The main storyline for the weekend in Tennessee picked up where last week left off -- can anyone even get close to Ken Roczen (and by "anyone" we
mean Eli Tomac)? At the start of Moto 1 for the 450's, it looked like maybe Cole Seely was going to answer the call. He got out to a quick
start and managed a faster pace than either Roczen or Tomac through Lap 3, but as the race went along he couldn't keep up (see 2nd graph). Justin Barcia also
made some noise, running a similar pace to Roczen and Tomac through Lap 3, but then a crash (where he apparently ran into teammate Phil Nicoletti), left
him outside the Top 10 and eventually lead to a DNF.
2016 Pro MX Week 5 - By-The-Numbers Recap: Muddy Creek
(The riders are listed in the order that they came through the opening section -- Cole Seely had the holeshot, Phil Nicoletti was 2nd, Christophe Pourcel was next, etc.)
I was about to say that Seely had his best race of the season, but at Thunder Valley he also finished a moto at #3. He currently sits third in the eason standings, which I think exceeds anyone's expectations for him (doesn't hurt that Ryan Dungey and Jason Anderson are injured, along with some others that have missed races -- but then again, staying healthy is part of the game).
Though Seely started off really strong, he faded early -- along with everyone else besides Roczen and Tomac:
As you can see, Roczen and Tomac traded laps, more or less, the whole race. But, Roczen put a big gap on Tomac in Lap 1, and once that happened, Tomac couldn't get within striking distance. While the other top three fell off the pace -- Seely, Christophe Pourcel, and Weston Peick -- Roczen and Tomac didn't.
In terms of the MotoXGraphs predictions, it's a shame Barcia crashed out of the race, because he was finally showing the speed that lead to him being projected near the top. So far, he's been extremely inconsistent, but there's still a long way to go (for instance, he was able to do much better in Moto 2).
Rounding out the Top 10:
Broc Tickle -- had a very nice race day in his home state
Marvin Musquin -- didn't show the podium-level speed that many expected on a course that should theoretically suit his skillset
Blake Baggett -- has to be content with placing #8 in his first race back from the broken collarbone
Justin Brayton -- at 9th, tied his best moto of the season
Phil Nicoletti -- as mentioned, was doomed to 10th by a crash from Barcia, which must be particularly frustrating since they were battling for somewhere around 5th at the time
Moto 1 for the 450's had quite a bit of exciting racing in the first half, until Roczen took over the lead. The first half of Moto 2 was not nearly as dramatic -- but if you left early to avoid traffic, then you really missed out. Roczen maintained a 5-ish second lead over Tomac pretty much the whole way until the final laps, where Tomac came scorching back and nearly took the lead several times. But, Roczen was able to hold firm and maintained the #1 spot through the finish:
As you can see below, Roczen was faster than Tomac in 7 of the first 9 laps and (and 10 of the first 14). But then, out of nowhere, Tomac gained more than 2 seconds in Lap 15 and again in Lap 16. That brought Roczen and Tomac nearly even, and in Lap 17 they were basically the same speed. In Lap 18, Roczen managed to extend his lead and take the win:
Watching the race live, it seemed as though Tomac had a huge burst of speed that allowed him to catch up, but that was only part of the story (the smaller part, actually). Roczen, somehow, slowed down considerably on Laps 15 and 16. So, while you can see Tomac speeding up, you also see Roczen with 2 laps that were much slower:
The good news from Muddy Creek is that Tomac managed to make it interesting. But the bad news is that what really may have happened is that Roczen's mistake(s) (or whatever caused him to slow down) was actually what let Tomac back in the race -- not something that's within Tomac's control.
Elsewhere in the race, Tickle put in his best finish of the season. In fact, the 3rd place in Moto 2 was his best finish, and the 6th place in Moto 1 was his 2nd best. Prior to that, his best moto finish was 8th (at Glen Helen and at High Point).
Musquin and Barcia rebounded in Moto 2 to finish 4th and 5th, respectively. Barcia had to climb quite a ways after starting in 13th in the opening section, and that 5th ties his season best moto finish (High Point).
Seely couldn't quite maintain his form from Moto 1, finishing 6th, but still had to be happy with the results on the day.
Baggett improved on his Moto 1, finishing 7th. Pourcel and Peick slipped compared to Moto 1, ending up in 8th and 9th, respectively. Peick's best moto result prior to this weekend was 8th, so I imagine he's happy with 5 / 9 and 7th overall (after all, the Location Adjustment did predict he'd do better at Muddy Creek than other tracks).
A wild ride in Moto 1, but at the same time it was mostly things we've seen before: Joey Savatgy fights to the #1 spot and holds on, Cooper Webb looks like he never even hurt his hand, Adam Cianciarulo takes a couple spills (dropping him out of 1st, then dropping him out of 2nd), and Alex Martin had a bit of a bike problem that wasn't entirely his fault.
But in Moto 2 we had some new events providing the excitement. Shane McElrath rode the race of his life, but it was not quite enough to top Webb's amazing comeback. Jordon Smith broke a string of bad races, but in Moto 2 must be bummed to go from 3rd place to 6th in the last several laps. Austin Forkner also improved on his Moto 1, managing to finish 5th. And you can see the steeply slanted lines of both Zach Osborne and Aaron Plessinger, who each had to make a mad dash just to get into the points:
Webb had a crash in Lap 4, leaving him in 5th place, where he remained until Lap 10. He managed to pass Smith in Lap 12, but Lap 14 is when the fun started. At that point, he rode the final 5 laps WAY faster than the next 3 riders:
Somehow Webb managed to speed up while everyone else was slowing down. The gap between his lap and the next-fastest lap for laps 15 through 18 was 2 seconds, 4 seconds, 2 seconds, and 2 seconds. That means he made up around 10 seconds over 4 laps. It's a bummer for McElrath to finish 2nd in his home state (not the only one -- Webb is from NC, too), despite riding his own very good race -- but he just has to tip his cap to Webb and say, "damn, that was an amazing 4 laps."