The 2017 AMA (United States) Motocross Championship, came to a dramatic conclusion on Saturday afternoon at Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Colorado’s Eli Tomac eventually did enough to wrap up the 450cc title for 2017, but it was Dutch visitor Jeffrey Herlings, a first-timer at the US nationals, who won both the races, leading Frenchman Marvin Musquin and Californian Blake Baggett to the podium.
Could this also be an omen for the upcoming Motocross of Nations in England? – it was France, Netherlands and then USA third in Italy last year.
But the AMA title was the focus for the weekend, certainly for Tomac.
After entering the final round of the summer needing just 22 points in order to clinch the 450 class title, Kawasaki’s Tomac did just that, overcoming adversity in both motos to come away with the most prestigious championship in the sport and hoist the Edison Dye Cup.
In the battle for victory on the track, KTM’s Jeffrey Herlings made the most of his visit to the U.S., showcasing his prowess en route to the 450 class victory in his US motocross debut, sweeping the afternoon’s motos.
In the 250 class, Husqvarna’s Zach Osborne cemented his championship-winning season with a dominant outing, going 1-1 for his series-leading fifth win.
As the 450 class field stormed out of the gate to start its opening moto, Tomac put his Kawasaki at the front of the field by grabbing his first holeshot the season just ahead of his main championship rivals, KTM riders Baggett and Musquin.
However, it was Herlings who stormed by Tomac and into the lead for the first time ever. Despite losing the top spot, Tomac’s second place position would have been enough to clinch the title in the first moto, but he was determined to get back out front.
As Tomac attempted to challenge Herlings for the lead on lap one, he over-jumped an obstacle and crashed, dropping to sixth place, while Musquin moved into second and Baggett into third. Herlings, who currently sits second in the FIM MXGP Championship, took advantage of Tomac’s misfortune to establish an early lead, but Musquin refused to quit. After facing a deficit of more than three seconds, Musquin started to chip away at Herlings’ lead just past the halfway point. The Frenchman posted the fastest lap times of the moto to pull alongside his European counterpart, but a couple of small bobbles hindered his ability to attempt a pass on Herlings, who soon pulled away for good.
Herlings went unchallenged in the closing stages of the race to earn a moto win in his first attempt, crossing the line eight seconds ahead of Musquin, while Baggett followed in a distant third. Honda’s Cole Seely was fourth, one spot ahead of Tomac, which ultimately left the Kawasaki rider a single point shy of clinching the title.
The pressure-filled final 450 class moto saw Baggett emerge with the holeshot, just ahead of Musquin and Seely. Herlings encountered misfortune and went down in the opening corners and was forced to start at the tail end of the field, while Tomac experienced difficulty jockeying for position and started outside the top 10.
Seely made an early challenge on Musquin for second, but the Frenchman withstood it and set his sights on Baggett. It didn’t take long for Musquin to seize control of the moto, moving past Baggett and immediately pulling away. From there, the top three settled into their respective positions.
Behind the lead group, both Tomac and Herlings were fighting their way through the field, each breaking into the top 10 on lap two. Herlings was on an impressive march forward, passing Tomac for ninth on lap three and then breaking into the top five on lap five. His charge wasn’t done yet, as he eventually passed Seely for third on lap seven. Herlings continued to post the fastest laps on the track, which allowed him to close in on Baggett in the waning laps. He made quick work of his fellow KTM rider and took over second on lap 13, but still faced a deficit of nearly 10 seconds to Musquin.
While the Dutchman chased the overall victory, Tomac was content to manage points and ensure the title would be his, regardless of what his rivals did. He patiently worked his way forward, taking advantage of opportunities as they came, and soon settled into sixth place.
On Lap 14, the complexion of the moto changed dramatically when Musquin made an uncharacteristic mistake and crashed out of the lead. As he picked up his bike to re-enter the track, Herlings stormed past into the lead. Musquin desperately gave chase, but with just two laps remaining the late mistake was too costly.
Herlings capped off a 1-1 sweep in his debut race by crossing the finish line 2.6 seconds ahead of Musquin. Baggett finished third.
