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By Byron Wilson

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The 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship is drawing to a close, with the upcoming Built Ford Tough Unadilla National marking the first of three consecutive race weekends to finish off the season. The 2013 round in central New York will mark the 28th time American pro motocross has raced at Unadilla, but this year things will be a little different. There’s a new 80-foot jump into the bottom of the Gravity Cavity followed by a sweeping bowl turn, giving spectators new vantage points along the historic track and a new tunnel was installed as well to help fans move around the grounds more easily.

The championship battle continues in the 450 ranks, thanks to Ryan Villopoto’s uncharacteristic 6-4 finish in the previous round at Spring Creek. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider went down on Lap 1 of Moto 1 and fell to the back of the pack, requiring him to battle through the field to salvage as many points as possible. In Moto 2 Villopoto was stuck well outside the lead pack after a terrible start and had to play catch-up a second time, making for his worst round of the entire season.

Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey is Villopoto’s primary contender for the 2013 title, sitting 34 points back in second overall. The 2012 Nationals champ did what he could at his home track in Millville to bridge the gap between himself and RV, but a derailed chain in Moto 1 forced him to stop briefly to repair his machine, leaving him outside the top-10. He battled back up to fifth-place before the checkers, but only gained one point on the Kawasaki ace in the moto. Dungey came out swinging in Moto 2, taking the win and cutting Villopoto’s lead by seven more points.

Villopoto was absent from the 2012 season due to injury, but in 2011 he went 1-1 at Unadilla ahead of Dungey, who went 2-2. RV will be keen to see a repeat of that performance this year and Dungey will undoubtedly fight with everything he’s got to chip more points from Villopoto’s advantage and keep hopes of defending his title alive. Dungey’s drive may well be enhanced this weekend, too, by the fact that it was at Unadilla that he secured the 2012 championship.

The performance of others in the field could shake things up further for the two front runners. Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart appears to have shaken some of the bad luck that’s caused him to take two zero-points earning motos and a handful of other disappointing finishes outside the top 10. Bubba won his first overall of the year at Spring Creek, going 1-3, which came after two previous rounds where he finished 2-2 (Red Bud) and 3-3 (Washougal). Stewart contested the Unadilla round as one of his few attempts to return to action during the tumultuous 2012 season, but he was markedly out of sorts due to multiple injuries and finished 9-35.

Another rider to watch as a potential front-pack contender is Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia. Both Barcia and Stewart are in contention for the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Holeshot Championship, with Stewart leading by one point over Barcia. Those fast starts have given them both the chance to fight in or just outside the lead pack, and in Barica’s case have contributed to seven podium finishes so far this year.

Barcia’s teammate, Trey Canard, has been a regular contender for the number four through seven positions during much of the current year, but at Spring Creek showed a pace that nearly earned him the Moto 1 win. The Oklahoma native’s 2-2 finish was his best of the season, and if he’s able to carry that momentum to Unadilla, he too could be a factor in the battle for the podium.

In the 250 division, GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac is on a hot streak, having swept the previous two rounds at Washougal and Spring Creek. He comes to the round at Unadilla with a 27-point advantage over Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen, who sits second overall. Tomac has been on the podium in all but three of the 18 motos this year and has nine wins to his credit. The Honda ace took second overall at the New York track in 2012, where he went 6-1.

Roczen went 1-6 at Unadilla in 2012 and is by no means out of the running for the 2013 championship. He’s been as consistent as Tomac in earning podiums this year, missing only three to date, and he has seven wins to his credit. Roczen would be much closer to Tomac’s overall total if he hadn’t endured a tough off in Moto 1 at Spring Creek, which saw him hit the ground hard and take a DNF. He rallied in Moto 2 to finish second and will be drawing upon the same fire in Unadilla to keep himself in range of the championship.

Roczen’s teammate, Marvin Musquin, earned his first overall victory at Unadilla in 2012, where he went 2-3, marking his best result ever at the track. With a good start, Musquin could well be a podium threat again this year.

Fourth in overall points, Blake Baggett of Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki is beyond reasonable reach of defending his 2012 title, but he still has plenty of fight left. Baggett made the podium in third-place at Spring Creek in Moto 2 and though he’s struggled with a wrist injury throughout the season, he’s been a podium challenger in nearly half the motos through the past eight rounds. 

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

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