Southwick Preview: Shifting sands predict more shakeups

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The first four weeks of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season was dominated by Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen.

In those opening rounds, if either rider bobbled in one of the Motos, they would immediately rebound and were the only winners as a result. As they seesawed through the opening rounds, they literally left the field in the dust and amassed a sizeable lead.

Professional sports are rarely that simple, however. Two weeks ago Blake Baggett became the first rider other than Tomac or Roczen to win a Moto. Last week, Marvin Musquin joined him and went a step beyond to win overall at WW Ranch in Jacksonville, Fla. With that run, Musquin jumped to third in the points and has the leaders in sight.

After Roczen’s struggles in Moto 2 at WW Ranch in which he finished 10th, Tomac was able to secure a little breathing room in the form of a six-point gap.

Still, this close of a battle is unprecedented territory for Tomac compared to the past two seasons. This week could be pivotal. If he can add a few more points over Roczen and the field, he could slowly begin to extend his advantage.

Now the series heads up the coast to Southwick, Mass. for the second straight race in sandy conditions.

Last week took a heavy toll on the riders – particularly the less conditioned and younger group from the 250 class. This week, the temperatures are forecast to be just as high even though the series is much further north. Back-to-back endurance races are going to further separate the field, making this another opportunity race that very well might showcase more new winners.

Shifting sand is not just a cliché. The track will undergo major changes throughout the day and the most experienced and flexible riders will ascend to the podium at the end of the round. It is going to be extremely important to get off to a steady start in Moto 1, but the second race is going to have increased importance and could feature a completely different track than the one the riders qualify on in the morning.

Fredrik Noren will climb aboard Justin Hill’s factory Suzuki after scoring a pair of top-10s in the first five rounds of the season.

MORE: Spreading the Motocross Wealth

Schedule:

Qualifiers: 10:15 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold
Race: Live, 1 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold (Moto 1), Moto 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold (re-air at 7:30 on NBC).

June 22 – 2019 WW Ranch Motocross Park

450: Marvin Musquin (1-3) won over Eli Tomac (7-1) and Zach Osborne (5-2)
250: Justin Cooper (2-2) won over Dylan Ferrandis (4-1) and Adam Cianciarulo (5-3)

June 30 – 2018 The Wick

450: Marvin Musquin (2-1) won over Eli Tomac (1-2) and Justin Barcia (3-3)
250: Dylan Ferrandis (4-1) won over Alex Martin (2-4) and Shane McElrath (6-2)

Overall Wins

450:
[2] Ken Roczen (Hangtown, Thunder Valley)
[2] Eli Tomac (Pala, High Point)
[1] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch)

250:
[4] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown, Pala, Thunder Valley, High Point)
[1] Justin Cooper (WW Ranch)

Moto Wins

450:
[5] Eli Tomac (Hangtown II, Pala I & II, Thunder Valley II, WW Ranch I)
[3] Ken Roczen (Hangtown I, Thunder Valley I, High Point II)
[1] Blake Baggett (High Point I)
[1] Marvin Musquin (WW Ranch I)

250:
[4] Adam Cianciarulo (Hangtown II, Pala II, Thunder Valley II, High Point II)
[3] Justin Cooper (Hangtown I, Pala I, Thunder Valley I)
[1] Hunter Lawrence (High Point I)
[1] Chase Sexton (WW Ranch I)
[1] Dylan Ferrandis (WW Ranch II)

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Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.