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Image from the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship Iron Man Nation

Barcia, Plessinger and Tomac Take Ironman by Storm

Aug 282018

Just a couple weeks after they were announced as the official three-rider lineup to lead the United States into action at October’s Monster Energy Motocross of Nations, Justin Barcia, Aaron Plessinger, and Eli Tomac fittingly brought the 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship to a close as the big winners of the Ironman National.

Barcia capped off a season of redemption with Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing by earning his first win since 2015 with a dominant 1-1 performance in extremely muddy conditions. In the 250 Class, Plessinger put the finishing touch on a breakthrough season by winning his first outing as the newly crowned champion, which ultimately brought his time at Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha to a close in the most impressive way possible. Above all, however, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Eli Tomac enjoyed the spoils of a successful title defense in the 450 Class, becoming the first rider in more than a decade to earn back-to-back championships.

Given their respective efforts at Ironman, there’s plenty reason to be optimistic about the potential this trio of riders has to put the United States back on top at the MXoN. Individually, what they each accomplished at the season finale was indicative of the incredible season all three riders enjoyed this summer.

450 Class Moto 1


Hours of heavy rain drenched the already challenging Ironman Raceway layout before racing got underway, which gave way to deep, heavy mud. It became immediately apparent that this race would be a battle of survival, and nothing would be more important to a rider’s ability to do so than to grab a good start.


When the gate dropped on the first moto, it was privateer Dylan Merriam who grabbed the holeshot, while veteran Chad Reed put his Suzuki at the front as well in his first Pro Motocross start in three seasons. Barcia’s aggressive style carried him into the lead group as well and he immediately went to work, emerging with the lead before the completion of the opening lap.


An early mistake cost Barcia the lead briefly, but he battled back to reclaim the top spot. Tomac also enjoyed a strong start to the moto, taking advantage of a top-five start to eventually move into the top three and then into second behind Barcia.


The lead duo pulled away from the field and as he looked to track down Barcia for the lead Tomac crashed and fell back to third. He remounted quickly and reclaimed the runner-up spot.


Despite ditching his goggles early in the moto, Barcia was able to use the clear track to his advantage and opened a lead of more than 20 seconds following Tomac’s crash. He carried on to the moto win, with Tomac second and Ken Roczen third. Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing’s Cooper Webb battled his way to a ninth-place finish.


The runner-up finish left Tomac just a single point shy of clinching the title before the second moto as Marvin Musquin put on a late charge to salvage his title hopes with a fourth-place effort.


450 Class Moto 2


Reed pulled another strong start in Moto 2, this time securing the holeshot over Barcia, who again dropped the hammer early and fought his way into the lead before the completion of the opening lap. Roczen was able to slot into second.


Tomac had his work cut out for him after Musquin, who lined up in the gate next to Tomac, gained a slight edge out the gate and slid over on the champ. This forced Tomac to drop back and ultimately left him outside the top 20 exiting the first turn. True to his nature, he went into attack mode and found his way into the top 10 by the third lap.


Reed dropped out of the top three following an incident, which moved Webb, who got one of his best starts of the season, into podium contention. Out front, Barcia and Roczen were in a class of their own and it wasn’t long before they enjoyed a double-digit margin on the field. That ultimately put Webb into a fight with Musquin for third. The two riders went at it for an extended period before the Frenchman got the upper hand. He gave the position up after coming into contact with a downed lapper, but soon enough Musquin was back on Webb’s rear fender and reclaimed third.


Barcia’s consistent lap times in the treacherous conditions allowed him to put some distance between he and Roczen, and soon enough he had the race in hand. Meanwhile, Tomac was riding for the championship and took a conservative approach. Once into the top 10, he settled into a casual pace that allowed him to keep it on two wheels and avoid any issues with his Kawasaki. With Musquin stuck in third there was no threat to Tomac, which allowed the champ to focus on getting to the finish.


Barcia had an eventful final lap littered with mistakes, and even a crash, but his control of the lead was never in doubt. He took another easy moto win to secure the first 1-1 effort of his 450 Class career.


“It’s crazy to think where I started the year [without a ride]. It was difficult times and I had to revamp my whole career, basically. I was given an opportunity [at Yamaha] and my never give up attitude paid off. To end it here with a 1-1 is awesome and we’ve come a long way. I’m just so happy with how the season ended up.”


Webb equaled his best moto result of the season in fourth, while Tomac brought home the championship with a ninth-place finish. The result ultimately dropped him off the overall podium, but he still walked away with the most prestigious trophy in all of motocross.


“We missed the [championship] clinch in the first moto by one point again [like last year], so it kind of gets your head spinning. I knew we could do it, and once we got through the first turn I felt like I was at least in control of my own race. This season put us to the test and we were really challenged, so even though we won twice as many races it was still tough. It feels great to get it done.”


All three Monster Energy riders finished inside the top five, for arguably the best collective outing of the season for claw.


