ONE PHOTO & ONE STORY: AUSTIN FORKNER’S ROOKIE SEASON

OPOS_Austin Forkner
Words by John Basher
Photo by Scott Mallonee

Where does Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Austin Forkner stack up in the pantheon of motocross elite? It’s too early to tell, but so far things are looking good for the Missouri native. Forkner, a homegrown product of Team Green’s Amateur support system, had an impeccable end to his Amateur career. He became the face of Amsoil Arenacross’ “Ricky Carmichael Road To Supercross” program by winning the Greensboro Arenacross in January. The sudden wave of attention did wonders for his Q Score. Such notoriety brought skepticism from the likes of Chad Reed, who questioned why Forkner elected not to race the 250 East Supercross series after becoming eligible. However, Austin stuck to his guns, pointing to the Hangtown National opener as his coming out party.

One of the inherent problems with all sports–be it baseball, hockey or motocross–is that fans love making comparisons. They constantly search for reincarnations of past heroes. The problem with that outlandish belief is that there will only be one Babe Ruth or Bobby Orr or Ricky Carmichael. Records are meant to be broken, but the greats are great because they broke ground first. Someday someone will surpass Jeremy McGrath’s Supercross win record. It might happen in five years, or maybe half a century from now (by then I’m sure they’ll be racing electric bikes). However, just like Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hit streak, the new record holder will be compared to the athlete he surpassed. That’s not fair. Then again, life’s not always fair, is it?

“FORKNER HAS ALREADY PROVEN CAPABLE OF TRANSFERRING HIS AMATEUR SUCCESS TO THE PRO RANKS. THE QUESTION REMAINS AS TO WHETHER HER CAN STAY HEALTHY, AVOID FALLING INTO THE PRO BRO TRAP, AND HANDLE THE INCREASED WORK LOAD AND EXPECTATIONS OF RACING PROFESSIONALLY.”

Forkner is a soft-spoken kid who doesn’t appear to be swayed by wanting to be popular or cool. That’s probably because everything he does on a motocross bike blows minds. Exhibit A–the ridiculous whip he threw a week ago (take a moment and click here if you haven’t seen it). Forkner exudes confidence, which is a valuable quality for any would-be Champion. He has already proven capable of transferring his Amateur success to the Pro ranks. The question remains as to whether he can stay healthy, avoid falling into the Pro bro trap, and handle the increased work load and expectations of racing professionally.

The best Austin Forkner should hope for is that he meets his own expectations. In the end, that’s what matters. One very famous racer recently told me, and I’m paraphrasing here, “It never mattered to me that I finished on the podium. Big deal. I raced to win. Anything less than that was failure.” Is that how Austin Forkner thinks? Or will he be content placing in the top five in future years? If you ask me, I think he has a Champion’s mindset. The kid won’t settle. That’s what’s so exciting about watching him develop his craft. And if you don’t think he’s a special talent, take a look at the comparisons below. Of the rookie racers who have gone on to win the 250 National Championship since 2005, only Ryan Villopoto and Dean Wilson scored more points in their first four Nationals. What’s similar among all the past Champions is that all had a breakout moto early on in their careers. Forkner, in only his third Pro moto, finished on the box. Eli Tomac was the only rider on the list who secured a podium quicker. Needless to say, Austin Forkner is in fast company.   

AUSTIN FORKER

2016 AMA 250 Nationals
Hangtown…13-7 for 8th overall (22 points)
Glen Helen…3-5 for 4th overall (36 points)
Thunder Valley…17-4 for 9th overall (22 points)
High Point…5-8 for 5th overall (29 points)
POINTS THROUGH FOUR ROUNDS…109 points

RYAN VILLOPOTO: 2006-’08 NATIONAL CHAMPION

2005-’06 AMA 250 Nationals
Binghamton…14-16 for 15th overall (12 points)
Steel City…7-6 for 5th overall (29 points)
Glen Helen…3-2 for 2nd overall (42 points)
*Hangtown… 2-10 for 5th overall (33 points)
* Villopoto raced the last three 125 Nationals in 2005. His fourth 125 National came at the Hangtown opener in 2006.
POINTS THROUGH FOUR ROUNDS…116 points

RYAN DUNGEY: 2009 NATIONAL CHAMPION

2006 AMA 250 Nationals
Millville…8-8 for 7th overall (26 points)
Binghamton…13-13 for 15th overall (16 points)
Steel City…15-DNF for 21st overall (6 points)
Glen Helen…19-30 for 26th overall (2 points)
POINTS THROUGH FOUR ROUNDS…50 points

TREY CANARD: 2010 NATIONAL CHAMPION

2007 AMA 250 Nationals
Millville…39-4 for 11th overall (18 points)
Steel City…16-5 for 10th overall (21 points)
Freestone…5-5 for 5th overall (32 points)
Glen Helen…4-12 for 8th overall (27 points)
POINTS THROUGH FOUR ROUNDS…98 points

DEAN WILSON: 2011 NATIONAL CHAMPION

2010 AMA 250 Nationals
Hangtown…10-4 for 6th overall (29 points)
Freestone…3-3 for 3rd overall (40 points)
High Point…5-6 for 5th overall (31 points)
Budds Creek…4-1 for 1st overall (43 points)
POINTS THROUGH FOUR ROUNDS…143 points

BLAKE BAGGETT: 2012 NATIONAL CHAMPION

2009-’10 AMA 250 Nationals
Budds Creek…12-23 for 18th overall (9 points)
Southwick…15-8 for 10th overall (19 points)
Steel City…17-4 for 10th overall (22 points)
*Hangtown…6-36 for 14th overall (15 points)
* Baggett raced the last three Nationals in 2009. His fourth 125 National came at the Hangtown opener in 2010.
POINTS THROUGH FOUR ROUNDS…65 points

ELI TOMAC: 2013 NATIONAL CHAMPION

2010 AMA 250 Nationals
Hangtown…3-1 for 1st overall (45 points)
Freestone…2-11 for 6th overall (32 points)
High Point…10-19 for 16th overall (13 points)
Budds Creek…10-13 for 10th overall (19 points)
POINTS THROUGH FOUR ROUNDS…109 points

JEREMY MARTIN: 2014-’15 NATIONAL CHAMPION

2012-’13 AMA 250 Nationals
Unadilla…18-27 for 23rd overall (3 points)
Steel City…14-8 for 11th overall (20 points)
Lake Elsinore…10-10 for 9th overall (22 points)
*Hangtown…7-13 for 8th overall (22 points)
* Martin raced the last three Nationals in 2012. His fourth National came at the Hangtown opener in 2013.
POINTS THROUGH FOUR ROUNDS…67 points

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