Pro Motocross Year in Review - 2021
A Very Minnesotan Perspective

As we look back at the 2021 Supercross and Motocross seasons, injuries were the constant theme for Minnesota born riders. Jeremy Martinís season in particular took his fans through an emotional roller coaster, but nearly every rider had injuries and either missed races or were riding wounded. Towards the end of the Motocross season, there were only a few privateers that were still racing. Although often disappointing, this year was far from dull.

Pre-Season

Shortly after the 2020 Motocross season concluded, it was announced that Jeremy Martin had signed with the Monster Energy Star Yamaha Racing 250 Team for 2021. Theyíve been the premier team in the 250s for many years, winning most of the championships with bikes that always seemed to have the horsepower advantage. His return to the team gave us Minnesota Motocross fans hope for a great season.

Early in November 2020, Alex Martinís team, JGR Suzuki, announced that they were shutting down. A few weeks later, a press release came out saying that Alex had joined the Manluk / Rock River Yamaha / Merge Racing team. The three teams came together to form one team where he would race 250 West Supercross and 250 Motocross. With the late demise of his team, it was good to see Alex land somewhere, and that he was also back on a Yamaha.

Mitchell Oldenburg returned to the team he rode with in 2020. There was a new title sponsor, so it was no longer known as Penrite Honda, but as Muc-Off Honda (imagine Beavis chuckle). Iowa native and Supercross veteran Justin Brayton returned to the team in the 450 class. They would continue to race Supercross only.

Jerry Robin teamed up with Justin Starling and Jeff Walker to form the WSR Motorsports team (named after the initial of the trioís last names). Robin would compete in 250 West Supercross and 250 Motocross.

Henry Miller dislocated his wrist and tore some wrist ligaments during the 2020 250 Motocross season. The severity of the injuries required a long recovery period, so he would not be at the opening round of Supercross.

Supercross

The 250 Supercross East series was the first to run this year. Mitchell Oldenburg was the lone Minnesota-born rider competing in this class and there were no 450 entries. Mitch had strong results throughout this first portion of the series. He was in the 4 - 8 range every round that he finished. He was lucky to survive a highlight reel crash at Houston 3. His bike locked up while launching a triple causing a severe endo. He took a hard hit to the ground while his bike flipped off the track, a clip shown repeatedly on the telecast and on various social media platforms. He was sitting in sixth when the series took itís very long break.

When the wait for 250 West Supercross was over, it didnít take long for the bad news to start. During his heat race, Jerry Robin was landed on, suffering a minor AC joint separation. He was out for the night. On a more encouraging note, Jeremy and Alex Martin both did well in their heat races and Jeremy looked to be in very good form.

Any championship aspirations for someone named Martin ended before one official lap of the main event was recorded. Jeremy Martin was mid-pack out of the first turn, had to check up in the following rhythm section, and was landed on. He missed the restart with an injured shoulder. A few days later, it was announced that he would miss the rest of the Supercross season.

Meanwhile, Alex Martin went down a few turns later, injuring his shoulder and triggering a red flag. He would also fail to make the restart. In the week after the race, he did all the rehab and therapy possible to get his in-need-of-surgery shoulder strong. A seventh at the next round at Daytona (yes, Daytona was in the the 250 West region in 2021) looked promising, but then he injured his wrist at the next round and his Supercross season was over.

Jerry Robin continued to race despite his first round injury but was unable to qualify for any main events. While the series was on break, he switched to the AJE Motorsports / Motul GasGas team. The new bike and team, and a little recovery time, really turned his season around.

Henry Millerís first race was at Daytona, Round 9 of the 450 class. He did not make the Main. A few races later during qualifying at Arlington 2, he had a bike malfunction and went down, suffering an AC separation above his sternum. Relatively healed up, he qualified for two 450 Mains towards the end of the season.

When 250 West resumed, Jerry Robin qualified for all three mains in Atlanta. He didnít qualify for the last round at SLC, but was riding much better in these last four rounds.

With Justin Brayton injured, the Muc-off Honda Team (the name gets funnier each time) put Oldenburg on a 450. He didnít qualify on his first attempt at Orlando 2, but then qualified for four 450 Mains. His best finish was a 13th in the deep field. Oldenburg was injured while preparing for the last two rounds of 250 West series. He missed the last few races, dropping to 9th in the series.

