T-Dog’s Takes: 5 Riders to Keep an Eye on This Summer

Notice that this column now has a sponsor? That’s right! Troy Dog joined the Blu Cru and you should too! I have one in my garage right now and I can’t wait to go shred it! Thank you to Yamaha for believing in my ELITE columns on this dirt bike website enough to sponsor me. What a dream come true! BTW: Have you seen the all-new YZ450F? OH. MY. GOODNESS. I can’t wait to test that bad boy.

Now that everyone has dissected the upcoming Pro Motocross Championship from every angle, I figured I’d go about it my own way. You see, with VurbWes away on his business meeting in Mexico, I was left off what was going to be an insanely rad podcast on our own podcast network. What’s a breakdown of the series without T-Dog? IT definitely doesn’t hold much weight if I’m not a part of it. Anyway, this floor is mine now, it’s my column and I’m going to write something completely different. I picked five riders who are BIG sleepers who should jump out at you in the results. These guys aren’t getting the hype that they deserve, but they will absolutely have your attention by the end of the series. We’re looking past all of the factory guys on this one and focusing on the support riders or privateers, whatever you want to call them. 

Robbie Wageman

A year ago Team Solitaire was happy and sad to see their rider Robbie Wageman depart to BarX Suzuki. They were happy because they always want to help their riders achieve great things and go on to greener pastures. They were also sad because they really enjoyed having Wageman around and he also was number 69 for two seasons in a row with them. Classic. Wageman signed with BarX so that he could race both indoors and out. This summer is his chance to show all of the factory teams his worth. He’s on a fast bike and the team has proved that they can have a rider in the top ten, ala Dilan Schwartz in 2021. He’s been training with the Grindstone Compound and I’ve heard that he’s been on rails. Let’s watch him translate that to race day.  

Grant Harlan

Look guys, I get it. I’m Harlan’s guy. We’re buddies. I’m biased. I need to stop talking about him so much… 

…but hear me out! Do you remember in the 2007 450MX Championship when Gavin Gracyk came out of nowhere, grabbed several top tens, and finished 9th in points? Sure, this isn’t that extreme as we are all aware of how good the Hawaiian breeze is. He already has a national number and Gracyk was just giving his career one last go. Yet, I see the similarities. No one, but me, is willing to say that I wouldn’t be shocked if Har Dog showed up to Pala and finished the day with a 5-5. I expect it to happen. I’ve been shouting from the rooftops for the past three years that this guy has the speed, heart, and potential to make it big in the sport. We thought last summer was the “Har Dog Days of Summer” when he drove to all the races by himself on his Merge Racing/TroyDogVurb Kawasaki. Well, this summer it’s his time. He’s going to pass 740 riders in the last five minutes of the moto as well, that’s the dog in him. He loves the suffering and he’s going to be a staple in the top ten on his Rock River Yamaha. 

Marshal Weltin

I know Marsh is on the biggest private team in the pits, but I’m not sure if people know that he’s racing a 450 this summer. This is a perfect situation for him as he’s more of an outdoor rider anyway. He didn’t exactly have the season that he wanted on the 250, although he did tie a career best 11th in Daytona and Atlanta. Last summer HEP brought Weltin on as a fill-in rider starting at High Point and he delivered for them. He had thirteen top 15 finishes including a tenth overall at RedBud, which is his home track. It was a special summer for Weltin, who came back from Canada to race in the USA for one last try. He invested in himself, put in the results, and turned a fill-in ride into a full-time gig. With the class the way it is at the moment, I’d put him in the 5-10 range.  

Derek Kelley

Ah, another T-Dog Squad guy! I’d still have DK in this column even if he wasn’t one of my ELITE athletes. The AEO Powersports KTM rider had nineteen top 15 finishes last season and finished 13th in the 250MX standings. He had a career best tenth place moto finish at Thunder Valley. Although he never accomplished his goal of a top ten overall last summer, he was close many times. He had a bunch of 11-12 finishes. I look for him to accomplish that this summer. He’s better than he was last year and he just finished 10th in the 250SX West standings with a couple of throw away mains. The 250MX field is incredibly stacked and making it into the top ten is going to be no easy feat this summer, but I know DK will be in there week in and week out fighting for it. 

Derek Drake

Drake is a rider that has quietly moved up to the 450 class for the summer. The former can’t miss KTM amateur rider has had to come back from heart surgery and by the end of last summer had a string of several top fifteens in the 250 class on his BarX Suzuki. The move to the 450 was a smart choice and will prove to be a fresh start for him. What is his ceiling on a 450? I’m not sure, but he’s got the talent and speed to climb the standings. 

Written by Troy Dog

Faster than Slaw Dog. Editor-in-Chief

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