ONE PHOTO & ONE STORY: THE FIVE RACE PROPHECY

One Photo One Story_Ken Roczen_Muddy Creek 2016Words by John Basher
Photo by Brian Converse

Some–including me–believe that the AMA Nationals are decided after five races. While racing is unpredictable, with injuries and some riders getting better (or worse) as the series extends into the latter stages, generally it seems that the cream rises to the top after 10 motos. History proves that fact. In the past 12 years, racers who led after five rounds went on to win 66 percent of the time (16 for 24). During that time, one rider in particular couldn’t close out the season. That poor soul? Christophe Pourcel’s 2010 AMA 250 National campaign went down the drain. He had a 34-point lead over Dean Wilson after five rounds. Trey Canard ended up winning the title, while Pourcel finished third overall–some 33 points back.

This year, Ken Roczen holds a 47-point advantage over Eli Tomac. Every rider in the 450 class who has had that big of an advantage through five rounds in the past dozen years has gone on to win the title. Since 2004, only Ricky Carmichael (2004, 2005) and James Stewart (2008) have scored more points through the first ten motos. Roczen is on a historic run, although a fork failure will keep him out of rare air–going 24-0 like Carmichael (2002, 2004) and Stewart (2008).

Naturally, Ken Roczen is chasing moto wins and not counting points this early in the series. With injuries to Ryan Dungey (out most of the summer), Jason Anderson (out most of the summer), Trey Canard (out two rounds and counting) and James Stewart (he should be back for Red Bud this weekend), Roczen need only worry about Eli Tomac for the title. Cole Seely, in third, cannot be considered an outdoor title threat at this stage in the game. He’s 92 points back. Marvin Musquin, in fourth, trails by 107 points. This is a two-horse race for the 450 National Championship.

ELI TOMAC SHOULD SHINE AT MILLVILLE, WASHOUGAL AND UNADILLA–WHERE HE HAS COLLECTED A TOTAL OF FIVE WINS IN HIS CAREER. HE WILL NEED TO STEP IT UP AT THE OTHER ROUNDS, ELSE HE’LL HAVE A SNOWFLAKE’S CHANCE IN TAHITI OF WINNING THE 450 CROWN.

What does Eli Tomac need to do in order to improve his title hopes? For starters, he must win. That much is apparent to a toddler. Tomac has been the bride’s maid in four of the past five motos. The second moto at Muddy Creek was the closest Eli came to knocking off Roczen. Tomac has something to build on, but he will need to do more than win motos. If Eli Tomac won every moto going away and Roczen were to finish second every moto, Eli would…drum roll, please…fall five points short of the title. Yes, that’s a lot of speculation about the remaining 14 motos. Yes, it’s highly unlikely things will play out that way. No, it’s not impossible. Tomac will need Roczen to flub at least one moto. A top racer’s mentality takes a hit when the championship is out of their hands. For Eli Tomac, winning won’t be enough. That’s an uneasy feeling.

Still, let’s play the situation out just for fun. The remaining races are at Red Bud, Southwick, Millville, Washougal, Unadilla, Budds Creek and Ironman. Who is the stronger competitor at each round? See below:

Red Bud:
Ken Roczen…2.5 Average Overall Position (AOP), (two wins)
Eli Tomac….4.25 Average Overall Position (AOP), (three podium finishes)
Advantage: Ken Roczen

Southwick:
Ken Roczen…2.5 AOP (two podiums)
Eli Tomac….7.25 AOP (one win)
Advantage: Ken Roczen

Millville:
Ken Roczen…5.0 AOP (one podium)
Eli Tomac….5.4 AOP (three wins)
Advantage: Eli Tomac

Washougal:
Ken Roczen…3.5 AOP (two podiums)
Eli Tomac….5.8 AOP (one win, two podiums)
Advantage: Eli Tomac

Unadilla:
Ken Roczen…3.75 AOP (two podiums)
Eli Tomac….3.0 AOP (one win, three podiums)
Advantage: Eli Tomac

Budds Creek:
Ken Roczen…3.0 AOP (two podiums)
Eli Tomac….4.6 AOP (two podiums)
Advantage: Ken Roczen

Ironman:
Ken Roczen…1.5 AOP (one win, one podium)
Eli Tomac…7 AOP (only one race)
Advantage: Ken Roczen

Ken Roczen has the upper hand in the points standings, as well as past results for the majority of the remaining rounds. Judging by results, Kenny’s favored tracks are Red Bud, Budds Creek and Ironman. Eli Tomac should shine at Millville, Washougal and Unadilla–where he has collected a total of five wins in his career. He will need to step it up at the other rounds, else he’ll have a snowflake’s chance in Tahiti of winning the 450 crown.

History is on Ken Roczen’s side. His current situation also looks good. Kenny has a 47-point lead and is nearly perfect through five rounds. In terms of his future, some of his best races are still ahead in the series. However, there is one statistic that should offer Eli Tomac a glimmer of hope. In 2013, Ken Roczen was leading the 250 National standings by nine points through five rounds. Guess who ended up winning the title? Eli Tomac.

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