Who’s next? From social media (#whosnext) to television promos, and from local bike shops to garage bench-racing sessions, those were the words that were plastered all over the 2015 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. And for good reason too: Ryan Villopoto, champion the last four years running, had announced he wouldn’t be pursuing another championship, leaving the door wide open for veteran challengers and class newcomers alike to step up and take over the throne.
Early on it looked like the fans were in store for a crazy season too, with rivals Ken Roczen (now on an RCH/Soaring Eagle/Jimmy John’s Suzuki) and Eli Tomac (GEICO Honda) exchanging wins at the first two rounds, but it wasn’t long before the contenders started dropping out of the points battle. Former champion Discount Tire/TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed and Honda HRC’s Trey Canard crashed into each other at Anaheim 2, and when Reed showed his displeasure by bumping into Canard afterward and sending him off the side of the track, he was black-flagged. Canard would later pull out of the season completely after crashing into Jake Weimer in Detroit and breaking his left arm. The incident left Weimer seriously injured also, and he would miss the rest of the year.
Red Bull KTM’s Dean Wilson’s troubles started early too, with him blowing his knee out during practice just three rounds into the season. Roczen, who started out by winning the opener in Anaheim, didn’t escape the season without mishap either. A vicious crash in Oakland in which Roczen came up extremely short on a triple marked the beginning of the end of the German rider’s championship aspirations. He would have a big crash during qualifying a few races later in Atlanta and end up dropping out of the season completely after injuring his ankle during practice in Daytona.
Davi Millsaps, who looked to be back to his winning ways after taking the Monster Energy Cup, suffered from Epstein-Barr virus early on and was eventually let go from Monster Energy Kawasaki late in the season after the team discovered a restricted substance in his locker. (It should be noted that Millsaps never failed any drug tests, but he apparently had something in his locker that he did not have a doctor’s prescription for). And finally, speaking of drug tests, former champion James Stewart never even got the chance to compete—failing to report a prescribed drug (Adderall) that contained a banned substance resulted in a suspension kept him out of the entire 2015 SX/MX season. The ban was finally lifted in August.
Through all the carnage, Ryan Dungey ended up being the last man standing—not to mention the fastest one too. Not that it would have mattered this season, as Dungey, who’d teamed up with Aldon Baker after Roczen parted ways with the legendary trainer, came in stronger than he’d ever been. He only missed the podium once, at the season opener, where he finished fourth, and wrapped up the title in Houston, eventually winning by a massive 85-point margin. He also won eight of seventeen rounds along the way.
Other 450SX highlights include Honda HRC’s Cole Seely getting his first premier-class win in Houston, privateer hero Weston Peick earning a factory ride with Autotrader.com/Toyota/JGR Yamaha and rewarding them with a pair of podiums, and the immortal Chad Reed winning yet another race in Atlanta.
In the 250SX Class, it was the Cooper Webb and Tyler Bowers show out west. Bowers didn’t have the speed to consistently challenge Webb, but that didn’t stop the two from getting into multiple on-track dustups, with the most shocking one taking place when Bowers came into a corner hard, slamming his elbow into Webb’s helmet even harder. Intentional or not, it set off a firestorm in the media and amongst fans, and the two were even featured talking about the incident on the television broadcast the following week. But what people will most remember (and rightly so) was how dominant Webb was that season. The Yamaha rider streaked to six of eight possible victories, most of them with huge leads, and wrapped up the title a race early.
In East Region 250 SX, Justin Bogle was desperately trying to defend his #1 plate against Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin and Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin, but he’d entered the season with leftover shoulder problems from an injury in 2014, and wasn’t as prepared as he needed to be to go up against such stiff competition. He didn’t have a bad season—he won in Detroit and only finished off the podium once—but he was just no match for Musquin, who won six of eight races on his way to the title. Martin, who won round two in Atlanta, stayed in the point battle until disaster struck in Indianapolis. Martin went down in his heat at the hands of a hard-block pass and crashed in the whoops in the LCQ whilst attempting to recover from a poor start, resulting in a championship-crushing DNQ. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki ace Adam Cianciarulo missed the entire season with a shoulder injury suffered at an overseas race during the preseason.
