By Nick Thiel
If anyone utters the name "Millville," only one thought comes to my mind: Chad Reed's horrific fall from the sky last season. What could have been an absolute tragedy turned into a story that legends are made of.
Millville comes at the start of the second half of the series, with some newcomers emerging, as well as some of the normal names making bold statements at the Red Bull RedBud National. The likes of Tyla Rattray and Christian Craig came back with respectively strong rides last weekend. Then there were the extremely dominant rides of both Ryan Dungey and Blake Baggett.
With a bit of a rough weather forecast, Millville may be one of the most unpredictable races of the years. Let’s see what this weekend’s race has in store for us.
James Stewart needs a few more weeks off to get back to full strength
We learned yesterday via a press release that James Stewart won’t be racing for the next two rounds. In what he described as the smart decision for his future, James said that the wrist injury needs more time to heal. Anyone that watched Stewart last week could see he wasn’t his normal self, nor was he even close. He could go fast for a lap at most, but then the mistakes would come, and at his speed, there's no room for mistakes.
If he takes the time off and comes back healthy I imagine that we’ll see the James Stewart that everyone has grown to love. Until then, I hope he stays off the racetrack. I hate to see him riding at 60 percent at best for podiums when he should be racing for the win each and every time he gets behind the starting gate. He'll be missed these next few weeks though, that's for sure.
Dungey is on fire and now gets to ride at his hometown track
At his hometown track this weekend, the local hero Ryan Dungey is looking to continue his current streak of eight moto wins. At this point, I don’t foresee anyone getting in the way. Dungey is on a roll and seems to elevate his game every time he throws his leg over his KTM450.
The other local Alex Martin is poised for a great ride at his home track. For those who don’t know, Alex’s parents own the Spring Creek National circuit in Millville. So needless to say, Alex knows the fast line around the facility, and his local knowledge got him into the top five last year. I expect Alex to be running around the top five again this year. He's had a building year where his results have improved across the board. It would be great to see him even get his Eleven 10 Mods bike up onto the podium.
Alex Martin's home track advantage paid off big time last year
Tyla Rattray had a great comeback ride last weekend after being out for the first five rounds with a hand injury. Tyla rode hard, never giving up in either moto, which resulted in a fourth overall finish on the day. Tyla was the originator of the phrase “Africa hot,” and it sure was close to that at RedBud last weekend. Nonetheless, it didn’t seem to phase him whatsoever. Tyla has done well any time he's lined up for Millville, and this weekend should be no exception. I would be extremely shocked if he wasn’t standing on a step of the podium come the end of Moto 2 tomorrow.
I expect Christian Craig to run upfront as well. CC43 is a great starter and is still racing himself into shape, so running upfront in the first half of the moto is respectable at this point.
Can Tyla Rattray grab his first 450 podium this weekend?
Blake Baggett made quite the statement last weekend with his win. He not only came from behind (AGAIN,) he did it while being under the weather quite a bit. Blake has confirmed himself in my mind as the man with the most speed at the halfway point of the season. He always seems to have just a dash more than the rest of the field, hunting them down late in the moto and then setting some blazing fast laps to assume the lead.
Shake-n-Bake had a very consistent race at Millville last year, going 3-3. I have a feeling he’s going to want to keep his win streak going, so look for him to come out swinging this weekend as usual. People have said he needs to get a start (blah blah.) But seriously, at this point, who cares as long as he's winning? I think it’s the most exciting thing of the day to see him come through the field.
Will Baggett make it three-in-a-row?
Make sure to look for both of the local heroes Dungey and Martin to do some damage in their respective classes this weekend, and keep your eyes peeled for Baggett’s patented late moto charge. Also, if you’re headed out to the races, make sure to pack some wet weather gear, as there's currently a 50% chance of rain.