It wasn’t Ken Roczen’s best race of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season, but it may have been his smartest one. A third-place finish in the first moto and a fourth-place finish in the second moto at Saturday’s Utah National were enough to secure the 450 Class title in the final race of the season.
Although Roczen – who led his Red Bull KTM teammate Ryan Dungey by 20 points entering the day – intended to come into Saturday’s race with the mindset that he needed to keep the pressure on and go for the win, in reality he could have cruised to a championship with a pair of top-five moto finishes, and that’s what ended up happening.
Roczen got a great start in the first moto, putting himself into second place behind Trey Canard and setting himself up for a chance to take over the lead. Roczen briefly pressured Canard for the top spot but couldn’t make the pass, and as Canard began to open up a gap, a pivotal battle for second came to fruition once Dungey caught Roczen. The position changed hands three times, with lapped riders a factor on several occasions. Dungey – who finished second behind Canard – ended up with the spot and beat Roczen but still faced a substantial points deficit to overcome in the second moto.
The second moto started off much the same way as the first one. Canard and Roczen emerged as the top two, and after Roczen’s challenge for the lead was denied, he was content to let Canard ride away with the top spot. Roczen soon fell into the clutches of both Dungey and Eli Tomac but didn’t put up a fight as they moved past him, and Roczen then settled into fourth place – easily good enough for the 450 Class rookie to lock up the championship.
Watch the recap of the 450 Moto 2 race:
“I’ve been trying to play it cool [all weekend] but I’m not going to lie, I’ve been really nervous about today,” Roczen admitted after the race. “I just didn’t want to talk about it and [wanted to] go out there and ride. I just pumped myself up for the motos and went, but it was honestly hard to put it out of my mind. I just went out there and did what I needed to do and made it happen, which is a huge accomplishment.”
While Roczen celebrated the first Lucas Oil Pro Motocross title of his career, Canard had reason of his own to celebrate. With a sweep of both motos, Canard earned the first overall win of his 450 Class career. He also closed the year out strong, winning four of the season’s final five motos. Prior to that streak, he had never won a 450 Class moto since moving up to the premier division several years ago.
“I’ve gotten more comfortable [the last few weeks],” Canard noted. “It’s no secret we made bike changes and it was instant for me in gaining more confidence. I really have to attribute that to the team and I’ve had a lot of fun. I’ve been through such a roller coaster career, I thought that if I didn’t win today then it would be hard to win [ever]. I just wanted to put two motos together to give us [momentum] going into next year.”
Ryan Dungey (2-2 moto results) finished second overall for the day, and Eli Tomac (4-3 moto results) edged out Roczen for the final podium spot.
The 2014 season is over, but don’t expect a quiet offseason. Several top riders will be switching to new teams, with official announcements still to come, then the preparation for the 2015 Supercross season – which starts in January – will begin.
Utah 450 Class Overall Results
1. Trey Canard (1-1)
2. Ryan Dungey (2-2)
3. Eli Tomac (4-3)
4. Ken Roczen (3-4)
5. Brett Metcalfe (7-5)
6. Ryan Sipes (9-6)
7. Andrew Short (6-12)
8. Fredrik Noren (10-9)
9. Weston Peick (13-7)
10. Justin Brayton (12-8)
*Moto 1 and Moto 2 results in parenthesis
450 Class Final Point Standings
1. Ken Roczen, 532
2. Ryan Dungey, 518
3. Trey Canard, 468
4. Brett Metcalfe, 334
5. Eli Tomac, 319
6. Andrew Short, 302
7. Weston Peick, 290
8. Josh Grant, 259
9. James Stewart, 226
10. Fredrik Noren, 207