Unfortunately the season took another big hit this weekend as Justin Barcia broke his finger after getting clipped by Tyler Bowers in his heat race and will be missing at least a few rounds. I still have hope for the series though as each individual week should still be quite entertaining. One thing to look for this weekend in Tampa is the debut of Justin Hill on the Suzuki RM-Z450. He will certainly be a wild card this weekend, but I have left him out of my rankings this weekend just because he is such a wild card (if I had to make a prediction for his result this weekend, it would be somewhere in 7-9th). Here are my full top ten rankings heading into round 8 in Tampa.
- Jason Anderson
Anderson is literally in the process of accepting this championship on a silver platter. Holding up the silver platter is Tomac’s crash or win tactic, Musquin’s whoop speed, another gimped Roczen arm and Bowers bike. Don’t get me wrong if all of these guys were healthy for all of the rounds Anderson probably would still be winning this thing, but he wouldn’t have a massive 36-point lead either. He has had his fair share of luck, but wow he has rode like a champion in 2018. A tip over hindered his race in Arlington, but just like Glendale he rebounded after a rough start and salvaged a 4th. These are truly rides of a champion. Anderson doesn’t seem like the type of guy to not go for each and every win. Let us hope for some major Tomac, Anderson battles in the coming rounds.
- Eli Tomac
Last week I was harsh of Tomac, but come on he deserved it with his poor results. However I also mentioned that he could come out and win any of these races. He was a step ahead of the whole field again last weekend as he cruised in for his 3rd victory of the year. Tomac has some impressive stats this year. Firstly he has either won the race or crashed. James Stewart, oops I mean Eli Tomac, has also averaged an impressive 2.5 start after the first lap. Tomac could really go on a streak here in the next few weeks. Stay tuned…
- Marvin Musquin
Since his return to racing from his injury at round 2, Marv has gone 13-5-4-2-2. Yeah, only one more spot to get to. I have been fairly impressed with Musquin these last two weeks and I am excited to watch him battle it out with Tomac and Anderson. Like Tomac he has nothing to lose and should be focused on just getting some wins for the remainder of the year, as he is pretty much out of the championship. Or is he…? It might be shocking to hear considering he missed a round, but Musquin sits only 5 points back of second place in the points. Something tells me that Musquin will not play nicely with Anderson down the stretch of this series and it will be great for all of us fans to sit back and enjoy.
- Blake Baggett
Back to back TO BACK podiums for Rocky Mountain KTM’s Blake Baggett. I got to admit I didn’t really see this coming, I knew he could get podiums, but this is just another level. Baggett looks very solid out there and there is no doubt that he will be shooting for that elusive 450SX win in the next few rounds. He jokingly said that his best shot of winning is having Musquin and Tomac not show up, but Baggett is a very confident of his race skills and I bet he secretly knows he can beat them and is just waiting to do so. This is what I mean when these races are still going to be entertaining. There are just so many story lines and guys that want to win and we can now safely add Baggett to that list of riders.
- Cole Seely
Every year I get hyped up for Cole Seely and think this is going to be a breakout year for Seely and then it will slowly die throughout the season until he has a fantastic race and I’ll be all pumped up once again. Right now the Seely hype is slowly dying for me again. He just didn’t quite have the spark needed to do anything great last weekend. Good ride to get 5th, but he needs to be amazing if he wants to hold on to any chance of winning this championship. Expect another top 5 next weekend in Tampa.
- Cooper Webb
Webb was probably pretty fired up after that San Diego fiasco and he rode well to get his best finish of the season of 6th. I definitely wasn’t expecting Webb to only have one 6th through 7 rounds, but it is what it is and he seems to be back on track now so that’s great for him and the series as a whole. Just from my observations I wouldn’t be surprised if Webb played it a little cautious out there just to make sure he finished good and didn’t blow up his race. Nonetheless a good race to build from for Webb, as he will be looking to break into this top group of 5 riders. While the field is truly thinning out with guys like Roczen, Barcia and Grant out, as you can see by this list the field is still very top heavy.
- Weston Peick
Peick was once again solid as a rock out there. Nothing new to note here, he simply is getting good starts and riding consistent enough to score him more and more top 10s. Say what you will about this guy, but he has shown that he deserves this factory ride as he sits an astonishing 5th place in points. No reasons to not place Peick safely in the top 10 for round 8 in Tampa. The one thing to keep in mind going through this season is the question of whether Peick performs well enough to remain with JGR for 2019 as they will lose one 450 spot presumably with Hill moving up in 2019. With Bogle remaining off the track with injury, Peick is putting in a very strong campaign to remain with the team for 2019 and beyond.
- Dean Wilson
Deano is certainly on an upward trend since returning from the early shoulder injury; in fact he has gone 18-15-11-9-8 since returning. If he keeps this up he should be getting at least a 7th this weekend right? Well that is harder said than done, but if riders keep dropping like flies he could certainly keep improving every Saturday. Honestly the only thing I hope for is that we will eventually get to see the ol’Dean Wilson at some point this season. I just want to see him win heat races and race aggressively like we all have seen in the way, way past.
- Broc Tickle
Broc Tickle has been less than stellar this year with his new team and new training coach. Even though this 9th place ride doesn’t seem that great on paper, he stated that it was the best he ever rode in the main event this year as he rode from dead last to 9th place. Okay I guess 22nd to 9th does seem pretty darn good on paper. It is nice to see him finally feel comfortable out there and with a weakened field he certainly will be looking for some top 5 finishes. Unfortunately the only two guys above him on this list that I see Broc possibly beating out right is Wilson and Peick. I expect Tickle to remain a 6th to 9th place rider until he shows he has what it takes. Also once again Tickle has the worst starts in the class. With a 15th average start after one lap, Ben Lamay is the only guy in the top 20 with a worst average start.
- Justin Brayton
Brayton had a little bit of a disappointing 10th place ride last weekend in Arlington. I think a lot of us were just waiting for him to have that breakthrough podium, but it never came and now things are getting worse. He will have to turn it around quickly here if he wants to get back in the mix each and every weekend because as of now his train his cruising backwards.
Photo from Dirt Rider Magazine