The effort from Monster Energy received an additional boost with an incredible performance from Canadian Tyler Medaglia. The Canadian Motocross Championship veteran made the trip to the U.S. to give it a go at Ironman, showing an exceptional talent in the mud to post 7-6 moto scores for sixth overall.


450 Class Results
    •    Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing (1-1)
    •    Ken Roczen, Honda (3-2)
    •    Marvin Musquin, KTM (4-3)
    •    Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki (2-9)
    •    Cooper Webb, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing (9-4)
    •    Tyler Medaglia, Monster Energy/Alpinestars/Piller’s Kawasaki (7-6)

Final 450 Class Standings
    •    Eli Tomac, Monster Energy Kawasaki – 527 
    •    Marvin Musquin, KTM – 511 
    •    Ken Roczen, Honda – 445 
    •    Justin Barcia, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 444 
    •    Blake Baggett, KTM – 391 
9. Cooper Webb, Monster Energy/Yamaha Factory Racing – 186

250 Class Moto 1


With the championship already in hand, the Ironman National presented a pressure-free opportunity for Plessinger to have some fun. The track was the site of his first professional win in 2015, and as his de facto home race this race will always carry a little more meaning.


While Plessinger enjoyed a strong start in the opening moto, it was his Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha teammate Justin Cooper who emerged with the holeshot and early lead. Cooper and Plessinger settled into first and third, respectively, and sandwiched Chase Sexton in second. The pace of the leaders was impressive, and it allowed them to run away from the rest of the field.


A mistake by Cooper cost him the lead to Sexton, and eventually another spot to Plessinger. The champ was on a tear and it didn’t take long for him to catch and pass Sexton for the lead. After some early pressure Plessinger started to inch away and soon enough found himself all alone out front.


Sexton dropped back into an intense three-rider battle for second with Cooper and Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha’s Dylan Ferrandis. The Frenchman was able to break into third, but as he tracked down Sexton for second he lost power on his Yamaha and dropped out of the race. 


Plessinger went unchallenged to victory, with Sexton second and Cooper third. Despite his late troubles Ferrandis still finished inside the top 10, with Colt Nichols, the fourth member of the Star Yamaha squad putting all four riders into the top 10 in eighth.


The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki duo of Austin Forkner and Joey Savatgy had entirely different experiences in the opening moto. Forkner stayed out of trouble and soldiered home to a seventh-place finish, while Savatgy faced adversity and was relegated to 26th.


250 Class Moto 2


Sexton and his teammate RJ Hampshire kicked off the final moto by starting up front, but it was Plessinger who ascended to the top of the leaderboard. The champ made quick work of both riders after starting third and seized control of the moto on the opening lap. That was all she wrote for the rest of the 250 Class field as Plessinger needed just a few laps to establish a multi-second lead he would never relinquish.


Nichols emerged as the next Monster rider to make his presence felt, clawing his way up to fourth and challenging for a podium position. A crash took Hampshire out of second, moving Sexton into the runner-up spot and Nichols into third. A few laps later, Nichols’ pressure forced a crash out of Sexton and moved the Yamaha rider into second behind his teammate. Ferrandis rebounded from his heartbreak in the first moto to run solidly in fourth, while Cooper kept things clean in seventh and ensured the entire Star squad was once again inside the top 10.


The Pro Circuit boys ran solidly inside the top 10 for the entirety of the moto as well, with Forkner locked into fifth and Savatgy bouncing back to run eighth.


Plessinger took yet another easy win to cap off arguably his most dominant 1-1 effort of the season. He won half of the 12 rounds in 2018, for the highest win total by the champion since Tomac won seven rounds in 2013.


“The whole day went really smooth. [Sexton and Hampshire] were riding great. I just got two great starts and made my way into the lead both motos, and then I just tried to be consistent and ride my own race. Everything worked out according to plan and now we’re up here on top of the podium. I’m pretty pumped at how we ended the season.”


Nichols narrowly missed a spot on the overall podium in fourth, while Cooper, Forkner, and Ferrandis gave Monster Energy five of the top seven finishers. Savatgy’s resilient second-moto effort left him just outside the top 10 in 12th.


250 Class Results

Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha (1-1)
RJ Hampshire, Honda (4-3)
Chase Sexton, Honda (2-6)
Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha (8-2)
Justin Cooper, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha (3-7)
Austin Forkner, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki (7-5)
Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha (10-4)
12. Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki (26-8)


Final 250 Class Standings

Aaron Plessinger, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha – 500 
Alex Martin, KTM – 390 
Justin Cooper, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha – 352
RJ Hampshire, Honda – 337 
Shane McElrath, KTM – 332 
7. Austin Forkner, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 314 

8. Dylan Ferrandis, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha – 310

9. Joey Savatgy, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 275

13. Colt Nichols, Monster Energy/Yamalube/Star/Yamaha – 181

19. Garrett Marchbanks, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki – 87