Well, this is it! One round to go in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. Wow, what a ride it's been in 2018 when you go back and include supercross as well. We saw Star Yamaha's Aaron Plessinger clinch his first national championship when he won the first moto last weekend. Plessinger's had a dominant season and fully earned his title. Add in the 250SX West one and it's been the year of AP in the small bike class. For his reward, he signed a three-year deal with Monster Yamaha to jump right into the 450SX/MX class alongside Justin Barcia in the big factory truck.
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Eli Tomac once again rode great to pull off an unlikely Budds Creek win with 3-1 scores. He extended his points lead over, a beat up from a practice crash, Marvin Musquin to twenty with two motos to go. I like Tomac's odds to bring home his second straight 450MX title.
The big news this week was something we touched on last week right here and that's Chad Reed has committed to racing the 450MX class this weekend for JGR Suzuki. We talked last week about him trying out the bike and they let him take it back to Florida. The practice out at The Sandbox where Ken Roczen and Chase Sexton ride must have gone well, because the #22 is making a return to the outdoor series for the first time since High Point in 2015.
There are two schools of thoughts to how he is going to do. One is that the last time we saw Reed on an outdoor track, and for the last few years of his MX career, it didn't go well. In fact, it was shocking how uncompetitive he was in 2015 on the TwoTwo Kawasaki. I mean, this guy is a legend in the sport and did win the 2009 450MX championship! So, with all this time away from a motocross track and on a bike he does not have a lot of time on, how good can this possibly go?
The other flip side is there is nothing really in this for Reed, so he would not come back to race this thing if he was not ready. He is talking to JGR Suzuki for a 450SX ride for 2019, so it is important for him to make a good impression with the team and management. Also, Reed's been very vocal about not being picked for the Aussie Motocross of Nations team and he is not going to want to go out there and not be able to run the pace of at least the top ten. That would give the people that agree with him not being on the Motocross of Nations team more ammo. Simply put, he is a motivated Chad Reed and so this race should go well.
As with a lot of things in life, I think the truth is really in the middle here. Reed is determined to do well here and show people that he has not been written off totally, but time stops for no man and it has been a long time since we saw '22' up front in a motocross race. I don't buy the, "Look how terrible 2018 450SX went for him so why should this be better?" people, because that Reed indoors this year was far from ready to go. He was out of shape, his foot hurt and it was a disaster. He is in a much better spot right now with everything going on.
His entire career, Reed's shown to have the heart of a lion and be stubborn at the same time. Things that have hurt him in relations with other teams, by the way, so he is not going to go out and put in an embarrassing showing. He is in shape (maybe not riding shape, but bicycle shape anyway) and has been riding a bit. First on his Honda that he bought and now on the JGR Suzuki bike. From what I hear, he is not far off Chase Sexton's times at a track he knows well. Sexton just got second in 250MX at the weekend, so the pace seems to be there.
I don't think the '22' will run the pace of the leaders or even be in the mix for a podium, but I think a couple of top tens and he could leave the track with his head held high. That would be an improvement on his last outdoor finishes and also allow him to know that he is competitive with not a ton of time on the bike. All good things. The guys at JGR will get a lot of attention around their pit, they will get a chance to work with Chad and he with them. To me, outside of a disastrous day of crashing or a DNF, it is a win-win for both parties. We'll all be watching, as usual with Chad Reed.
Words: Steve Matthes | Lead Image: Suzuki Racing