In the 250cc class, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad started the day with terrible news: Joey Savatgy, who had won two of the last three Nationals for the team, went down hard in practice, highsiding after he clipped the downside of a jump and landing on the leg he injured a week previously in a collision with a lapped rider. He was out for the day, and with team racers Justin Hill and Austin Forkner already out injured, Adam Cianciarulo – who has never won an AMA National moto or overall – was the last man standing for the Pro Circuit squad.
And stand he did.
In moto one, Cianciarulo took the holeshot over Aaron Plessinger, Shane McElrath and the rest of the field, while points leader Zach Osborne went down in the first turn.
Cianciarulo had to fight off the advances of two-time champ Jeremy Martin in the early half of the race, but slowly pulled away as the race progressed, eventually winning his first-ever AMA National moto by over six seconds over Martin, RJ Hampshire, Shane McElrath, Plessinger, AutoTrader/JGR/Monster Energy Suzuki’s Kyle Cunningham, Colt Nichols, and Osborne.
“This is probably the most rewarding win of my career,” Cianciarulo said after moto one. “I’ve won supercross races, and of course amateur stuff, but outdoors has come hard for me. I mean, even in 2013, my rookie debut here, I think I went 14-16 or something for 15th overall. I’ve had to work at it. I’ve been down, and I’ve had my moments. It’s been difficult, but the whole team stuck behind me, and it feels really, really good to get this win.”
But he had another moto to go, and he wanted the overall.
“I mean, that’s the goal,” Cianciarulo said. “That’s the goal. I don’t want to take away anything from this moto win, of course, because it came really high for me, but I feel like I have a lot left in the tank for the second moto, and I’m certainly going to leave it all out on the track. Win, lose, or draw, when I leave here, I’m going to empty the tank out there on the track, and we’ll see how it goes...”
In moto two, it’s a good thing he had something in the tank. Early in the moto, Cianciarulo had to fight his way into the top five, sitting fourth after lap one, while McElrath led Osborne and Martin.
Cianciarulo wasn’t being patient, he just had nothing for the lead group, but halfway through the race, Martin made a mistake and went down, handing third to Cianciarulo. At almost the exact same moment, Osborne took the lead from McElrath and began to pull away. Cianciarulo sat alone in third for a while, but late in the moto, he came under attack from Plessinger and Nichols, and all of a sudden, Cianciarulo caught fire, chasing down McElrath, then making the pass with a handful of laps left.
Osborne won the moto over Cianciarulo by 1.7 seconds, but Cianciarulo’s 1-2 score got him his first-ever AMA National overall motocross victory. The Pro Circuit team – the most successful team in the history of the sport – managed to win the National with their only remaining rider, even though he’d never actually won one before.
“It’s an unbelievable emotion for me,” Cianciarulo said. “This season has been up-and-down. I’ve had good moments and bad moments, and like you said last week and the week before, I’ve been consistent, but just haven’t gotten that win, and it just seems like every weekend, the pressure builds and builds, and it’s got to be this weekend, and then it’s got to be this weekend. I think that was holding me back for a while. I was blowing it. Even last weekend, after I crashed... It was tough. I actually had Nick Wey come to Florida and work with me, and man, it made such a difference. Mitch, Bones, Ian, Zach and everyone at Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki, and Bruce and Dan at Kawasaki, it’s an unbelievable feeling, and a dream come true for me. I’m just glad to be here.”
The win also boosted Cianciarulo up to third in the points, just in front of his injured teammate Savatgy, with one round left to run next Saturday in Crawfordsville, Indiana.