2021 AMA Pro Motocross 250 Class Preview

2021 AMA Pro Motocross 250 Class Preview

by May 14, 2021 1 comment

We are now just about two weeks away from the opening gate drop of this year’s U.S. Motocross Season. The 250 field that was ravaged by injuries in Monster Energy Supercross should be back up to full strength by then. Star Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin has been tabbed as the near-unanimous favorite in this year’s tilt. However, there are plenty of quality riders who look to give the two-time champion a run for his money.

Motocross 101

Before we get into this year’s 250 motocross class, thought it would be a good idea to break down motocross basics for the newcomers. First and foremost, 99 percent of the time all motocross rounds are held on Saturday afternoons. Typically around 1 p.m. local for the most part, but it can vary from time to time.

Next, there are 12 rounds in the typical U.S. Motocross season as opposed to the 17 in Supercross. On top of there being a decent chunk of off weeks throughout the season. These occur typically after every two to three rounds with the season running from late May to mid-September. The 12 rounds (or “Nationals”) usually run for about three to four hours, on average.

Now for race event details. For Supercross, it is a maximum gate of 22 riders. That gets nearly doubled in motocross with total rider counts passing 40 at times. Opposed to the Heat, Last-Chance-Qualifier, and Main Event format of Supercross, each class in Motocross does two 30 minute plus two-lap motos. Wins on the days are given to the rider who records the most points between both motos. A “1-1” finish (wins in both motos) would automatically guarantee a rider a win, and any ties are broken by second moto results.

The U.S. Motocross points system also slightly differs from Supercross. A moto win is worth 25 points, second 22, third 20, fourth 18, fifth 16, followed by single-point increments down to 20th. 21st and below receive no points.

A Few Final Notes

There are no 250 regions in motocross, it is all one class. The first set of motos are almost always only viewable live on MAVTV and Peacock. Second motos are usually on NBCSN either live or on tape delay, depending solely on what else NBC also has on that weekend. All motos on Peacock, however, are aired live. The broadcast team features Jason Weigandt and the 2008 450 Motocross Champion Grant Langston.

As far as tracks go, RedBud, Millville, Unadilla, Washougal, Southwick, and Hangtown are some personal favorites.

With Moto 101 out of the way, here is an early look at the 250 Motocross Class. For the top 10, each rider’s Supercross stats are listed.

Honorable Mentions:

250 East Supercross Champion Colt Nichols has two seventh-place points finishes in four motocross seasons, along with two sub-top-10 finishes. It would not be shocking to see him outperform this spot here, however. Also be on the lookout for last year’s Lorretta Lynn’s Amateur National multi-class champion Stilez Robertson, along with Seth Hammaker this season. Both are set for their first full motocross season and could turn some heads. Also, for context, Christian Craig will be running motocross on a 450 for Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha.

10) No. 38 Austin Forkner – Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki

Starts: 2, Podiums: 1
Main Event Wins: 0
Points: 40, (21st in 250 East)
Qualifying injury at Houston 3 Supercross cost him rest of season

Talent has never been a concern with Forkner. When he is on track, he is one of the best 250 riders around. The problem is that he is not always on track. He has outright missed the last two motocross seasons due to injuries in Supercross. An ACL tear in 2019 and a whole laundry list of ailments in 2020 from a crash in the final round of Supercross. With Forkner not racing a National since mid-late 2018, there is not much to go off of. The only Motocross win of his career is close to entering kindergarten, a win at Ironman MX in 2016. On talent, he is higher than this ranking but his track record of staying on the bike must be brought into question.

9) No. 30 Jo Shimoda – Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki

Starts: 9, Podiums: 3
Main Event Wins: 1
Points: 181 (2nd in 250 East)

Shimoda, who was out of a ride after last year’s Motocross season with the shutdown of GEICO Honda, enters this year rather well. After taking a notable jump in his riding during Supercross, Shimoda now looks to improve on an 11th place effort in 2020. In that campaign, Shimoda struggled in the early goings. He notched just one top-10 result in the first five rounds along with three sub-top 15 outings. Afterward, he would have just one sub-top-10 result and ended the year at Fox Raceway with a career-best fifth. The expectation is that Shimoda takes the next step outdoors much as he did in Supercross with Mitch Payton’s squad.

8) No. 35 Mitchell Harrison – Muc-Off Honda

Starts: 7, Podiums, 0
Main Event Wins: 0
Points: 90 (10th in 250 West)

This could potentially be a hot take, but Harrison has had a worse Motocross Season after Supercross all but twice in his career. That includes a 2019 stint in the MX2 class in Europe after he left Supercross early that year. Harrison came back to America and ended up eighth in the U.S. 250 title hunt last year with Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Now with the Australian-based Muc-Off Honda squad, Harrison could play the role of true wildcard this season.

7) No. 31 Cameron McAdoo – Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki

Starts: 9, Podiums: 6
Main Events Wins: 1
Points: 177 (3rd in 250 West)

McAdoo has steadily improved his results in his three seasons of Motocross and 2021 should hopefully be more of the same. Coming off a career-best Supercross outing, the argument can be made that it is an expectation of improvement. The big problem for McAdoo in past outdoor seasons has been putting together consistent outings. Last year he only put up back-to-back top-10 results once, the opening two rounds at Loretta Lynn’s. If he can put together multiple nationals together on a consistent basis, expect him to be a consistent podium threat.

