How Ken Roczen Won the 2014 AMA MX Championship

A brief glimpse into what it took for Roczen to secure his first 450 AMA national motocross title.
Ken Roczen holds his AMA championship plate at Utah
That moment, when you realize you're the champ © Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool
By Eric Wright

With his first AMA National championship title, 20-year old Ken Roczen became the youngest winner to claim the 450 title since Ricky Johnson did it in 1984. But just how did he do it?

The AMA Pro Motocross Championship consists of 24 grueling, 35-minute motos over twelve race events (two per event -- yay math!). The races are held under the most difficult track conditions that any rationally-minded person could imagine. So just to shed some light on what kind of accomplishment Ken’s championship is, we took a look at some of the numbers:

Kenny finished on the podium in 21 out of 24 motos. More often than not, this feat alone would be worthy of a championship. Consistency is important in any championship battle, but in motocross, it is often difficult to come by.

The trouble for Ken was, of course, that his Red Bull KTM teammate, Ryan Dungey, also finished on the podium in 21 out of 24 motos. Yes, it is extremely rare to see a rider finish on the box in 21 motos during a season, so to see two riders (let alone teammates) do it in the same season is downright preposterous.

Dungey and Roczen compete at the 2014 AMA Utah MX race
The Dungey-Roczen battle continued at the finale © Garth Milan/Red Bull Content Pool

Neither Ken nor Ryan had a single race with a bike malfunction or major crash, which in motocross is pretty unbelievable. Motocross is a unique motorsport in that the track and conditions constantly change during the race, and so much can go wrong with bike and/or rider. Both Ken and Ryan had smooth sailing all season long.

Here is what made the difference in the championship battle: In the first half of the season, Ken only finished worse than second in one moto. Dungey finished the first half of the season with six moto finishes worse than second place.

Even after losing the opening round to Ryan on the last lap of the second moto, Ken excelled in the first half of the season. He gained a comfortable gap in the points, which proved to be especially valuable when Dungey came on strong in the second half of the series. Ken never had to panic or go into desperation mode -- when mistakes usually happen -- because he always had the points lead in the second half of the series.

Ken’s eight moto wins over the season bested Ryan’s six. The next most wins went to Honda’s Trey Canard, who won four of the last five motos of the season.

When it looked like Ryan might actually catch Ken, the series arrived in Indiana, and that was where Ken won it. Ryan finished moto two outside of the top five (in ninth), and he lost 13 points to Roczen because of it. Kenny ultimately won the title by 14 points over Ryan. There’s a lot to be said about momentum, and when Dungey lost his, Ken essentially won the championship. That's how easily it can happen -- with just one moto.

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