MENTOR, Ohio (July 13, 2018) – Ken Roczen picked up his first moto win in nearly two years Saturday afternoon when the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship made its annual Independence Day Weekend trip to Red Bud MX in Buchanan, Mich. Sporting a retro set of Ezra Lusk-inspired colors, harkening back to 1998, the 24-year-old rider won the first of two 450 Class motos before a hearty Red Bud crowd.
The savvy veteran kicked off his day with a strong jump out of the starting gate and was racing near the front of the pack when a fellow competitor fell in front of him. Roczen was forced to stab the brakes, leaving him deep in the field once he was back up to speed. Despite having his early efforts hindered, the German-born rider was back to fifth by the time he completed the first lap and up to second by Lap 4.
As the opening moto wound down, it looked as though Roczen would have to settle for second until a mechanical issue for the leader afforded him the top spot.
Roczen, a two-time Pro Motocross premiere class champion, rode his Wiseco-sponsored No. 94 Honda CRF450R to a third-place finish in the second moto to come home second overall at day's end and turn in his best showing in outdoor competition since 2016.
While the celebrated German rider landed just short of picking up the overall victory, his moto win was significant after being plagued by injuries over the last two years.
"It was a great weekend overall and my second podium this season, so it feels good," explained Roczen. "I kind of got lucky grabbing that moto win because a few of the good guys were in the back and Eli (Tomac) had that issue. Either way, it felt great to cross the finish line for that first win since everything that has happened. We had a bit of a dip down in the results the last couple weeks, but to be back on the podium is awesome. We've really just been figuring out the bike more. We made a pretty drastic change this week to see which way we should go with things, and it really helped me out a lot."
With seven races in the books and five left to contest, Roczen is fourth in points heading into the series' second off-weekend of 2018.
"Today was a huge accomplishment for Ken," added Team Honda HRC Team Manager Eric Kehoe. "This whole season has been about building and getting stronger each week, so for him to get his first moto win and be back on the podium with a second overall is huge. He's continuing to get good starts and is riding strong. We're also making progress with the bike each week to get him more comfortable, so now it's only a matter of time until he gets that overall win."
In 250 Class action, GEICO Honda's Chase Sexton led the charge for his Wiseco-supported team, notching a solid sixth-place overall finish, courtesy of a sturdy 11-6 outing.Sexton had an eventful day including a nasty crash in his opening moto, but he rallied to secure an impressive come-from-behind 11th-place effort. He backed it up with a gritty sixth-place result in the second moto to salvage a respectable finish at Round 7.
"Really happy with my riding and speed right now," offered Sexton. "I qualified second which is my best yet. I had a big get off (in the) first moto but managed to salvage a good result for how far I was back. The second moto I didn't get the start I needed but managed to get to sixth and finish the day sixth overall. No excuses, just need to fix some small stuff and get better on those starts. I'm always learning and making improvements every weekend so I'm okay with that. I'm so motivated to get that top spot and I think I can do it."
Sexton's GEICO Honda teammates RJ Hampshire and Cameron McAdoo closed out the day ninth and 17th overall, respectively.
Hampshire finished second in the first 250 Class moto and looked to be on his way to a podium finish at day's end, but an ugly crash to start the second moto hampered those efforts. A pair of incidents left McAdoo deep on the scorecard in the final tally.
"When the gate dropped for the first moto, I felt great," said Hampshire. "Just kind of rode and really didn't have many mistakes. A lot of other riders had problems and I just rode smart. The second-place matched my best moto finish ever. I was looking forward to that second moto. I got tangled off the start and I was up front, just couldn't control where I was going. Felt like a pinball machine. Once the chaos stopped, I was stuck under about four bikes and couldn't move. Michael Hand and Colt Nichols pulled the bikes off of me which was much appreciated. Had to get about 30 stitches to patch some cuts up and my back was pretty beat up again. I'm alive though! Thankful to be somewhat okay and will shoot for being back for Millville."
"Redbud was a struggle for me," commented McAdoo following the race. "Moto 1 start crash followed by hitting a downed rider's bike and, Moto 2, a crash early made it a hard day and I ended up going 15-14. We will work on the weaknesses during this weekend off and come back swinging at Millville."
The Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship will take a break before returning to action in two weeks with its annual visit to the Land of 10,000 Lakes and Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minn. The first motos from the La Crescent Wine & Spirit Spring Creek National can be seen live on MAVTV Sat., July 21 beginning at 2 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time, 11 a.m. Pacific. The second motos will air on a live-to-tape basis later that night on NBC Sports Network at 12 a.m. Eastern, 9 p.m. Pacific.
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