6) No. 26 Alex Martin – Manluk/Rock River Yamaha/Merge Racing

Starts: 3, Podiums: 0
Main Event Wins: 0
Points: 26 (22nd in 250 West)
Qualifying injury at Dallas 2 Supercross cost him rest of season

The older of the Martin brothers is now in his 13th year as a pro. In his last five motocross seasons, he has finished runner-up twice, and his worst finish was in 8th… not too bad. Now with the Rock River Yamaha Program, Martin looks to stay the course and continue to be a consistent presence in the 250 class. While the Rock River team likely does not have the resources that Star Yamaha has, Martin should be a consistent podium threat throughout the season.

5) No. 24 RJ Hampshire – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing

Starts: 2, Podiums: 0
Main Event Wins: 0
Points: 32 (23rd in 250 East)
Qualifying injury at Houston 3 Supercross cost him rest of season

Now in his second full year at Husqvarna, Hampshire is set to return after a wrist and hand injury in late January. After a pair of fourth place finishes in 2018 and 2019, Hampshire regressed (albeit slightly) to a seventh in 2020. However, knowing that he likely began his Motocross prep ahead of schedule, Hampshire could already be on the inside track. His 2020 was hit or miss, but the highs were particularly good, topped by his win at the second RedBud event. He may not be the best rider in the class this year, but Hampshire should prove to be a tough out for all 12 rounds.

4) No. 41 Hunter Lawrence – Honda HRC

Starts: 9, Podiums: 4
Main Event Wins: 1
Points: 181 (2nd in 250 West)

The Elder of the Brothers Lawrence is the first of the two to show up on this list. Hunter is yet another rider who hopes to backup a career supercross year into motocross. Since moving over from the MX2 ranks in Europe, it has been a heavily inconsistent motocross run for him. Lawrence has just two career podiums in 17 career U.S. National starts. This in contrast to six podiums in 32 MX2 starts. Not to mention a first and second in class at both Motocross Des Nations he ran in for Australia. If the consistency Hunter showed in Supercross sticks through the summer months, he will be an absolute problem.

3) No. 18 Jett Lawrence – Honda HRC

Starts: 9, Podiums: 5
Main Event Wins: 3
Points: 177 (3rd in 250 East)

Now for the younger of the Brothers Lawrence. After a supercross season where he at times showed elite level ability, Jett feels poised for a strong summer. In 2020 he had about a good of a season as Honda could have likely hoped. Outside of finishing 34th at the second Loretta Lynn’s round never finished worse than sixth in any national the entire year. He even gave GEICO Honda a win in their final ever event as a team at last season’s finale in Pala.

Championship expectations should not be ruled out for Jett in 2021. However, since he has not even turned 18 yet, it is not the end of the world if he does not get it this year. He will get an outdoor title sooner or later.

2) No. 32 Justin Cooper – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha

Starts: 9, Podiums: 5
Main Event Wins: 3
Points: 194 (250 West Regional Champion)

It says a lot about Cooper’s outdoor ability that in three full 250 motocross seasons, his worst points outing is a fifth. The biggest issue in those seasons outside of inexperience was that he was not the best rider in the class. Cooper faced against the likes of former champions Dylan Ferrandis, Aaron Plessinger, and Adam Cianciarulo in those races. Not to say he is the outright number one this year (see below) but he can more than hold his own against the class’ elite.

Cooper should absolutely be a threat from Pala to Hangtown, barring injury. However, his biggest threat for the 2021 clean sweep has his bike at the same team rig.

1) No. 6 Jeremy Martin – Monster Energy Star Racing Yamaha

(Two-time AMA National 250 Motocross Champion)

Starts: 1, Podiums: 0
Main Event Wins: 0
Points: 2 (38th in 250 West)
Injury during Orlando 2 Main Event cost him rest of season

His Orlando injury and his back-to-back championships being nearly six and seven years ago do not hurt him here. The younger Martin brother is the leader in the clubhouse for this 250 Motocross Championship. Coming off an 18-month layoff due to a botched back surgery, Jeremy finished runner up to Ferrandis in last year’s title chase.

Now back with the team that he won his championships for, Jeremy essentially slots in for his former title rival. Much like Hampshire, an inside track on Motocross prep could be the edge that Jeremy needs to bring home championship number three. It also helps that his family owns Millville. Essentially, he gets to train at one of the nation’s best motocross venues whenever he pleases.

Predictions

No overcomplicating this, Martin is the pick to bring home this year’s 250 Motocross Championship. A plethora of riders listed here could give him a run for his money, but barring injury, he is the best outdoor rider in the class. The dark horse pick would have to be Shimoda if there is one. He showed a ton of poise down the stretch in Supercross in clutch spots and that is exactly what he needs to do outdoors.

This should be a fun title chase. The season opener in Pala, California is now just a little over two weeks away.


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