We are finally here! The last SX race of the 2017 season takes place this Saturday in Las Vegas and do we ever have a nail biter in the 250 class this year. The East and the West will meet together in one race that will count for points. In the west things have already been wrapped up as Justin Hill has already won the championship, but the East is the complete opposite. 3 riders are separated by just 1 point! Jordon Smith, Zach Osborne and Joey Savatgy will have to contend with the West riders as they try and win their own championship. Who knows how this will end up, but here are my 250 Rankings heading into Las Vegas.
1. Zach Osborne (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna)
For me Zach is the clear guy to beat in Vegas. He has been on a whole other level this year on the East Coast and if it wasn’t for a few mistakes and a crash that caused a mechanical, he would be way up front in this points race. Now he is coming off of an amazing come from behind victory in East Rutherford and finds himself only 1 point back of the lead. It is not often we see a rider win his first race in the same year that he wins his first championship as usually there is a natural progression of things. We see a rider win races one year and then we see them in contention for the title the following year. Well Osborne is poised to be the 250 East Coast Champion and all he has to do is win, however, that will be easier said than done with bringing in all of west coast competitors. If you take away all point scenarios, Osborne would be my pick to win this race as I do believe he has been the fastest 250 rider all year long.
2. Joey Savatgy (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
Wow. How quickly things can change in our sport. Savatgy had a decent points lead over both Smith and Osborne and now after crashing and then proceeding to cut the track in East Rutherford, he lost the points lead and sits one point back of Jordon Smith and is tied with Zach Osborne. Okay first of all, forget the track cutting, Savatgy has made way to many small mistakes this year! I mean this is three races in a row where he lost crucial points because of a small mistake like that. It really is puzzling. The first few you could probably brush off as bad luck, but now this is an actual pattern. Oka,y the track cutting was just plain stupid. I have no idea what was going through his brain when that happened, but he was not thinking clearly at all. In the end it cost him 5 positions and 7 points.Don’t worry though, he will go back to the Goat Farm and work hard through the week. Honestly though, I actually expect this big mistake to bring out a new and improved Savatgy. I’m not sure why, but I just have a hunch that he comes out this weekend swinging and maybe he will actually have something for Osborne. He can no longer sit around and hope on his points lead, he has to make it happen this Saturday.
3. Justin Hill (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
If Justin Hill was in the thick of a points battle, then I would have him above Savatgy and maybe even above Osborne, but the fact is that he has already won his championship. This Saturday is just for pride and maybe some money. We have seen a lot of riders not try in the East-West Shootout and magically hurt their shoulder or something like that, but now that it counts for points many of the riders will be going for it in Vegas. Hill doesn’t have to though and while I don’t see him being the type of rider to just cruise around, I also don’t see him having the intensity as the East Coast riders who need this win. With all the Musquin-Dungey team tactics talk, I can’t help but point out that Hill has already won his championship and his teammate still needs to go out there and win his own. Will Hill give it his all and try to win or will he let the championship contenders go at it?
4. Aaron Plessinger (Star Racing Yamaha)
Plessinger only won one race this year and considering that he was probably the favourite to win the West Coast, that has go to sting. After a bad crash in Salt Lake City where he could not finish the race, he will be back with a vengeance in Vegas. Unlike Hill, Plessinger has no teammate in the points battle and I have no doubt in my mind that he will be going for the win this Saturday. However, I don’t really see the hard packed Vegas style track to fit into his calibre and for that reason I see the 3 riders in front of him with a better chance of winning the main.
5. Jordon Smith (TLD/Red Bull KTM)
Smith lands 5th in my rankings this weekend and while he is the points leader heading into Las Vegas, I don’t really see him having that raw speed that Osborne will most likely have this Saturday. Don’t get me wrong he could easily still win this thing. Let’s remember that he has won two races this year already, but I just see him needing some help from some other riders. If there ever was a race for some drama to take place, it is the East-West Shootout. He will have the help of talented teammates such as Oldenburg and McElrath, whom I’m sure will be more then happy to race hard against guys like Savatgy and Osborne. Jordon Smith may actually win this title folks!
6. Shane McElrath (TLD/Red Bull KTM)
McElrath has had an outstanding season and unfortunately it all is ruined because of an mechanical. He would have still been in contention for the title if it wasn’t for that mishap. He is coming off of his 3rd win of the season and will have momentum on his side, BUT the championship is lost and like Justin Hill, he has a teammate that is right in the thick of things. I’m not saying that he won’t try or go for the podium or win, but I just don’t see him having as much intensity as the East coast competitors and a rider like Aaron Plessinger. I expect McElrath to be right around the top 5.
7. Adam Cianciarulo (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
Cianciarulo has finally made it through a SX season! Everyone should be congratulating him on just that. However, not only that, he has actually won a race this year and was in contention for others. Unfortunately he had to deal with a knee injury midway through the season and last week he was dealing with the flu. This week he hopefully is all healed up and ready to rock and roll in Las Vegas. In all seriousness I don’t expect him to be in podium contention with the added west riders. I expect a finish just outside the top 5.
8. Austin Forkner (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
Forkner almost had the perfect rookie year. Flashes of speed, epic crashes through whoops with a drizzle of podium finishes. He was just missing that outstanding first victory. At Salt Lake, he got pretty close to that win as he was closing in on McElrath before crashing, like rookies do a lot. Like I have mentioned before, I think a lot of fans jumped on the hype train (including me) and predicted multiple wins. Well we were wrong, but he still has been really good for a rookie and next year expect for him to be the real deal. This weekend I expect him to be fast, but with how talented this field is, it will be hard to get into the top 5.
Mitchell Oldenburg (TLD/Red Bull KTM): Oldenburg has gone 4-3-2 in his three races this year. Does he do the unthinkable and win Vegas?
Dylan Ferrandis (Star Racing Yamaha): Ferrandis has been steadily improving this year. Does he do the unthinkable and win Vegas?
Martin Davalos (Rockstar Energy Husvarana): Davalos was battling hard in in Salt Lake City and almost spoiled Justin Hill’s championship celebration. Does he play the spoiler for the East boys this weekend in Vegas?
Photo from Racer X Online