Motocross

Even before the Motocross season started, there was more bad news. Jeremy Martin revealed that he had broken his wrist in a practice crash and aggravated his shoulder injury. Nonetheless, when the first round at Pala, California was held, he not only lined up, he won the first moto and just missed the overall with a 1-2 score.

Alex Martin was also nursing injuries. He was definitely off his usual pace at Pala, finishing towards the end of the top 20 both races. Jerry Robin was just barely out of the points in the first race and DNF the second.

The Colorado round brought out many riders from Minnesota trying to qualify. This was a round I was thinking of attending, but in hindsight was very glad I didnít. It was tough enough watching it on video.

The bad news started in qualifying. Alex Martin had a big crash in the second session. He was taken to the hospital and would be out for a while with a badly broken arm.

Veteran Zack Williams, riding a Fusion Motorsports Gas Gas, made it in through timed qualifying, but Bailey Kroone and Nicholas Jackson would have to go to the Consolation Race (aka LCQ). Both started outside the top 10, moved up a bit, but not nearly enough. So three of the Minnesotans didnít make it through qualifying, but there was still red plate co-holder Jeremy Martin, Jerry Robin, and Zack Williams.

Early in Moto 1, Jeremy Martin was up front with Jett Lawrence and Justin Cooper, but the red flag came out on the first lap. It was Jerry Robin who brought it out. He was in a bad spot and it looked quite serious at first. He would not continue, but the other two Minnesotans went back for the restart.

The same three were up front at the restart, but Jeremy Martin worked his way to the front and pulled away for a comfortable win. Williams was close to points, but fell a few positions short. A good first race, but there would be one more blow to the gut for Minnesota fans this day. Jeremy got a terrible start in the second moto. Somewhere in the mid-pack chaos, he crashed and hurt his wrist. He was the third Minnesota rider to leave this track injured. Zack Williams was the lone survivor, finishing about the same place as he did in the first moto for 26th overall.

At the next round at High Point, neither Robin nor either Martin brother would make the trip. Henry Miller was signed up for the 450 class, trying to qualify for his first national of the year. He laid down a time that would have easily qualified him for the big show in the first session, but in what was becoming a sadly annoying trend, he crashed in the second session and was out for the day with an injury. Zack Williams was again the lone Minnesota rider. He was tantalizing close to points at 21-22.

With a broken wrist, ailing shoulder, and a hand injury, it was assumed by many that Jeremy Martinís season was over. Because of the schedule still being a bit wacky this year, there was over a month between his injury and the next round at Red Bud. Even though he was far from 100%, and likely riding with pain, Jeremy decided to go racing. With some healing from his injuries, Jerry Robin was also back racing.

Red Bud brought out many Minnesota riders. Gavin Wilkins and Brandon Green were giving the 450 class a go. It is sometimes easier for a privateer to qualify for the 450 class. Apparently a lot of riders had that same thought as 89 riders were entered. There were so many that Green was one of the unfortunate riders to not even qualify for the LCQ. Wilkins qualified for the LCQ but did not race it, so another non-score for Minnesota riders in the 450 class.

Bailey Kroone and Collin Reinhart signed up in the 250s. With 86 riders, it was a tough road there also. They at least qualified for the 40-rider LCQ, but did not get the fantastic start needed to make it into the top four.

In the main motos, Jeremy Martin looked good, not quite like he had winning two of the first three motos, but still solid. With a 5-3 score, he was somehow fifth in the championship despite missing three of eight motos. Robin was riding sore and was just out of the points both races.

Still hanging by a thread, Jeremy Martinís championship hopes were pretty much gone after Southwick. He got good starts in both motos, but crashed early in each race, sending him way back. He passed people all day long, but lost a bunch of points with his 11-14 tally. The only other Minnesota rider for this round was Jerry Robin who exited early in both motos.

After another break, it was time for Millville. Unfortunately I couldnít use the bad joke ďMiller TimeĒ, because Henry announced shortly before the race that he would not return to action until 2022. He had knee surgery to fix an old injury that he made worse at High Point. Alex Martin, who was thought to be out for the season, decided to give it a shot at home.

As usual, several home state riders were racing this round. With 79 riders in the 450 class and 74 in the 250s, just getting through qualifying was going to be a challenge. In the 250s, Joseph Perron missed direct qualifying by one position and would have to join Bailey Kroone, Philip Maus, Nicholas Jackson, and Collin Reinhart in the LCQ. None of them got the start needed and would get to watch the races instead.

