to come out on top. That first moto we gambled a bit with that outside gate pick that didn’t really pay off, but we dug deep and put it on the podium to set us up to be in a good position for the overall. The second moto I had some good battles, but no one was stopping me from what was mine. We’ve got a long summer ahead of us, and a lot of motos left, but I am pumped to be leaving here with the points lead. We will continue to do our work this week and be ready to go in Colorado next weekend.”

Cooper’s quest for the first win of his career was put on hold for another week with a second straight runner-up finish (1-4), but the New York native appears poised to break through. Ferrandis’ strong second moto put him onto the overall podium for the first time this season in third (7-3) to complete the Monster sweep. Nichols finished fifth (4-7), with Marchbanks solidly inside the top 10 in seventh (9-8), while Davalos’ up and down day ended in 14th (18-9).

Cianciarulo added to his lead in the championship and now holds a six-point lead over Cooper. Ferrandis is third, with Nichols fourth, while Marchbanks also holds down a top-10 standing in ninth. Davalos holds down 15th.

250 Class Results
1. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki (3-1)
2. Justin Cooper, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing (1-4)
3. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing (7-3)
4. Chase Sexton, Honda (5-5)
5. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing (4-7)
7. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki (9-8)
14. Martin Davalos, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki (18-9)

250 Class Standings
1. Adam Cianciarulo, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 92 
2. Justin Cooper, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing – 86
3. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing – 70 
4. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Star/Yamaha Racing – 68 
5. Chase Sexton, Honda – 65
9. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 42
15. Martin Davalos, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 27