Ken Roczen is the champion, we all know that. He sealed the deal last Saturday in Utah. But the AMA Pro Motocross Nationals are a tough beast to tame, and Ken's season was not without its challenges. Let's take a look back on Roczen's 2014 campaign and see exactly how he won the world's most coveted motocross title.
It all started at Glen Helen in southern California. In each moto, Ken battled tooth and nail for the lead, and led every single lap of the second moto...except the last one. Ryan Dungey would pass Ken with two turns to go to take the win on the day, as Ken stewed in the abysmal depths of second place.
Not one to sit idly by in defeat, Ken rebounded at round two at Hangtown, the final California round. He dominated both motos, passing Dungey on the way to establishing himself as the man to beat in this series. This was the last race we'd see Ken not sporting the red plate of the points leader.
The series then headed to Thunder Valley Raceway in Lakewood, Colorado. High elevation and even higher speeds characterize this track, but it was no trouble for Ken, who won the overall with a 2-1 after a heated battle in the first moto with winner James Stewart. This marked three straight rounds of Ken finishing, at worst, second place.
Round four took place a week later at High Point in Pennsylvania, the first round on the humid east coast. Ken rode the first moto home to second, and in moto two finished in [gasp!] third place. He took second overall on the day to Stewart's 1-1, but still extended his points lead over Dungey.
Next to Muddy Creek Raceway for the Tennessee National, where Ken would begin a mid-season run of wins that put his competition on the mental ropes of defeat. Dungey actually traded wins with Ken in the motos, but Ken's 2-1 would give him the overall yet again.
Round six, the halfway point. Red Bud played host to what was arguably Ken's best ride of the entire year, a race where he would pass and pull away from Dungey, Trey Canard, and Eli Tomac in two near-perfect, championship-worthy performances.
The second half of the season would play a different tune for Kenny. He actually performed well at Budds Creek, again trading moto wins with Dungey, this time losing the overall with a 1-2 to Ryan's 2-1. But no harm done as far as the points are concerned, right? It's worth noting that at this point in the series, Ken's only moto finish out of the top two was in the second moto at High Point.
Spring Creek was the first serious emergence of Eli Tomac, the spoiler of the series. He missed the first four rounds with a broken collarbone, but had finished on the podium at each race since. At Spring Creek, he dominated both motos, catching and passing Ken in the process. Ken actually finished in fourth in moto two, taking third overall on the day behind Tomac and Dungey.
Round nine at Washougal marked something of a breakpoint in the series. Dungey had gained some points on Ken at Spring Creek, but turned up the heat at the 'shougs, decimating the field in both motos while Ken finished with two thirds, Tomac with two seconds. Dungey closed the gap to 14 points in the championship.
At Unadilla, Ken's second-half slump continued. He finished second in moto one but fourth in moto two, while Dungey took the overall with a first and a second, gaining another seven points. It was here that whispers of Roczen's mental state crumbling on him became more frequent. People were already writing him off for this championship.
Roczen needed something special, and he got it in Indiana, where Mother Nature soaked the Ironman MX track and transformed it to a veritable quagmire of mud and moisture. But Ken is from Europe, so he's ridden some mud in his day. He dominated moto one, his first win since moto one at Budds Creek, and took second in moto two, while Dungey faltered with a ninth in the first moto. That was the blow to Dungey's momentum that he could not recover from.
At the final round in Utah, all Ken had to do was ride it home and stay on two wheels. He did it, and now he is the champion. Congrats Kenny on an epic season.
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