PALA, Calif. – After a hard crash in August at Budds Creek, Christian Craig joined a long list of injured riders by missing Ironman Raceway last weekend. On Saturday, Craig returned to the 450 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship race at the Maxxis Fox Raceway Nationals II with top five finishes in both motos and in the overall.
“It’s good,” Craig stated after the second moto. “Tied my best overall finish of the season, so especially after missing last week, I was bummed that I had to miss that race and only rode once since Budds Creek. Felt a little rusty this morning, but we got through it in a hometown race. It’s always good vibes when you’re here, had some good results here. I got off to a good start, put in some good laps and didn’t ride my best but it was enough for a 5-4 day, so I can’t be too mad about it. We got one more race to do something special.”
It was indeed a hard crash back in Moto 1 at Budds Creek in Mechanicsville, MD. His No. 29 Monster Energy/Star Racing 450 Yamaha washed out in the rollers by the finish jump, and landed hard into the trackside barriers. He was unable to finish the race, resulting in a DNF. He did return for the second moto to salvage a 14th overall place, but later that week, he and his team decided to sit out Round 10 at Ironman Raceway.
That wasn’t the only injury he’s faced this season. Earlier this calendar year, he suffered a broken leg during the Supercross season at Salt Lake City 1. While in a tight battle for the 250SX East Region championship with teammate Colt Nichols, he mistimed a rhythm section during the second qualifying session and caught his left leg between the faces of the next jump. He rode the Alpinestars Medical Mule back to the pits. The crash crushed his leg and his hopes for chasing the title, and gave a rough start to his 2021 Pro Motocross season when they were last here at Fox Raceway back in May.
“First round, I was coming off a broken leg,” recalled Craig. “So I wasn’t 100% but the field wasn’t as stacked as Round 1. That has a lot to do with it. But I did ride a lot better. The track suited me a little bit more. The first round was deeper, more one line where today you could move around and pick your lines. That helped me and suited my smoother style. Overall, a good day.”
And stacked is the best word here. Craig was a part of a long list of injured riders from this season, including Justin Barcia, Adam Cianciarulo and last year’s Pro Motocross 450 Class champion, Zach Osborne. While it’s a struggle to get in the rhythm again, every competitor knows it’s just a part of their sport.
“I think everyone deals with (the injuries),” Craig explained to Kickin’ the Tires. “It’s part of racing. We all have some sort of nagging injury going on or something that’s frustrating us. We’re never in a perfect spot, we’re all dealing with something. All you can do is manage it the best you can, and that’s how your cards are dealt and just gotta deal with it that day, and just do your best. I was open-minded today, didn’t expect a lot of myself, rode the way I knew how to and the rest is history.”
The overall goal of taking it one step at a time was all on Craig’s mind throughout the year. As we saw with Dylan Ferrandis winning the 450 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship a round early, it’s more than just riding fast, hard and aggressive. It’s about riding smart. Surviving the demands of dirt bike racing while dodging the risk of injury reaps great rewards, and for someone like Craig, he’s looking for his own reward.
“Obviously I want to end the 2021 Pro Motocross season on a high note. That sets the tone for the off-season and for the year after. I’m fired up. I was close to the 250 title last year, and I expect to be in the same spot next year.”