It was a similar story in the 450s. Gavin Wilkins missed direct qualifying by one spot. Brandon Green, Josh Boaz, Tyler Allen were also destined for the LCQ. None made it to the top four.

The main races would include just four of the ďregularsĒ in the 250 class. Jeremy Martin was finally able to do the double at Millville, comfortably out front for most of both motos. Alex Martin and Jerry Robin were not riding at full strength and had some other issues. Zack Williams, who skipped Southwick, was back. He kept moving up the ladder, scoring points for the first time this year with a 20-18 score. With Jeremy on top of the overall chart, the other three Minnesota riders were clustered together with Williams, Alex, and Robin ending up 24th, 25th, and 26th.

When the series moved out west, only one of the non-regulars made the trip out to Washougal. The long road trip paid off for Bailey Kroone who made it into the main 250 motos directly through timed qualifying. This was the first national that he ever qualified for, joining his brother Riley in the Hall.

Jeremy Martin looked good again in the first moto, a solid third place. The flat landings, which are often faster at this track, made me wince just watching him. He got out front early in the second moto, and with a few more injured-body-friendly lines, rode to yet another comfortable moto win. It looked like that was only going to be good enough for second overall until Justin Cooper threw it away on the last lap trying to catch Jeremy for the moto win. Martin became the first two-time winner of the series.

Alex Martin and Jerry Robin still were riding wounded and finished towards the bottom of the top twenty again. Zack Williams continued his steady progress scoring points with his 21st overall.

Then the series went to the complete opposite side of the country, all the way to iconic Unadilla. No one but the series regulars tried to qualify, although Zack Williams had a scare when he failed to qualify out of timed qualifying. A good start and a second place finish (out of 40!) in the LCQ got him into the mains.

Jeremyís mini-win streak was broken, but he was on the podium in both motos. The title contenders were off in the distance, but he was closing in on third-place Hunter Lawrence. Alex Martin and Jerry Robin had similar results as the last few races, barely in the points. With his terrible gate pick, Zack Williams saw his streak of points-paying finishes also end.

Prior to the next round at Budds Creek, Alex Martin announced that he was done racing for the summer. He crashed at Unadilla re-injuring his wrist (his wrist which was injured in Supercross, not to be confused with shoulder injury in Supercross or his broken arm at Colorado). It was down to three Minnesota riders. Jeremy Martin won his third race of the year, and 20th in his career, a 3 -1 score doing the trick. Robin finished 20th overall with Zack William back in the points with a 22nd overall.

Staying out east, the next round was at Ironman Raceway in Indiana. Seemingly settled in fourth early in the first moto, Jeremy Martin found another level of speed and was soon in second place and right behind the leader Jett Lawrence. Pushing hard, he bailed big, breaking his wrist. This time his season really was over. The last Minnesotans standing, Jerry Robin and Zack Williams finished right by each other again in 20th and 21st, both scoring points in one moto, but not the other.

In the second to last round at Pala 2, both Martin brothers were out for the season and Zack Williams did not make the long trip out to California. Philip Maus signed up for the 450s but did not make it through qualifying. It was down to Jerry Robin in the 250 class. Robin was out early in both races, making for a very uneventful set of motos for those of us cheering for Minnesota riders.

The last round was at Hangtown, often the season opener, but shifting to the end because of the makeshift schedule. Jerry Robin was the lone 250 rider from Minnesota. He was in the points, but a ways away from the top ten. Philip Maus was on a 450 again, this time qualifying for the big show.

Zack Williams switched to the 450 class for the final round. He not only qualified, he carded a points-scoring 17th in the last moto of the year, the only Minnesotan to score points in 450 Motocross in 2021. He was also the only Minnesota rider to qualify and finish every round he competed in (8 in total). Thatís a pretty impressive privateer effort any season, but this year, that alone made him unique among all the Minnesota riders, privateer or factory.

The season started out with so much promise with both Martin brothers returning to Yamaha, but the brutal nature of the sport made itself known early and often. Jeremy Martinís three wins were definitely the highlight of the season, thoroughly enjoyable to watch, but the sheer quantity and severity of the injuries made it tough to witness sometimes. I liked seeing how many lightly (self?) funded riders gave the pros a shot this year, not just at Millville, but travelling to out of state tracks. I hope that trend continues into 2022, and that the injury trend goes the complete opposite way as 2021.