So much domination from Dungey and Musquin in Monster Energy Supercross left most of the teams, riders, and fans looking forward to the start of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Except for Roczen, that is, who injured his back before the season opener at Hangtown. He managed to keep it mostly quiet, but rumors started to swirl in the days before the opener, and when the gate dropped for practice it quickly became evident that something was indeed wrong with the defending 450 National Champion—he scored just nineteenth in the first moto. Roczen did much better in the second moto, finishing fifth, but the damage was done to his title hopes.
The other big story coming out of Hangtown was the dominance of Tomac, who trounced the field by eye-popping margins—twenty-two seconds over Dungey (who beat third-place Jason Anderson by nearly a minute) in the first moto and an astounding minute-and-a-half in the second.
The beatings didn’t stop in northern California, either. Tomac’s rampage continued at round two (Glen Helen) and the first moto of round three in Colorado before coming to a sudden stop when he went down all by himself while leading the second moto. The resulting shoulder injuries would spell the end of Tomac’s year. It’s hard to say what would have happened had he not crashed out, but Tomac’s candle burned so brightly early on that it was still being talked about at season’s end. To put things in perspective, at the end of the season Tomac sat third in the laps-led category, with seventy-six, behind Dungey (153) and Roczen (eighty-one), despite racing less than a quarter of the summer.
We mentioned Roczen’s problems at Hangtown, which seemed to go away almost as abruptly as they surfaced, but unfortunately new ones arrived. Rumors of the team struggling to find a good setup were constant, and although he won the overall at High Point, the champ never really found the same pace he’d had the year before, and it was Dungey who took firm control of the championship after Tomac’s misfortune. That doesn’t mean Dungey didn’t have any other challengers, however. Justin Barcia got a shot of confidence by winning the overall at a very muddy Budds Creek, propelling him to yet another overall win at the next round at RedBud. He did it the hard way too, holding off a relentless Dungey for nearly the entire second moto. It went down as one of the best battles of the season. Although he would only win one more moto (Washougal), Barcia was a constant presence up front after getting that first career 450 national win (and Yamaha’s first since Josh Grant won at RedBud in 2009) at Budds Creek.
When it was all over Dungey chalked up the best season of his career, winning both major 450 championships and wrapping both titles up early. To put things in perspective, 1,025 is the combined number of points a 450 racer can earn in supercross and motocross; Dungey earned 937 of them, or 91.41 percent of the maximum. That’s a solid, dominant season!
In 250 action, it quickly boiled down to a slugfest between Musquin and defending champ Jeremy Martin. Cooper Webb saw his title chances evaporate after the re-aggravation of a leg injury at Hangtown caused him to miss several races, and Cianciarulo hurt his shoulder practicing before RedBud, right when it seemed he was starting to get back to his blazing-fast self after missing all of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross in 2014 with an unrelated shoulder injury.
Although Musquin and Martin rarely met up on the track, the points battle swung wildly from race to race, even moto to moto at times. After splitting moto wins with Martin at Hangtown, Musquin was perfect at Glen Helen and emerged from the second round with a nice lead after a mechanical problem on the gate in the first moto and a crash on the start in the second relegated Martin to seventh overall that day. But the next week Musquin gave all those points back when he crashed at Thunder Valley while leading the first moto. It went on like this all season, with both experiencing crashes, stalls, bad starts, and other weird luck that ultimately kept them tight in points.
When the two came into the penultimate round in Utah, Martin led Musquin by just 2 points. Musquin won the first moto while Martin raged to third (thanks in part to RJ Hampshire handing over third when he crashed mere feet from the finish line on the final lap) after starting in nearly dead last. In the second moto, Martin came through to win and take the overall while his teammate, Webb, got between him and Musquin, so the two title contenders somehow left Utah with zero change between them in points.
Unfortunately the tremendous battle came to an unceremonious end at the finale in Indiana when Musquin’s bike developed mechanical trouble early in the first moto that destroyed the two-time MX2 Champion’s shot at winning a 250 National Championship in what would be his final year aboard a 250.
Other highlights from the 250 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship include Joey Savatgy getting his first career national win at Unadilla and Alex Martin winning his first career moto at Budds Creek when brother Jeremy stalled his motorcycle while leading the race.
In the end, 2015 was the best year for Minnesota in the history of motocross, as Belle Plain’s Dungey won both 450 SX and MX titles, and Millville’s Jeremy Martin repeated as 250 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Champion.