Ryan Dungey wants to feast at the Hangtown Motocross Classic, but he keeps having to settle for seconds.
The Red Bull KTM factory rider is the defending 450cc Motocross and Supercross champion but has yet to win at Hangtown – the only track on the 12-stop Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship chase where the Belle Plaine, Minn., native hasn’t stood atop the podium.
Saturday at the 48th Hangtown Motocross Classic at Prairie City SVRA, it was RCH Soaring Eagle Suzuki’s Ken Roczen who dominated both motos in taking his second Hangtown title, his first coming in 2014. Dungey was second that year, too.
Of the 14 450cc motos Dungey has raced at Hangtown since his rookie year in 2010, he has finished second 10 times. Over the last four years at Hangtown, Dungey has nothing but second-place finishes.
“I’ve won everywhere but here, and it’s not like I’m a slow starter by any means,” Dungey said. “I could risk it all, run it in and throw it away. But it’s a long season. I don’t know what the deal is here, though. Someone is always edging me out, but it will happen.”
Moving into next week’s second round at Glen Helen Raceway, Roczen leads the title chase 50-44 over Dungey.
“I’ve always done well at Hangtown for some reason,” Roczen said. “A good rider has to be good on any soil. I’m solid no matter where we are, and it just happens to be that I win here. But it doesn’t necessarily mean anything. You never know what might happen the rest of the season.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Eli Tomac finished third overall after a pair of fourth-place finishes. Tomac won his first pro motocross race at Hangtown in 2010 when he competed in the 250cc class.
Dungey has won enough now that he has to start thinking about his legacy. He won the title in 2010, 2012 and last season. Dungey is the first rider to win the 450cc Supercross and Motocross titles in their rookie year (2010).
He also won a 250cc motocross title in 2009. In Supercross competition, Dungey has four titles between the 250cc and 450cc classes. His 31 consecutive Supercross podiums is a record.
Dungey has 38 career 450cc wins, second all-time behind Ricky Carmichael. Carmichael owns the record for most podiums in the 450 class with 84. Dungey is second with 66. Carmichael owns Roczen’s RCH Soaring Eagle Suzuki squad. So not only is Dungey chasing Carmichael’s legacy, he’s chasing Carmichael’s team.
At least Dungey is the first pro motocross rider to appear on a Wheaties box.
Dungey helped resurrect KTM from a little-respected motorcycle manufacturer that hadn’t produced a product of competitive consequence in decades to one of the top rides available in the world. Dungey brought the manufacturer a sense of “Win Sunday, sell on Monday.” The Austrian company reported a 15 percent jump in North American retail sales in 2012 after Dungey brought KTM its first 450cc motocross title in the United States.
In 250cc action, Joey Savatgy benefited from a rare restart due to a red flag for a downed rider on the first lap of the second moto. Savatgy, who got his first career moto win earlier in the day, was stuck in the middle of traffic after the original start. Amateur Stone Edler went down but later left the track under his own power.
American Motorcyclist Association rules dictate that a red flag within the first lap forces a restart, and the 40-rider field returned to the starting gate.
“That red flag deal, on one hand you get another shot, but in same breath you put yourself in a worse position,” Savatgy said. “Needless to say, it helped me out. But there’s 22 motos left, and we’ve got to keep grinding.”
The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider finished second in Supercross and seventh at Hangtown last year.
Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Alex Martin took second overall (eighth first moto, second second moto) and with the second-place finish Saturday recorded just his second podium in his outdoor nationals career. Martin is the older brother and teammate of defending 250cc Motocross champion Jeremy Martin. Third place went to Martin’s teammate, Cooper Webb (4-3).
The skies opened up about halfway through the first 250cc moto around 1:30 p.m. Lap times for the field fell by an average of five seconds. But within a couple of minutes, the clouds broke up and sunshine poked through for the rest of the day.
“When the rains started coming down, it got between my tear-offs,” Savatgy said. “Over the next two laps, I pulled 27 tear-offs off and got down to my (goggles) lens. That was like a breath of fresh air. The lines changed, and it got slippery at times, but overall it wasn’t that bad.”
Local riders – Rescue’s Jacob Smith was the lone local rider in the 450cc motos. He went 35-31 for 35th overall. Carmichael’s Keith Knight, El Dorado Hills’ Derek Currie and Ione’s Derek Thomas failed to qualify for the 40-rider finals. In 250cc action, Citrus Heights rider Kinser Endicott (28-27) and Woodland’s Gared Steinke (34-32) placed 33rd and 38th, respectively.
Mark Billingsley covers local motor sports for The Bee. Reach him at email@example.com or @editorwriter001.