MILLVILLE -- Jeremy Martin has put the bullseye on Dylan Ferrandis' back since the 2020 AMA Pro Motocross national championship series began last month in Tennessee.
Ferrandis has no problem being the target.
The top two riders in the 250 Class entered Saturday's races at Spring Creek MX Park just nine points apart in the national points standings.
By the time they finished putting on a show for the crowd on Saturday, Ferrandis had slipped past Martin for the points lead, but Martin had proved something to himself.
"Ferrandis has been phenomenal all season long," said Grant Langston, a former two-time national motocross champion who is now an analyst for NBC Sports, "and Jeremy has been so solid as far as his game plan. He knows if he can't beat Dylan with speed, he'll beat him in areas where he struggles.
"Jeremy has stepped up and was riding like his life depends on it."
Martin's sense of urgency Saturday wasn't enough to keep Ferrandis from passing him in the standings, but it was enough for Martin to gain even more confidence as the national championship series hits its home stretch.
Just three rounds of racing remain -- next Saturday at WW Motocross Park in Jacksonville, Fla.; Oct. 3 at Thunder Valley Motocross Park in Lakewood, Colo.; and Oct. 10 at Fox Raceway at Pala in Pala, Calif.
Martin, who grew up working at and learning to ride on the Spring Creek track owned by his parents, had a nine-point lead entering Saturday's races at Spring Creek. Ferrandis swept both motos to win the overall, though. Martin finished fifth in the first moto, leaving him tied with Ferrandis in the points standings.
Then the two put on a show in the second moto of the day.
Halfway through the 30-plus minute race, Martin got around Justin Cooper for second place and set his sights on Ferrandis. Martin kept the leader in his sights, though with two laps to go, Ferrandis led by more than 2 seconds. That's when Martin began to apply the pressure.
He cut his deficit to less than a second by the time the white flag came out, then chased Ferrandis across the sand whoops on the back side of the track, and closed in on him as they went up and down the daunting Mount Martin hill climb.
"I knew I'd be competitive and right there with Dylan," said Martin, who now lives in Rochester and does a lot of his practicing at a track on the Spring Creek property. "I knew Dylan would probably be the fastest guy, it's just about seeing what I can do to fight him off."
Martin -- who was racing at his home track for the first time since 2017, after sitting out nearly two years due to broken vertebrae in his back -- was side-by-side with Ferrandis as they flew across a triple jump and entered the final turns. But Ferrandis kept a slight lead at all times and had just enough down the stretch to cross the final jump over the finish line just ahead of Martin.
"Dylan is a great rider," Martin said. "He's proven that this year with his qualifying times, that he's been the best guy so far. My goal is to minimize that gap and that speed. That's my main focus."
A-MART BACK ON PODIUM
Ferrandis won his second overall of the season -- his first since the season opener at Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn., on August 15 -- and finished in the top two overall for the fifth time in six rounds this year.
The rest of the podium (top-three finishers) were Martin brothers. Jeremy finished second overall and Alex placed third overall, after finishing fourth in both motos.
Alex Martin started the day strong, recording the top qualifying time in the 250 class with a best lap of 2 minutes, 3.021 seconds. It was his first top-qualifying time since 2016.
"It was pretty cool to qualify first," Alex said. "It wasn't an easy day, though. I was scrapping for every position all day long. This class is so competitive, there are always different guys to battle."
The third-place finish marked Alex Martin's fifth consecutive podium finish at his home track. He finished third overall in 2016 and 2018, and second in 2017 and 2019. He's still seeking his first overall victory at Spring Creek.
"I got off to two great starts (Saturday)," he said. "I rode my own race and tried to survive. It was brutal right down to the end in both motos."