Herlings became the 68th different overall winner in 450 class history and is just the second Dutch rider to earn a US motocross championship victory, joining Pierre Karsmakers. He’s the fourth different rider to break through with his first career win this season, along with Musquin, Baggett, and Justin Bogle.
“I was fastest all day, from practice to the first moto and the second moto,” said Herlings. “I was so mad at myself for crashing in the second moto, so I just kept charging the entire time. I kind of got lucky that Marvin [Musquin] crashed there at the end, but it doesn’t matter, I got a 1-1 and proved I was the best today.”
Musquin settled for second overall (2-2), while Baggett completed KTM’s first 1-2-3 sweep of the season in third (3-3).
Tomac’s sixth-place finish in the second moto, and sixth overall (5-6), was enough to clinch his first career premier class title, making him the 24th different 450 class champion in history. He also becomes the just the 11th rider in history to win a national title in both the 250 class and 450 class.
“That was not easy at all. I went back after the first moto and thought ‘is it really going like this?’ I think I let my ego get the best of me in the first moto and needed to take it all in before the second moto,” said Tomac. “We went out there and did what we needed to do. This [championship] has been a long time coming and it feels amazing to finally accomplish it. I’m kind of at a loss for words right now.”
Tomac finished the season with a 17-point lead over Musquin, who moved from third to second, in the final championship standings. Baggett was just an additional two points back in third.
The 2018 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will begin the third weekend in May, with the landmark 50th running of the Hangtown Motocross Classic in Rancho Cordova, California.
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Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship – Crawfordsville, Indiana
450 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
1 Jeffrey Herlings, Elsendorp, Netherlands, KTM (1-1)
2 Marvin Musquin, La Reole, France, KTM (2-2)
3 Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM (3-3)
4 Cole Seely, Newbury Park, Calif., Honda (4-4)
5 Cooper Webb, Morehead City, N.C., Yamaha (6-5)
6 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki (5-6)
7 Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki (7-8)
8 Christian Craig, Corona, Calif., Honda (9-7)
9 Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Suzuki (11-9)
10Dean Wilson, Glasgow, Scotland, Husqvarna (12-10)
Final 450 Class Championship Standings
1 Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Kawasaki – 470
2 Marvin Musquin, La Reole, France, KTM – 453
3 Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., KTM – 451
4 Dean Wilson, Glasgow, Scotland, Husqvarna – 340
5 Cole Seely, Newbury Park, Calif., Honda – 330
6 Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Suzuki – 308
7 Cooper Webb, Morehead City, N.C., Yamaha – 268
8 Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki – 268
9 JMartin Davalos, Quito, Ecuador, Husqvarna – 263
10Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Husqvarna – 216
10Christian Craig, Corona, Calif., Honda – 216
250 Class Overall Results (Moto Finish)
1 Zach Osborne, Abingdon, Va., Husqvarna (1-1)
2 Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki (2-2)
3 Colt Nichols, Muskogee, Okla., Yamaha (3-4)
4 Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Honda (8-3)
5 Mitchell Harrison, Brighton, Mich., Yamaha (5-8)
6 Chase Sexton, La Moille, Ill., Honda (10-6)
7 RJ Hampshire, Hudson, Fla., Honda (12-5)
8 Sean Cantrell, Newbury Park, Calif., KTM (6-12)
9 JJustin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki (11-9)
10Bradley Taft, Nixa, Mo., Yamaha (7-13)
Final 250 Class Championship Standings
1 Zach Osborne, Abingdon, Va., Husqvarna – 501
2 Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Honda – 420
3 Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki – 374
4 Aaron Plessinger, Hamilton, Ohio, Yamaha – 337
5 Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., Kawasaki – 324
6 Dylan Ferrandis, Avignon, France, Yamaha – 305
7 Colt Nichols, Muskogee, Okla., Yamaha – 303
8 Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., KTM – 296
9 JMitchell Harrison, Brighton, Mich., Yamaha – 279
10 Shane McElrath, Canton, N.C., KTM – 248