Round 5 at Oakland provided one of the most rutted and sketchy track conditions that I have seen on a SX track. Lucky for the riders and the Dirt Wurx guys, the next few rounds are under a roof so they won’t have to deal with any rain messing up the track. This is still a super deep field despite the injuries that have already occurred and with guys like Canard and Barcia coming back soon, it will even get deeper. That makes picking these top 10 riders each week very challenging. Anyways, heading into Arlington for round 6, here are my rankings for the 450 class.
Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Kawasaki)
There is a new guy in town and he is ready to make this an interesting battle for the title. His name is Eli Tomac. Well this isn’t exactly new for Tomac as we have seen his potential before, all you have to do is think back to 2015 when he won 3 races in SX and dominated the first 5 motos of outdoors. But when was the last time that we haven’t seen Dungey be the top guy in SX? So far 3/5 races have been dominated by guys not named Ryan Dungey. Eli Tomac has been that guy in the last two races. He backed up his stellar ride in Phoenix with another even better ride in Oakland. This time he came from 8th and 9 seconds back to beat Dungey by about 10 seconds. Wow. The best part of this is that Tomac did this on two completely different conditions. The first was hard packed and slick and last week was soft and rutted (which has always suited well for Tomac). So is Tomac going to win this championship? I don’t know about that, as it still is hard not to bet on Dungey. However, he has the confidence and momentum right now and everybody should be looking at Tomac to repeat dominance again on Saturday.
Ryan Dungey (Red Bull KTM)
The past two rounds have been great rides for any rider, but for Ryan Dungey they have been just okay. If you compare how he has been in 2017 compared to the past two years, you might just think something is up, but lets remember that he already had a 17-point lead in five rounds. I find it funny that we are all wondering what’s going on with Dungey and yet he continues to get podiums and increase the points lead! Yeah, he was off in practice and in his heats, but if it weren’t for that pesky Tomac he would have destroyed the rest of the field! Definitely he might be scratching his head on why
Tomac is that much faster these past weeks. On the other hand, he is doing what Dungey does and that is podium and increase his points lead. This might be a different story in a few weeks if we continue to see this. I think he will be hard pressed to beat Tomac in the upcoming weeks, but let us not forget how he bounced back after Roczen won in similar fashion at A1. He may not be the fastest at the moment, but he sure still is my pick for the championship.
Marvin Musquin (Red Bull KTM)
Now, Marvin may not have momentum on his side with back to back 9th place finishes, but what he does have is speed. Especially this last week on that brutal track, as it turns out Marvin is one of the few guys who actually like those conditions. He managed the 3rd fastest time and came from 17th to 9th. If he had got the start and not crashed, I have to imagine he would have had at least a podium. It was not to be at Oakland, but I do think his night is coming and he will get a win soon. I believe the riders I have listed from 3-6 are all very close in speed at the moment and could finish anywhere in those positions. The reason I have Marvin in 3rd is because I believe he has the best shot of winning one of these races sooner rather than later. Let’s see if Musquin can show his speed in the form of results this weekend at Arlington.
Cooper Webb (Monster Energy Yamaha)
First podium for Webb! To be honest I didn’t expect Webb to be at podium speed by round 5, especially after seeing his start to the season! What a dramatic change in just 3 rounds! Webb went from getting lapped to 3rd place in a span of 3 weeks, I don’t know what the team did with the bike or if he personally did something differently, but they should just keep on doing what they are doing because it’s obviously working. Now I’m not sure if we will see this result every weekend, but one thing is for sure, he is not afraid to race it out with these guys now. I mean he got passed by Tomac and then jumped the triple quad after the start to get by him again! That is gutsy racing. If we keep seeing this Webb then expect top 5’s every week.
Jason Anderson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarana)
Last week at Oakland was a nice little rebound for Anderson after two disappointing weeks. A 4th is certainly not the peak for Anderson, as we all know he can throw down laps and win a race or two. It was a good step in the right direction. Hopefully he can build off this result and forget all the bad that has happened this year. He has been fast and last week he actually got a decent start so these are all positives heading into Arlington. I’m thinking that his arm is fully healed up now and because of the fiasco at Anaheim 2; he is out of the championship. What does that mean? Well it means that he has got nothing to lose week after week. El Hombre will be hanging it out every Saturday and it certainly will be fun to watch.
Cole Seely (Honda HRC)
Seely had a little bit of bad luck as I heard his back brake went out during the main, he was in 4th at the time ahead of Anderson, so possibly this led to Anderson getting by him, but we won’t know for sure. Seely was set to FINALLY beat his archenemy Anderson, so he must be more bummed on that alone. In my opinion this type of track conditions doesn’t fit well with Seely so like a lot of these riders, take the finish at Oakland with a grain of salt. Not all SX tracks are going to be that gnarly. So far this season I’m liking the fight out of Seely, but personally I just thought he would be a little tiny bit faster. I think things will improve for him and possibly we will see him up front later on. As for now, around the top 5 is what we should be looking for at Arlington.
Chad Reed (Monster Energy Yamaha)
So Chad Reed did not repeat his stellar ride from Phoenix and instead just rode it in to an 8th place. There is a lot of talk on why that could be, but many people are saying that Reed is not happy with the Yamaha’s performance in the soft dirt. If that is the case, then Oakland was bound to be not good for Reed. Obviously Webb showed us that the Yamaha could handle just fine in those conditions so this it totally a mental thing for Reed. He is going to have to figure this out because there are plenty of rounds with soft dirt conditions still left in the circuit. One thing he can look forward to this Saturday at Arlington is the dirt here is often hard packed. The big question is, what Chad Reed will we see this Saturday?
Davi Millsaps (Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM)
Millsaps is still one of the 5 riders to top 10 every weekend so far. Last weekend at Oakland he managed a 6th place finish and I think he has to be content with that result considering he crashed in his heat race and how brutal the track was. I say content because Davi probably wants to be up in the top 5 every week now, so he won’t be overly excited about his result too. Hey guess what, Millsaps sits in 5th place in the points right now! To be honest I was kind of surprised when I saw that, but it makes sense when you look at his consistency so far. I see Millsaps finishing definitely in the top 10 again and probably somewhere in positions 6-9.
Blake Baggett (Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM)
After a rather disappointing start to his season, Baggett has now scored 3 top 10s, including back to back 7th place finishes. Baggett looked good on those deep ruts and actually passed Dungey to qualify directly through to heat. My thoughts was that Baggett would excel on that track and maybe gather his first top 5 of the season, but it was not to be. He did not get the best start and was only able to work his way up to 7th. Nonetheless these are good results for him and the team. The Rocky Mountain team is no joke; they got some real contenders in this class.
Dean Wilson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna)
This marks the first time that I have placed Wilson on my top 10 rankings. After four weeks grinding it out on a privateer Yamaha, he was rewarded with a deal with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna for the rest of the year. He started out great and qualified 6th fastest. He struggled in the qualifying races and had to go to the LCQ, but rebounded and finished a season high 10th! I cannot imagine how nervous he was in that LCQ. It wouldn’t have looked good to get picked up and then not qualify right away. No worries though because he made it work in the end. I expect Deano to keep getting top 10s and build week after week now that he has a factory bike and support.
Photo from Cycle World