Held in Rancho Cordova, California, the opening round of the AMA Pro Motocross Championship saw Team Honda HRC's Christian Craig and Ken Roczen turn in solid rides, finishing eighth and 11th overall, respectively. In the day's first moto, Craig took the holeshot and early lead aboard his CRF450R, while Roczen started seventh but quickly moved into fourth. While Craig maintained his position up front, it was a hectic opening lap for Roczen, who worked his way into second before falling back to sixth all in the same lap. Craig went down while running fourth on lap three but was able to remount in ninth. He regained one spot, taking the checkered flag in eighth. Meanwhile, Roczen continued to put together an impressive showing during his first race back, crossing the finish line in sixth.
When the gate dropped for moto two, Roczen launched to a fourth-place start, whereas Craig was left fighting mid-pack after a poor jump. By lap two, the German had moved into third, but he quickly came under fire from the competition. As the 30-minute-plus-two-lap race progressed, Roczen struggled to maintain his speed while fighting through soreness and fatigue in his right hand, ultimately finishing 16th. Craig recovered from multiple early mistakes, climbing to eighth by the finish.
-It was a busy week for the Team Honda HRC crew, as they arrived in the Sacramento area on Thursday for PR duties. With Ken Roczen making his exciting return to racing, he was one of the six 450MX riders showcased in the pre-race press conference, where he was asked questions by the media about his recovery from injury. Then both Roczen and Christian Craig took part in a pair of 20-minute practice sessions. "Getting track time is always a benefit, but especially for me right now," Roczen said. "I've been riding for a few weeks now, but only within the last week have I been able to put in some full motos. I've also only been riding in Florida and haven't tested with the team anywhere else, so getting some time ahead of the race to try a few different settings is huge."
-On the eve of the race, Cole Seely and Roczen were joined by GEICO Honda's Christian Craig, Jeremy Martin, RJ Hampshire, and Chase Sexton, for an autograph signing at the local powerhouse dealer, Roseville Honda. Fans lined up to meet the riders and for a chance to win a Honda Grom. At the conclusion of the event, Roczen drew the winning ticket for one of his replica jerseys, while Seely drew the winning ticket for the Grom.
-Although he's been signed with Team Honda HRC for nearly two years, the Hangtown opener marked Roczen's first-ever motocross race aboard the factory CRF450R. "I'm just excited to be back at the races with my team in general, but really looking forward to getting back to motocross," he said. "It definitely comes more natural to me. I haven't raced outdoors since I won the championship in 2016, and although I want to take things slow and progress each week since I'm just returning, I'd like nothing more than to give my team good results."
-Craig led the charge for Team Honda HRC during Saturday morning qualifying, landing fourth with a 2'18.13" time in the first practice session. Roczen was ninth with a 2'19.70" time.
-GEICO Honda's Jeremy Martin started the 250MX series off strong, scoring a pair of second-place finishes aboard his CRF250R to secure an impressive second overall at the Hangtown opener.
-The Honda Red Riders will be at Southern California's Glen Helen Raceway Saturday, May 26, for round 2 of the AMA Pro Motocross series. On Friday evening, riders will head to Malcolm Smith Motorsports in Riverside, California, for an autograph session.
Christian Craig 32
"I'm happy to get out of Hangtown healthy and to start building from here. The first race of the season is always nice to get out of the way. I felt pretty good all day, qualifying fourth in practice. I pulled the holeshot in the first moto and led some laps before getting passed by a couple guys, then crashing. I got up but was in ninth, then passed for eighth. In the second moto, [Blake] Baggett and I got together out of the gate so it ruined my start. I started mid-pack and worked my way up. I ended up going off the track and tipping over in that one. It was kind of a mess, but luckily I was able to make my way up to eighth again and get out of there inside the top 10 overall. I know where I stand in that class so I'm happy with my speed and fitness; I just need to stop making little mistakes."
Ken Roczen 94
"I knew this weekend was going to be kind of crazy. We haven't had a lot of time to prepare for the race, but I wanted to start the season off. We need seat time so there's no better practice than racing. We knew we were going to show up and have to just wing it to see what we could do. I got the clearance to ride a few weeks ago, though it's been very hard for me, with my thumb, to get a lot riding time in. We knew that we shouldn't have high expectations because of the lack of preparation that I was able to get on the bike, but I've done everything I can and left nothing on the table in terms of what I can do to prepare my body. In the first moto I ended up sixth, which we were pretty happy with considering where we're at. I knew the second moto was going to be tough. I'm incredibly fit, but my race fitness and bike fitness are just not there yet. I know each and every weekend, I'm going to be making big steps forward, which is important. We were also searching a little bit on the suspension side, just because I've only had a couple days of testing prior to this race. We still have a little more work to do to optimize everything. We made a little change from the first to the second moto; sometimes you have it in your mind, 'What if there's something better?' Unfortunately, we went the wrong direction. Overall, I gave it my all and we came away healthy, which is important. I'm definitely going to do some work this week on both myself and the bike and show up at Glen Helen in a good mood and ready to rock."
"All in all the day went pretty good, with both riders leaving healthy and with things they learned. Christian started the season on a positive note and I think hit a lot of his goals for the weekend. He's been working on his fitness and turned some of his fastest laps towards the end of moto two, which is great. It's going to be a work in progress for Kenny. With the lack of time he had to prepare on the bike prior to the season, we're still working to get him dialed on the bike. He did better than we expected in the first moto and was doing well again in the second moto before he started to feel the effects of the day, I think. Even though Ken didn't have huge expectations coming into the weekend, part of what makes him so good is he doesn't want to accept less and always wants more. He just needs to be patient right now and build up to where he wants to be, which is what he plans to do. As he said, he expects his season to fully start after the first break."
Mechanic (Ken Roczen)
"I think Kenny finished kind of where he thought he would be overall, around top 10. He was running really great at the start of both motos, but towards the end he was just getting beat up, tired, and his hand hurt. It was definitely a combination of things. He never rode the bike anywhere but in Florida, so it was a bit different than what he was used to when he got out here. We'll keep working on that for him. It's great to be back at the races with him though, so I'm looking forward to Glen Helen."
Mechanic (Cole Seely)
"Today was decent for Christian. He rode good and is leaving healthy, which is great. The second moto was a little hectic for him. We made some suspension changes and it looked like we went in the wrong direction at first because he seemed to be riding a bit out of control, going down and off the track a couple times, but once he settled into pace, I thought he rode really well. The bike was also working a lot better after he settled down. He showed he has the starts and speed to hang up front with those guys."