Moto Media

Head-to-head title fight between KTM Teammates

Jen Kenyon for MX Sports Pro Racing. 

The second annual Zions Bank Utah National will signify the series' return to the one-of-a-kind track at Tooele's Miller Motorsports Park, just outside Salt Lake City, where a season-long battle between Red Bull KTM teammates Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey will culminate with one of the two riders walking away as champion. As the 450 Class title fight continues to unfold, newly crowned 250 Class Champion Jeremy Martin will pilot his Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha on a victory lap, while the battle for second in the standings ensues over the final two motos.


Entering the inaugural Indiana National one week ago, Dungey's late season surge and two-race winning streak has closed the gap between he and Roczen to a mere seven points. However, Mother Nature took center stage at Ironman Raceway with a downpour of rain during the early morning hours that ultimately resulted in a critical shakeup in the points that played heavily into Roczen's favor.


It's Roczen (left) versus Dungey (right) for one final time in 2014.  Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X


Despite not winning a single moto since RedBud on Independence Day weekend and losing 19 points over that span, Roczen rebounded from what appeared to be a late season funk to return to the forefront of the premier division and reclaim control of the championship. While Roczen successfully withstood the treacherous and muddy conditions, no doubt taking advantage of his experience racing in similar conditions in Europe en route to a series-leading fifth overall win, Dungey faltered and endured his worst performance of the 2014 season.


Dungey nearly went down coming out of the gate in Moto 1, but was able to recover from his early misfortune to fight his way back to second and minimize the ground lost to his rookie teammate. With everything on the line in Moto 2, Dungey got another bad start and found himself mired outside the top 10 early. Despite his best efforts to make another climb through the running order, the field simply was too spread out for the former champion to make up the ground he needed, resulting in a season-worst ninth-place finish but still landing him on the overall podium in third.


When all was said and done, Dungey had given up 13 points to Roczen and now faces a 20-point deficit coming into Utah. While there is still a lot of racing left over the course of two motos, Dungey and Roczen's approach to the season finale is likely at different ends of the spectrum. For Dungey, being in the chase means he must enter Miller Motorsports Park with a winning mentality. A second 1-1 moto sweep this season is all Dungey can do to try and erase Roczen's lead, while the German simply needs to keep his KTM on two wheels based on his statistics this season. Through 22 motos Roczen has finished no worse than fourth, doing so on just two occasions. Should he patiently race his way to a pair of fourth-place results on Saturday afternoon, he will still secure the title no matter what his teammate does, which surely adds to his confidence and security coming into Utah.


Canard is arguably the hottest rider in the series right now.  Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X


While all eyes will no doubt be on Roczen and Dungey on Saturday afternoon, a pair of Honda riders could ultimately play the biggest role in how this championship plays out. Both Team Honda Muscle Milk's Trey Canard and GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac have stepped up to establish a four-rider battle at the front of the 450 Class field. While Tomac has one overall win to his credit, Canard has taken two of the last three moto wins and appears to be hitting his stride at the right time. While it will take more than Canard and Tomac's involvement to keep Roczen from clinching his first career title, knowing that any one of these elite contenders can emerge victorious at Miller Motorsports Park only adds to the intrigue surrounding the championship and the level of competition in the premier class.


As last year's inaugural 250 Class winner in Utah, Tomac hopes to wrap up 2014 with his second career 450 win. 

Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X


Arguably the biggest breakout story of the 2014 season, Martin's championship-clinching effort one week ago in Indiana was just another piece to the impressive season-long effort he's amassed this summer. The reigning Rookie of the Year was a dark horse for the title following an up-and-down AMA Supercross season. However, since the opening round at Glen Helen he's been the rider to beat each and every weekend and boasts the rare distinction of leading the championship throughout the entirety of the season, putting him in the elite company of the likes of Ricky Carmichael, James Stewart and, most recently, Blake Baggett.


Martin will no doubt try to make the most of his first ride as champion.  Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X


Martin's four wins are tops in the 250 Class and up until the second moto last weekend, he had finished inside the top 10 in every single moto this season, a feat no one else in the division could share. It's been a dream season for the sophomore rider to say the least, including his first ever win at the Martin's family-owned Spring Creek MX Park, and the emergence of his teammate and fellow sophomore rider Cooper Webb as his biggest rival has only added to the excitement in the 250 Class.


While Martin will be able to savor his day at Utah as champion, his Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha team will still be hard at work trying to conclude its banner season with a 1-2 sweep for Martin and Webb. Currently, Webb sits third in the championship standings and faces a slim two-point deficit to Baggett and his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki in second. Last year at Miller Motorsports Park, Baggett played the role of spoiler in the outcome of that championship and he's more than ready to take on both Yamaha riders, if necessary, to hold on to the runner-up spot in the points.


Webb wants nothing more than to make it a 1-2 sweep for Star Yamaha in 2014.  Photo: Simon Cudby / Racer X


With a year under its belt, Miller Motorsports Park has revamped its motocross track, which sits on the infield of the facility's world-class paved road racing course. Massive amounts of sand have been brought in as an addition to the layout while many of the track's obstacles have been redesigned to enhance the action on the track while also making the overall experience more enjoyable for riders and fans alike.     

The championship atmosphere surrounding the Utah National began one year ago at the inaugural event when both Ryan Villopoto and Eli Tomac not only became the first ever winners at Miller Motorsports Park, but also clinched their respective titles in the 450 Class and 250 Class. Either Roczen or Dungey will continue that legacy on Saturday.


450 Class Championship Standings

  1. Ken Roczen, Germany, KTM, 494
  2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 474
  3. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda, 418
  4. Brett Metcalfe, Australia, Kawasaki, 304
  5. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda, 281
  6. Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., KTM, 278
  7. Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki, 268
  8. Josh Grant, Riverside, Calif., Yamaha, 243
  9. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 226
  10. Chad Reed, Australia, Kawasaki, 185

250 Class Championship Standings

  1. Jeremy Martin, Millville, Minn., Yamaha, 450
  2. Blake Baggett, Grand Terrace, Calif., Kawasaki, 381
  3. Cooper Webb, Morehead City, N.C., Yamaha, 379
  4. Marvin Musquin, France, KTM, 374
  5. Christophe Pourcel, France, Yamaha, 355
  6. Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda, 331
  7. Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., KTM, 270
  8. Cole Seely, Newbury Park, Calif., Honda, 244
  9. Jessy Nelson, Paso Robles, Calif., Honda, 238
  10. Dean Wilson, Scotland, Kawasaki, 204  
  11. Alex Martin, Millville, Minnesota, Yamaha, 204