The supercross season is all over, but don’t worry folks because the great outdoors is starting up this weekend at Hangtown! If the 2017 SX season was any indicator of how the nationals are going to run then we are in for a very very good season.
In the 250 class we have a very stacked class and that makes predicting these races and championship challenging. I am predicting multiple moto winners this year. I think every rider on my top 10 list could very well win a couple motos and that is saying a lot. I really do think we could have 10 races winners this summer, but when it comes to championship contenders, the field is quite a bit smaller. I think the top 3 guys to beat this summer will be Jeremy Martin, Zach Osborne and Austin Forkner. Here are my full 250 pre-season rankings:
1. Jeremy Martin (Geico Honda)
His supercross season may have not gone very well, but that doesn’t stop me from picking Martin as the top guy to beat outdoors. Last year things really didn’t go very well for the two time champion as he only won 1 overall before hurting himself and finishing sixth in the points. For whatever reason, Martin just didn’t look like his regular self, but I expect we see a big rebound this year and for Martin to win multiple overalls and be in contention for the championship right to the end. I think the switch to Geico Honda will actually help Martin as he has stated that at the end he was not getting along with Star Racing Yamaha. Despite an awful supercross season, he did finish 2nd place on a 450 at Daytona and that is why I’m not worried about Martin for the outdoors. Will he and Geico Honda gel enough for Martin to win his 3rd MX title? I believe so.
2. Zach Osborne (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna)
As mentioned above, I believe Osborne is a real title threat this summer and I wouldn’t be surprised if he is one of the fastest if not the fastest rider come this Saturday. One could argue that the last MX series was the tipping off point for this new and improved Osborne. He captured his first moto win at Highpoint and then later on won his first ever overall at Budds Creek. The rest of the year was so-so with Osborne making a lot of mistakes and struggling with consistency, but those first wins of his career was followed up by the amazing performance we all just witnessed in Supercross earlier this year. I believe Osborne will continue the momentum into Hangtown and the whole motocross series. He will be very fast there is no doubt about that, but I place him behind Martin on this list because Osborne has been known to make a few mistakes here and there and I believe those mistakes may cost him a championship this summer.
3. Austin Forkner (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
I put Forkner as a favourite to win the supercross west title and that didn’t really work out in my favour did it? Well I guess I haven’t learned my lesson as with all the talented riders in this class I have Forkner being the next guy behind the clear top 2 of Osborne and Martin. Last year in his rookie season Forkner was reeeaaallly good. He was 4th in the points last year! Let us remember that he went 2-3-3-1 to finish off the last 4 rounds. With a year under his belt, Forkner could be the guy to beat this summer. I don’t think he wins this title, but I really do believe that he will be in the point chase for most of the year and I see him as a multiple moto winner.
4. Aaron Plessinger (Star Racing Yamaha)
This is where my rankings start to get interesting. Of the next 6 riders, arguments could be made for all of them that they should have this 4th spot. I have chosen Plessinger. Plessinger is super confusing to me. When it is muddy he will win. Hands down. That is a great advantage to have, but at other races sometimes he just doesn’t quite have the speed. Now the really mysterious thing is that he sometimes will be seconds faster then the rest of the field, but as soon as he catches up to the lead pack he just slows down and never makes anything happen. I have seen this too many times for this to be a coincidence. Watch this summer as I believe you will see it happen again. With that all said, he is super fast and if he can fix his starts he could be very dangerous.
5. Joey Savatgy (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
Out of all the riders in this class, Joey Savatgy is my biggest question mark for the outdoors. Even going off of last years results outdoors, there is a lot of questions. Will he be the Joey from the first half when he won 3 of the first 4 races or will he struggle like at the end of the 2016 when he went 10-9-9? It really is hard to say, but that isn’t the only question here. The other big question is how does Savatgy bounce back form that devastating loss in Supercross? Honestly, I expect him to bounce back with a vengeance. Don’t be surprised if he comes out swinging just like last year. However, with that said, don’t be surprised if he comes out struggling and then just never gets the ball rolling.
6. Adam Cianciarulo (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
Cianciarulo finally did it folks! He made it through a full supercross series. There was some sketchy moments with that knee injury, but he made it. The thing is, he didn’t just make it through Supercross, he won two events while doing it and ended up almost winning the championship! It finally seems like this kid is back on track to becoming an all-star in our sport. Last summer did not go well for Adam as he was outside of the top 10 in 4 of the first 5 races. However by the end of the summer we were seeing some glimpses of hope as he was finding some of that speed again and racing up front. This year I expect him to be miles better! I think he will win at least one overall, but I don’t see him as a title threat quite yet as he hasn’t really shown us that he can be a top dog outdoors yet.
7. Alex Martin (TLD/Red Bull KTM)
It seems weird to have Alex Martin all the way back in 7th, but I mean look at this class! There are so many great riders that could sneak podiums or even wins. Alex Martin is one of those guys and last year he really showed us what he is capable of with getting 2nd overall in the points standings and winning 2 overalls. He was even the points leader at one point! However, things might not go as smoothly this year. I don’t really have anything to judge this on, but he did switch teams and leave a really fast yamaha. If he comes out and gets a top 5 at Hangtown then this year is going to very good, but if he comes out and struggles in this deep field, well he may be in for a long summer.
8. Justin Hill (Pro Circuit/Monster Energy Kawasaki)
For whatever reason, Hill has never been able to put it together outdoors. Last year we finally saw him get some top 5 finishes, but for a rider of his calibre you would expect more from him. With that said, he never fully put it together in Supercross until this year, which he dominated! Will the momentum and Supercross success translate into a new and improved Justin Hill outdoors? My gut feeling is no. I mean, yes I do think he will be fast some races and will put together some podiums, but I haven’t seen anything in his career to say that he is a fantastic motocross rider and that is what you have to be in order to compete with the likes of Jeremy Martin. Don’t worry though, top 10s all day and some top 5s, just not the Champion.
9. Dylan Ferrandis (Star Racing Yamaha)
Ferrandis could be sneaky sneaky good outdoors. We know he has the motocross experience with all the GPs he has raced. Yes, I know the GPs are a lot different then the American Nationals, but they are in the same ballpark and considering how quickly he adapted to Supercross in his first ever year racing it, well he could be very good. However, look at this field of riders he has to beat! I believe he will have some races where he is one of the fastest if not the fastest rider out there, but without a doubt there will be some weekends where he just struggles to learn the track and find a good flow. It should be interesting to see what the Frenchman can do this summer.
10. Shane McElrath (TLD/Red Bull KTM)
McElrath shut all of us fans and media guys up, when he went out and won the first two races of the year in Supercross. Have I not learned my lesson??? I still have him way back in 10th place on my rankings… Yikes. This is where I see him realistically sitting, but he could easily mix it up with all these guys above him. Like I said all of these riders could win motos and could be changing positions every weekend. Even though I have him sitting way back here in 10th place, I want everyone to know that he is my pick for the dark horse. Most likely he will be somewhere from 5-10, BUT he could do it again this series and blindside everybody. I picked him for the dark horse in the 250 West Supercross Series and look what happened, so I’m sticking with it.
Jordon Smith (TLD/Red Bull KTM): I couldn’t write this article and not mention Smith. Yes he didn’t make my list, but not because I think he will do bad this summer, I just see him not quite having the speed of the other guys. However, I am totally prepared to be wrong about this one.
Mitchell Oldenburg (TLD/Red Bull KTM): Oldenburg is trending upwards and he could very well turn some heads this summer.
Photo from Geico Honda