Good day and welcome to the final Honda Canada Racing Monday Gate Drop of the month of July. It’s pretty amazing to think just how fast this summer is going by. With Round 7 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour just wrapping in Monctin, NB, that leaves just four motos remaining in both the 250 Pro/Am and 450 classes. Visiting Canada’s east coast is always enjoyable and this weekend was no different. Whether it was lunch with the GDR Fox Honda Team on Friday, or dinner with Andy White on Friday evening, times spent in Moncton are always enjoyable. Even in the paddock at Riverglade Raceway everyone seemed to be in a jovial mood as pro motocross once again made its way to the east coast of Canada.
Coming into Round 7, all of the riders and teams were coming off two very difficult sand races at Sand Del Lee and Gopher Dunes, and then a much needed weekend off. From the people I spoke with on Saturday, everyone enjoyed the weekend off after Gopher, and it gave them a great opportunity to rest and then prepare for the stretch run of the 2018 MXTour Series. Another very welcome sight when I arrived at the track on Friday afternoon was the large amount of track prep that was going on by Larry Northrup and his crew. This was the first time that the Riverglade crew didn’t have to deal with a full day of amateur racing prior to the National. I always thought this was one track that would really benefit from the new Saturday schedule. As I said, when I arrived on Friday afternoon and was able to talk Dylan Wright, Colton Facciotti and James Lissimore into a brief track walk. We were greeted by track crew ripping up the track and throwing down a massive amount of water. With warm and muggy air engulfing the Moncton area this weekend, prepping and watering the track was an absolute must. Even Head Referee Paul Kingsley had a big smile on his face as he stood there and watched a cultivator drive by with its teeth submerged about two feet into the loamy, wet Riverglade soil. The track was really deep and muddy for practice the following day, but as I said, with the hot temperatures that’s the way it had to be. There is another item I should mention before I get into the actual racing. In the past the Riverglade round has always produced one of the largest spectator turn-outs of the national series. I wasn’t the only person curious about how the crowd would be this year with the race being on Saturday instead of its traditional Sunday. Well, I was pleasantly surprised to see the same amount of people jammed into Riverglade Raceway as always. I didn’t get an official headcount, but just by looking at the main spectators areas, everything appeared to be normal. There is little doubt that people on the east coast just love motocross, whether the race is on a Saturday, Sunday or whatever day of the week.
In the 250 class, the battle for this title will be sure to go down to the final moto of the series at Walton Raceway. With Jess Pettis, Joey Crown and Shawn Maffenbeier separated by just 11 points with four motos remaining, this series is as tight as it gets. This past weekend Pettis came into Round 7 a little under the weather and did his best to go 1-5 and still finish on the podium. Joey Crown was the rider who took advantage of Pettis not feeling well, his teammates flat front tire in Moto 2, and Shawn Maffenbeier’s unexpected mediocre riding to win his first ever Canadian pro national. All season long Crown’s riding has been so solid, and now after seven rounds he’s only finished off of the 250 podium twice. This is a very impressive stat for the young Michigan rider, who is now just six points behind Pettis. With just two rounds to go this is where the dynamics of this championship battle really shifts. For Pettis, the pressure will really ramps up this coming weekend in Deschambault where we’ve seen so many cray things happen over the past few seasons. The next four motos for Jess Pettis will be the most stressful ones of his young career, that is just the reality of the situation. For Crown, he’s in a great spot right now as I really feel like he has nothing to lose. I’m sure coming into this season he believed that he could win this title, but few others did. So whether he finishes first, second, or even third overall in this championship, I think Crown has to be thrilled with his results. For the defending champion from 2017, Shawn Maffenbeier is the rider with the most experience in this class. Shawn has been there and done just about everything before, so I really doubt that he’s feeling any pressure at the moment. I was a little surprised that he didn’t have a little more urgency in his riding at Riverglade, but every rider can have an off day here and there. I’m sure Maffenbeier will do some sole searching this week and then come out very strong at Deschambault. All three of these riders, and even Josh Osby who sits only 26 points back of Pettis, will all be going for it when the gate drops this Sunday at Deschambault.
The racing in the 450 class at Riverglade was some of the best we’ve seen all season, especially in the closing laps of Moto 2. For the final ten minutes of the second moto, five riders had a shot at the overall win. Benoit was leading and had led from the start, Thompson had found a few sneaky inside fast lines and was quickly closing in on his KTM teammate, Goerke was wide open as usual trying to catch Thompson, Epstein was fourth and still trying to catch his teammate, newcomer Jacob Hayes was riding well but had a rear view mirror full of Facciotti with one lap to go, and in sixth was Facciotti who didn’t get a great start, had crashed twice, and after twenty-five minutes finally got mad and was making a massive charge. As it turned out, Thompson, Goerke, Epstein and Facciotti all tied with 50 points on the day and Benoit was just one back with 49 points. Thompson’s hard fought second moto gave him the win at Round 7, his first overall win of the 2018 MXTour series. So with two rounds remaining, Facciotti still leads the 450 class by 26 points over Thompson, Benoit, Goerke and Medaglia. This championship is not over by all means and it also may go to the final moto at Walton in a few weeks time. Both Benoit and Facciotti have won the Deschambault race the past two years. Benoit edged out his teammate Davi Millsaps to win in 2016, and Facciotti dominated the 450 class in 2017. All of these riders are past champions so all of them know what is needed in the next four motos to win this title. There is no doubt that both classes are going to provide some incredible racing in the final two rounds.
So that is what went down at Round 7 of the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour in Moncton, NB. One thing that was really cool was that all three of our newly selected Team Canada MXoN riders won motos on Saturday. Our team of Jess Pettis, Kaven Benoit and Colton Facciotti are very excited for Red Bud and the MXoN’s in October, and it’s no surprise that all three riders are currently battling for championships this summer. With the race being close to home and with many Canadians expected to attend this massive race at Red Bud, I expect our team to put on a great show and possibly have the best finish ever.
Well, that is it for me this week. I hope everyone has a safe week and a fun first week of August. We are off to Deschambault on Wednesday morning for the 2018 ECAN so we’re very excited about that. This event just keeps growing each year as more and more out-of-province families are attending. The Deschambault crew do an excellent job with the ECAN and the track itself is one of the best in the country. Racing begins on Thursday morning so there’s still time to load up and head east if you were debating on going to the ECAN. Also, the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur National begins this week so good luck to all of our Canadian riders that are down in Tennessee this week. Finally, congratulations to Ryan Lockhart and his new bride Randi. The Lockhart’s tied the knot on Saturday in Victoria, BC on an absolute perfect day. I’m sure I speak for all of us in the Canadian motocross industry when I wish Ryan and Randi many years of love and happiness. On that note, I am out of here. Have a great week and I will see you in Quebec.