The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship took another turn at Steel City, as the 250 Championship became even tighter and riders in the 450 class battled for every spot like their careers depended on it. The weekend in Pennsylvania was a prime example of how quickly things can change in this sport, making this coming weekend at Lake Elsinore even more critical.
The soil of Steel City is deceiving, as the light amount of loam on top covers the extremely hard packed base. With the numbers of laps run and quick rain shower at the start of the second 450 moto, the track became even more difficult.
Something about the Selle Dalla Valle seat covers on the Red Bull KTMs caught our eye this weekend. The Italian company has been on the factory bikes for a handful of years and are incredibly lightweight due to the construction of the foam.
One rider who's name has not been linked with any team for 2013 is Kyle Chisholm. While his year has seen various low points, the Jeff Ward Racing/DNA Energy/Kawasaki racer is eighth overall in the series standings.
The Star/Valli/Rockstar/Yamaha camp was abuzz with activity on Saturday, as the full roster of seven riders competed at Steel City. It has been difficult at times for the group, as every rider has struggled with aliments at some point in the year, but the highlights have been Izzi's finishes in the 450 class and Sipes' Seattle main event win.
After spending much of the year recovering from a torn ACL, PJ Larsen lined up for Steel City aboard a J-Star/JDR/KTM 350. Larsen claimed 15th overall in his first race in over six months.
Even though he locked up the title in Unadilla and earned the number one plate for 2013, Ryan Dungey elected to run his customary number five.
Monster Energy Kawasaki launched an online promotion dubbed "#socialcross," where fans were able to chat with riders using the hashtag. Thor also hid two VIP passes on the property for fans to find, granting them access to the pits.
Racer's usernames on Twitter were also labeled onto the frame.
It was a heavy flow day at the Star/Valli/Rockstar/Yamaha truck...
On the first lap of the second moto, Martin Davalos stacked it up with another rider in the rhythm section and slammed his chest into his handlebars. The crash knocked the wind out of the Rockstar Suzuki rider and ended his day.
Ryan Morais has made an impressive recovery following the violent crash between he and Trey Canard in LA. Over the last weeks, both have begun riding again and Morais has filled the role as team manager at Star/Valli.
In addition to their goggle line, 100% is now in the competitive sunglasses market. The two models, the Bowen (black frame) and the Atsuta (white frame), will retail for around $100.
Since claiming a moto win at Washougal, MotoConcepts Mike Alessi has stepped up his pace. Alessi posted the fastest time in the morning qualifying session to earn the Oakley Bomb, while battle with Ryan Dungey in the second moto added some much needed excitement to the 450 class. The two swapped the lead a handful of times before Dungey ultimately took the spot when Alessi slowed after twisting his leg.
Steel City was rough for Justin Bogle, as a collision with another racer knocked him out of the top-20 in the first moto. Bogle bounced back to take seventh in the second moto after a long duel with teammate Wil Hahn, which bumped up to 16th in the overall results.
It has been a long year for Jimmy Albertson, with the lowest point being his concussion at Washougal. Albertson finished in the top-20 at Steel City after getting bumped off the track in the first moto. It's not all bad for Jimmy, as he has a part in "Kickstart 4" and is married to Georgia Lindsay.
The decision by Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda to bump Jessy Nelson to the pro ranks is paying off in a big way. A rookie in every way, Nelson has grabbed numerous holeshots and is currently ninth in the overall standings with one round to go. All eyes will be on the TLD rider next season when he makes his Supercross debut and second go at the Nationals.
Ezra Lusk has once again become a common face in the pit area due to his role as Davi Millsaps' riding coach/mentor. Yogi has a watchful eye on the JGR/Toyota/Yamaha racer at all times.
A favorite Instagram account of the TWMX office is failed_tattooz, and we saw plenty of possible material at Steel City.
Candidate number two...
Andrew Short was on a tear during the first moto, finishing an impressive second place to Ryan Dungey. The second moto would not go as smoothly, as he and Kyle Chisholm tangled and hit the ground, tweaking Short's bike and ending his day. Short holds a four-point lead over Jake Weimer for third place in the final standings.
Thanks to a great start and uncontested win, Eli Tomac's Oakley goggles were still stacked with tearoffs at the end of the second moto. Tomac has become the dominant 250 rider in the second portion of the series, winning the last four motos, and is now 14-points shy of Blake Baggett in the championship chase.
Snowcross legend Tucker Hibbert lined up for his return to motocross at Steel City, taking 26-27 scores for 27th overall. The two-time FIM Snowcross World Champion and six-time X Games gold medalist has crossed over between the two sports for years, and has earned 12 top-15 finishes over the course of his AMA career.
2012 was considered a make-or-break year for Blake Wharton, as he joined a new team and worked to overcome injuries. Wharton has not folded under the pressure, as he scored a Supercross main event win and is ranked seventh overall in the National standings. With another year to go on his contract, things are looking brighter for the Texan.
Mullet and a pick-up kit. Double whammy.
We followed Nico Izzi for this week's "Shadow" feature at Steel City, where he claimed sixth place overall. In the video, Izzi discusses his season, his finishes on the 450, and his team for next year.
It is interesting to watch each mechanic's gate packing method. Some fill the gap between the steel gate and the beginning of the track, while others pile dirt to help riders with shorter legs.
The sky darkened as portions of Hurricane Isaac moved into the area, causing a quick and heavy rain. This changed the dynamic of the race, as lap times spiked due and obstacles became more difficult.
Going to the East Coast is like hunting in a zoo.
Eli Tomac tracked Justin Barcia down in the first moto and set the stage for one of the best races of the year. With three laps to go, the two were within inches of each other and nearly made contact as Tomac stole the lead. It has been an eventful summer for both riders, but have stated the mood in the GEICO Honda trailer has not soured.
With Steel City falling on Labor Day, more than a few fans "celebrated" trackside. Some, like this group were the average amount of rowdy, but a select few near the podium pushed the limits, which included spraying the media with beer.
The podium for the 450 class has seen two constants throughout the year, as Ryan Dungey and Mike Alessi have stepped onto the box more than any other racer. While these two have typically finished first and second, there has been a slot for third place. Josh Grant filled the gap when he claimed his first podium of the summer at Steel City with 4-4 scores.
Steel City marked the end of racing on the East Coast for the year, as the only events left on the professional schedule are Lake Elsinore and the Monster Cup. We can't complain about the break from long travel days or the lack of humidity, but this also means no more Yuenglings.
See you at Lake Elsinore...
Randy Roberts has documented the changes being made for the final round of the year at Lake Elsinore for this collection of videos.