It is never too late for a silly-season column, people. One thing I’ve learned in over ten years in the moto media is that so many fans love to know the gossip of who is going where that next year. Well, to be honest, I like it also. It is fun to speculate on the different moves the teams and riders are going to make to improve their lot in life.
With Wacko Zacho and Eli Tomac both on the way to clinching their outdoor titles, let’s do a little early version of what we think is going to happen next year. It is early still and a lot of stuff will shake out as we get closer to October but, for now, here’s what we have got when it comes to the 450SX/MX teams in American moto.
We’ll start with the teams that have their guys signed, or ones that I would 100% stamp as happening, and then the riders on the bottom that need some rides.
Team HRC: Ken Roczen and Cole Seely.
The red riders will stay the same unless Roczen isn’t able to make it back from his arm injury that he suffered earlier this year. He is back riding (sort of) and it looks good for him to be on the line at Anaheim 1 in 2018. You never know for sure, so I’d look for a rider to fill in for Kenny if he can’t make it for SX. There is no way Honda go into supercross with one rider. Perhaps they take Justin Brayton from the MCR guys if there’s no #94?
Monster Energy Kawasaki: Eli Tomac and Josh Grant.
Of course Tomac will be there, he just signed a two-year deal for 2018 and 2019. I’m surprised that Grant’s deal isn’t done yet, but I’d look for it to be soon. The team really like him and although he yet again missed races with an injury, he rode well when he was healthy. I know Justin Hill said he was moving up, but not to this team and not now.
JGR Suzuki: Weston Peick and one more.
JGR will want to get one more rider for the 450 spot but, for now, Peick will be back with the team for another shot. I do not think that the team have 100% told Justin Barcia that he is out, but I can’t see how they bring him back without a massive pay cut. There is a spot here on a factory Suzuki. The JGR guys have talked to Chad Reed, but that would be a supercross-only deal and they want a full-time 450F guy.
Monster Energy Yamaha: Cooper Webb and one more.
Webb’s in the second and last year of his deal with the squad and he’ll look to take another step after a so-so rookie year. The Yamaha guys will add one more rider to the team and, no, it won’t be Chad Reed.
Red Bull KTM: Marvin Musquin and Broc Tickle
It is unknown whether or not Red Bull KTM will add a third rider to its team for 2018 but, for now, Musquin takes over as team leader and a real threat to win indoors and out. Tickle comes over from RCH and will be joining up with trainer Aldon Baker to try and take a Zach Osborne-like career jump under the super trainer. Reed wants the third spot bad and might be an option here.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna: Jason Anderson and Dean Wilson
What a pick-up Wilson was for the Husky guys this year! He’ll look to continue rebuilding himself and try to get on the box for supercross. Anderson is already there as a potential race-winner each weekend and, if he can figure out the inconsistencies, a title threat.
Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KTM: Blake Baggett and Benny Bloss
This team will downscale and lose Millsaps for next year. Baggett’s outdoor performance was superb and indoors he was pretty good as well. Better than you think, bro, check the stats! Bloss’ 2017 has been a mess with a shoulder injury, but he’ll be on a 450F full-time in 2018 and look to get some solid results again.
MotoConcepts Racing Honda- Justin Brayton and one more.
The MotoConcepts Honda team are pulling away from traditional riders Mike Alessi and Vince Friese, but stick with Justin Brayton. He is probably going to get more factory parts on his CRF450R in 2018. There is one more spot open and there will be a ton of riders to choose from.
That's the big teams done, let’s talk about who’s still looking for a ride…
Davi Millsaps: I fully believe Davi Millsaps will join Webb at Yamaha for both supercross and motocross, but I know Millsaps himself is telling people that is not going to happen. Well, maybe I know more Davi! Bet on the #18 going back to blue for 2018.
Chad Reed: I see the #22 going to Red Bull KTM or JGR Suzuki and, either way, I think it’ll be a supercross-only deal. I would bet heavily on a KTM though, either directly on the factory squad or with his own side deal out of who knows what truck and with who knows what sponsor.
Justin Bogle: With RCH Suzuki folding, Bogle is out looking for a ride and I think he is a good bet to take that JGR Suzuki spot alongside Peick. Suzuki liked what they saw and there is potential there with the #19. If not, MCR has been in contact.
Malcolm Stewart: It is unclear whether Stewart will be back with the Ride365 Suzuki guys, but certainly he’ll be asking the JGR guys about riding there. I know they are a little uncertain about Stewart’s lack of motocross racing the last few years. It is also rumored that he was going to start a team with brother James. As usual with the Stewart’s, the future is murky.
Jake Weimer: He’ll most likely end up at MCR Honda if they strike out on Bogle. If #19 goes to MCR, well then I’m not sure what Weimer would do. I do know that he is not interested in racing for nothing like some riders do.
James Stewart: I don’t know, man, I just threw his name in here to get some clicks. No idea if he races again, but if he does it’ll be on a Honda.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Monster Energy/Ryne Swanberg