It all comes down to this. Just two races left in the AMA 450 National Championship, and Ryan Dungey has closed the gap to just seven points behind Ken Roczen. One of the two Red Bull KTM pilots will hoist a #1 plate after the checkered flag flies on moto two at the final round in Utah, but who will it be?
Ken’s success on the 450 in 2014 has been unquestionably astounding. He has incredible ability on a motorcycle, and has used it to lead nearly this entire series. Ken rattled off four wins in the first six races in the series, but has since missed out on the top spot. Ryan won the opening round at Glen Helen with a spectacular last-lap pass on Roczen, but then did not win another race until round seven at Budds Creek. Now, however, he has four wins on the series, winning three of the last four rounds.
So now, it comes down to seven points. If Dungey wins only two of the remaining four motos and manages to beat Ken in the other two, he will win the championship. Dungey has gained an average of five points per round on Ken in the last four races.
Ken was famously criticized for slumping late in the season last year in his battle with Eli Tomac for the 250 championship, where Eli won nine of the last ten motos of the season after he struggled to beat Ken early, and consequently won the 250 title.
The Tomac Factor
Eli Tomac is another interesting piece to this puzzle. Eli missed the first four rounds of the series and has no chance at winning the championship, but since returning has finished on the podium, often between Dungey and Roczen, at every race. Eli and Ken are both 450 class rookies, and Eli was the 250 National champion last year. Eli wants Ryan Dungey to win this championship. He doesn’t have a massive desire to see it happen, but he would prefer that Ryan win.
If Ken wins, he becomes the rookie sensation (not that he isn’t already, but a title would really amplify that image). If Ryan wins, Eli and Ken are still, on some level, in the same range of sensational, in that each have won races this year and have completely decimated the rest of the field in just about every race along with Ryan.
One more interesting tidbit to consider: If you believe the rumor mill, Ken is almost definitely leaving KTM to ride a different brand in 2015, while Ryan is poised to stay on the orange bike. KTM is obviously going to be happy with a championship no matter what, but they’ll appreciate that #1 plate staying on their bike in 2015 as a nice cherry on top.
Should Roczen win the title, the #1 will appear on a different brand during the races next year, meaning that KTM objectively has incentive to root for Dungey. As previously stated -- no matter what -- the title is going to be won on a KTM, so they're going to be content with that. But that’s just some food for thought…
The series continues at the Indiana National, a brand new track to the series, on Saturday, August 16. Clear your schedule.
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