Another beat up soft track last week in Minneapolis. What else is new? Well Tomac and Musquin have shifted the momentum onto them as they try to pick away at Dungey’s points lead. I think it is clear that these three riders are the only legitimate title contenders at the moment. Here are my 450 rankings heading into Atlanta.
Eli Tomac (Monster Energy Kawasaki)
That win in Minneapolis makes 3 for the last 4 races for Eli Tomac! He gained a big 5 of the 12 points back that he lost in Arlington. Now the question is can he keep the hot streak going and limit the mistakes. I think he for sure will be one of the fastest riders every week out now, but with being 24 points back; he needs to make ZERO mistakes. That will certainly be a tough feat, but definitely not impossible. Now there is another interesting factor in this points race and that is Ryan Dungey’s teammate Marvin Musquin! Not only is Tomac trailing Dungey, but he is also trailing a very fast Musquin. I put Tomac a little ahead of Musquin at the moment just because I have seen Tomac as unbeatable on some nights. Whatever Tomac is doing he needs to keep it up as it for sure is working for the moment. Look for the number 3 machine to be back on top again in Atlanta.
Marvin Musquin (Red Bull KTM)
Like I said above, Musquin is very much in this championship and even though he finished two weekends outside the top 5, I honestly don’t see him making any mistakes as we go down the stretch. He has shown us that he has the speed to pass and beat Ryan Dungey and I believe he showed us that he can run with Tomac if he gets the start. So Tomac, Dungey and now Musquin! Count me in! This will be very interesting to watch throughout the next few rounds. Can Musquin continue to beat Dungey and possibly bring that points lead down to single digits? If you are looking at the past two races, then yes Musquin can definitely beat Dungey or a regular basis. However, having the ability to beat someone and actually beating them are two separate issues. Another thing to keep an eye on IF Musquin can in fact cut into the points lead is the fact that these guys are buddies, they pit together and they even train together. Does that friend’s aspect breakdown if they are battling it out for a championship? Musquin didn’t back down from his buddy last weekend in Minneapolis and in Atlanta I expect another top 2 performance from Musquin.
Ryan Dungey (Red Bull KTM)
There has to be something going on here. Ryan Dungey was right on Tomac and then made a big mistake, but could never really rebound. He lost A LOT of time on 1st and when Musquin got by he just kind of gave it to him and didn’t put up a fight. Dungey isn’t settling for a 3rd place, he has a big points lead, but it’s round 7! I have no doubt that Dungey wants to win every weekend. So why isn’t he? Could there be bike issues, could it be an injury or a sickness like Epstein Barr? Maybe he is just brunt out and doesn’t have that fire anymore. I’m thinking retirement is looking more and more likely. I feel like it is unfair to be ragging on the guy who has the red plate, but he just doesn’t quite look like 2016 Dungey. Now I will say this, are we possibly just seeing two guys in Tomac and Musquin step it up? Dungey finished 3rd, but was 26 seconds ahead of Anderson in 4th! 26… so I don’t know. This is all interesting to read into, but if Dungey wins this title, all this worrying will be pointless.
Cole Seely (Honda HRC)
Seely said that he was screaming at himself after he got the hole shot and blew it on the first lap when he tucked the front end in before the whoops. I think he would have had at least a podium and maybe a shot for the win. It was not to be in Minneapolis, However he rode good to get back to 5th and was almost on Anderson for 4th. This year has been better for Seely, but like I have said many times in these posts I thought he would be up front more often. We have only really seen that once this year when he got his 2nd at Arlington. If he gets a good start, meaning a start in the top 3, I think he can pressure and battle for that top spot. We will see if Atlanta goes any better for Seely.
Jason Anderson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna)
I am still waiting for Jason Anderson to explode and win one of these races. We haven’t really seen that blitzing fast speed that we saw at Anaheim 1 last year. I am sure he is still capable of winning one of these races, but he finished 26 seconds behind a rider that we all are saying is feeling off at the moment. I think that incident with Friese really messed with Anderson’s rhythm and now he is searching a little bit. If he starts to figure it out, we could start seeing him mixing it up with the top 3 riders. As of now I only see him as the 5th best rider.
Davi Millsaps (Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM)
With Cooper Webb out, I think Davi Millsaps is the next best guy and the safest bet for possible top fives. However, at Minneapolis he did not have a good race. He was leading and led for about two laps before dropping back in a galaxy far far away. He ended up 6th on the night and honestly after a great come from behind ride in Arlington I thought he would at least be top 4. This was only one race on a fairly beat up track and so I think a 6th place is a good spot again next week, so don’t expect much better results, but a much better performance from Millsaps in Atlanta.
Dean Wilson (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna)
I’m really pumped on Wilson’s results so far this season and gaining that factory ride that he deserves. I have always been a huge Wilson supporter mainly because he is the closest thing to a Canadian out there. Last week he was only able to salvage a 12th after a start that caused him to cross the finish line in dead last after 1 lap. I believe he had top 10 speed again last week so he has to be happy with that. If he can just stay healthy and get top 10s this year will be a giant success. I see him finishing from 6-9th this weekend in Atlanta.
Broc Tickle (RCH Suzuki)
Broc Tickle may not be the flashiest rider out there, but he definitely wins the “wow that guy finished top 10? I didn’t even notice him” award a lot. It is pretty impressive how he fly’s under the radar every week, but can put in solid results. RCH Suzuki has a safe top 10 guy with Broc tickle and I can only imagine that he is super easy to work with. I would say he finishes from 6-10th this weekend in Atlanta. I mean why not? He has gone 6-7 in the last two rounds and actually sits 10th in the points. You know what? I don’t even think it is that crazy to say he could get a top 5 pretty soon.
Trey Canard (Red Bull KTM)
Trey Canard has once again had a rough injury-filled season as he missed the first 5 rounds with a shoulder injury. In his first two races back he has finished 11-8. I think these are decent results for Trey and a good stepping-stone to build off of. Last week I really started to notice him in qualifying as he made it on the board a few times. I think another few rounds in the top 10 and then we will start to see the so-called old Trey pull out some top 5s and maybe put that KTM on the podium. I don’t want to jump the gun though, so like I said, top 10s are good for now.
Chad Reed (Monster Energy Yamaha)
Yikes. Every since his 2nd place in Phoenix, Reed has really struggled. He is getting awful starts and not running the pace that he needs to and then he is crashing a lot as well. I can imagine Reed is very frustrated with himself as he not only wants to podium, but he wants to win these races! Its hard to put him so far down on my list as he is the type of guy that can be horrible one weekend and then be confident and feeling it the next weekend and go out and podium! Nonetheless at the moment all 9 guys ahead of him are riding better than him and will finish ahead of him unless he can figure this out and make a drastic change.
Photo from Transworld Motocross