When the dust and sand settled after Round 1 of the 2020 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series, we think it would be safe to say that OTSFF Yamaha rider Phil Nicoletti was happy with his result. Obviously, Phil wants to win each and every time he lines up on the starting gate, but second overall on a rough and challenging Gopher Dunes track isn’t a bad way to kick-off a series. Coming into the opening round Phil’s only concern was that he really hadn’t been in an official race since the Hamilton SX last October. Oh sure, there had been multiple high intensity practice motos with other riders during the off-season, but no real gate drops. Meaning, when Phil lined up for Moto 1 on Saturday morning, it had been awhile since he’d felt that much adrenaline. But Phil is a professional and this certainly isn’t his first rodeo, whether he did ten races prior to Gopher Dunes or zero, Phil was ready to go and right from the start of Moto 1 he was near the front of the pack. For this week’s Phil Nicoletti Report let’s look at how each moto went at the opening round.
When the gate dropped on the opening moto of the 2020 season, Nicoletti was right where he wanted to be. As the 450MX riders made their way around the relatively smooth track (remember Moto 1 was at 10am on Saturday morning) on the first lap, Dylan Wright jetted past Cole Thompson for the lead and Phil was sitting in third. With Wright trying to set sail for his first ever 450MX moto win, Phil knew he had to get past Thompson very quick. Any delay would allow Wright to build on his lead. So, Phil made his move quickly and got himself into second place and then within a lap he turned his fastest lap of the moto. After months and months of thinking about this race, Phil was now in it and right where he wanted to be. However, just as things were looking up for last year’s Triple Crown Champion, disaster struck when right in front of mechanic’s row Phil would push his front wheel through a weak opening moto berm and go down. He would remount quickly and get going, but since it was still early in the race, the riders were close together and a few got by. Phil was back as far as 6th place at one point before he started moving forward. Little by little Phil made up time on the riders in front of him and by the final lap he was right on Matt Goerke for third. Phil would make the pass for the podium position right at the finish line and beat Goerke by a knobby over the line. It was an impressive first moto for sure.
Quote from Phil:
“I think because I hadn’t raced in so long that I was a little too eager in the opening laps. I pushed the front end and went down and really made things tough for me. Once I got up and started going I felt like I rode good and was able to pass Goerke at the finish for third.”
Other than getting the Royal Distributing Holeshot, this 450MX moto was tad anti-climactic for Nicoletti. Phil’s lead wouldn’t last very long as once again Dylan Wright shot to the front of the pack. Phil did his best to stay close to the Honda rider, but with lap times that were a couple seconds slower, Wright inched away and took his second win of the weekend. Phil would hold on for a solid second place finish in Moto 2 and that left just one more chance for him to get a win.
Quote from Phil:
“I was able to rip a good holeshot and lead for a little bit. We made a few changes to the bike and it felt better in Moto 2. Dylan was riding great and I wasn’t able to match his pace. I knew he’d be fast at Gopher Dunes and honestly, I’ve never really been a good sand rider. Anyway, I took second in Moto 2 and was hoping that the final race would be better.”
They say the second moto on Sunday is where the riders really earn their money. In most cases the track is at its absolute roughest, and with the late afternoon sun shining down, the temperature is at its peak. This was exactly what was going on at Gopher Dunes as the track was filled with bomb holes and the thermometer was tapping out at 40 degrees Celsius. But these are the conditions that Phil Nicoletti lives for and I’m sure he was smiling during the 450MX sight lap. In the early laps Phil once again found himself in second and trailing Dylan Wright. In fact, for a few laps it looked as though this was going to be a replay of the previous moto. But to Phil’s credit, this time he did everything he possibly could to keep Dylan Wright in sight. Lap after lap the two riders remained just a few seconds apart ( five to be exact) and if Wright had made any mistakes, Phil was right there. It was remarkable effort and it took until Lap 14 until Phil relented and allowed Wright to take home the moto win and the overall in the 450MX class. Phil rode great and really did everything he could, but it was Wright’s day and now Phil will be looking for revenge at Round 2. With the conditions at Walton Raceway being the complete opposite then Gopher Dunes, we have a feeling that the racing will be a lot closer in all three motos. So that is the Phil Nicoletti report from the opening round of the 2020 Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MXTour Series. As you can see it was good day for the OTSFF Yamaha rider. But no top rider wants to get swept in the three motos and we’re sure Phil will back with a vengeance at Round 2!
Quote from Phil:
“By the time the third moto came around on Sunday the track was really rough. We made a couple more bike changes and it was better. I kept Dylan closer during this moto until there was a few laps remaining and then I made a couple of mistakes and dropped back. At that point I figured that second was the best I could do on that track. It felt great to race again and I know I’ll be better at Walton.”