2022 AMA Pro Motocross 450 Class Preview Part 1by Jack Gaffney May 25, 2022 1 comment
The 50th season of AMA Pro Motocross is now just three days away. And what better season is there for arguably the most stacked 450 class in the history of the sport. No Jeffrey Herlings, but there is a total of 16 AMA/FIM Motocross Championships represented in this group. Most notably the all-time KTM duo of the returning Ryan Dungey, and MXGP icon Antonio Cairoli. Additionally, reigning champion Dylan Ferrandis, Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen, Chase Sexton, and Christian Craig all look to ascend to the top of the mountain. Headlining this preview of the 450 AMA Motocross class will be Honda HRC, Rockstar Husqvarna, and Red Bull KTM.
Be sure to keep up with all of our Motocross coverage.
(Preseason Power Rankings coming in Part 2)
No. 23 Chase Sexton
2021 Stats: 20 Moto Starts, 1 Moto Win, 1 National Win, Average Moto Finish of 5, 5th in Points
Sexton enters his third 450 Motocross campaign, already having two career National wins to his name. Additionally, he has also finished fifth in points both times, despite missing four Motos last year. Overall, Sexton was consistent in his 20 Motos a year ago, having just one run outside the top 10. The jump in performance from last year to this year in Supercross was quite noticeable, and something similar in Motocross should be expected.
No. 94 Ken Roczen
2021 Stats: 22 Moto Starts, 7 Moto Wins, 2 National Wins, Average Moto Finish of 3.18, 3rd in Points
Despite finishing third in points last season, Roczen was in second with one Moto left in the season but bowed out due to some gnarly heat at Pala. Furthermore, Roczen has never finished worse than third in points on a 450 in AMA Motocross. The former two-time Champion hasn’t raced since early March at Daytona Supercross. There were some health struggles and some reported issues with the bike as well, but he is a full go for Motocross. Roczen impressed last year coming off a brutal close to Supercross, so while we may not know where he is at until this weekend, he will probably have himself a good season if everything goes well.
Butler Bros. KTM (FKA Rocky Mountain ATV/MC-KTM-WPS)
No. 61 Freddie Noren
2021 Stats: 17 Moto Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, Average Moto Finish of 21, 19th in Points
Fast Freddie, who spent last Motocross season as a privateer, lands with the retooled Forrest Butler operation for 2022. Despite the rough-looking average Moto finish, Noren had some very good outings for himself last year. Namely a 12-13 at Millville, then an 11-10 at the second Pala National a few weeks later. Seeing as the BBMX squad had no riders (officially) on the team as late as this week, Noren is a solid get, especially for outdoors seeing as that is his specialty.
No. 73 Benny Bloss
Missed all of last season
Next up for BBMX is an old friend in the form of Bloss. He didn’t race a single National a year ago, with his last start officially coming at Thunder Valley in October 2020. Going back a bit further, Bloss ended up finishing eighth in the points with this team back in 2018, then 12th the year after. It’s always nice to get a guy back who you’ve worked with before, even better when he is going to be working with Davi Milsaps as a trainer.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
*- Malcolm Stewart could return in the second half of the season
No. 12 Shane McElrath
Rookie Season in 450 Motocross
The last time we saw McElrath in the Great Outdoors, he finished third in the 250 Championship aboard a Star Yamaha ride. This year, he is the de facto fill-in for Dean Wilson for the Factory Husqvarna outfit on a big bore. He has been on the bike for some time now, as seen at the world-famous Stopwatch Nationals in Glen Helen last week. If he does do the full season (it sounds like he will), McElrath being a top 15 guy feels like a more than fair expectation.
No. 24 R.J. Hampshire
2021 Stats (250 Class): 24 Moto Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 1 National Win, Average Moto Finish of 8.46, 4th in Points
If not for the Mookie injury, Hampshire would not be in this position right now, but what an opportunity this now becomes. Despite some severe issues staying upright, the veteran was all set as Team USA’s MX2 rider in Des Nations had they entered last year. Even with no Moto wins, he managed to win at RedBud with a 2-2, in addition to some great outings at Southwick, Unadilla, and Washougal as well. As long as he can stay upright, Hampshire is likely going to shock some people this year.
Muc-Off FXR ClubMX Yamaha
*- Phil Nicoletti is likely to return in the second half of the season
No. 26 Alex Martin
Only ran in seven Motos last season on a 250
At long last, Troll Train will run a 450 Outdoors. The multi-time 250 Championship runner-up had a rough year health-wise in 2021, which held him to just four rounds in Motocross. This year he started out rough in Supercross missing several Main Events, then finished out quite strong. Assuming he is relatively at full strength, Martin could be in line for some good weekends throughout the summer.
No. 35 Garrett Marchbanks
2021 Stats (250 Class): 18 Moto Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, Average Moto Finish of 17.44, 16th in Points
Marchbanks will be off the 250 and on the 450 this outdoor season in an interesting move for ClubMX. It wasn’t a very good season a year ago, but Marchbanks picked up a career-best Moto finish of fourth at High Point. How Marchbanks fares is one of the more intriguing storylines of the season. He made one 450 Supercross start this year at Daytona and got a 15th.
Red Bull KTM
No. 7 Aaron Plessinger
2021 Stats: 17 Moto Starts, 0 Moto Wins, 0 National Wins, Average Moto Finish of 10.76, 10th in Points
Last year was looking fantastic for Plessinger before he went end over end at Unadilla. He finished top seven overall in six of the opening seven rounds. The lone finish outside was due to a DNS in Southwick in the second Moto. Back and ready to go after a Supercross injury, Plessinger hopes to find some of the early season magic he had a year ago with Star Yamaha. Better yet, he has two all-time greats to lean on as teammates this year.
No. 5 Ryan Dungey
Three Time AMA 450 Motocross Champion. His 39 Premier Class National wins rank second all-time to Ricky Carmichael
Diesel hasn’t been this back in ages, but here we are. Dungey hasn’t run a full season of Motocross since 2015 when he won the title. Additionally, he only ran two rounds the next year due to a season-ending neck/back injury. After not racing as a full-time professional for over five years, this may be the most interesting story in motorsports this year.
When Dungey initially retired he was around 27 years old, and by the way he was riding in 2017 Supercross, he was still a top guy. Furthermore, it appears that Diesel hasn’t missed a beat. He was said to have run well at press day on Tuesday according to those that texted Steve Matthes. Dungey will also be reunited with his former long-time mechanic Carlos Rivera for the summer.
No. 222 Antonio Cairoli
Seven-Time Premier Class FIM World Motocross Champion. All-Time MXGP Class Grand Prix wins leader (70). 2021 Motocross Des Nations Champion with Italy.
When Cairoli first announced his retirement last year in Rome, he said he wanted to come over to the United States to do “some” AMA Nationals. Fast forward around a half year later, a pipe dream for American Motocross fans is now a reality. It is still unclear how long Cairoli will be sticking around, but we know that he will run Pala 1 and Hangtown for sure.
The Sicilian also enters this AMA season coming off a relatively strong MXGP campaign a year ago. He picked up wins at Matterley Basin in Great Britain, then later in the year at Pietramurata in Italy. Additionally, Cairoli also picked up seven podiums as well a year ago. In short, if he sticks around the full tilt and finds a groove, he is a legit sleeper to win the whole thing. As a side note, Cairoli will be working with Richard Sterling, who worked with Marvin Musquin during Supercross.
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Main Image via KTM