Thirty six months and 46 races later, Davi Millsaps is a winner again, the Rockstar Suzuki rider surprising nearly everyone in attendance by winning the opening round of the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Series tonight at Angel Stadium.
Millsaps led the first 16 laps of the main event, but then lost the lead to Muscle Milk Honda's Trey Canard on the 17th lap. With two laps to go, Canard looked to have a remarkable win in the bag - just a year after suffering what many thought would be a career-ending back injury at Dodger Stadium. But Millsaps had come too far to not give it his best effort in the closing laps. As he started the 19th lap, Millsaps trailed Canard by .688 of a second, but he was on a charge. He put a pass on the Oklahoman halfway through the lap and when Canard very nearly crashed while trying to defend his position, Millsaps was free and clear. He would win by 2.2 seconds.
"It was working hard in the off-season," Millsaps said of what made the difference. "It's been a great off-season with the program I had from Yogi [former racer Ezra Lusk] and just dedication, dedication and joining the Rockstar Energy racing team. They believed in me and stood behind me. I just can't thank them enough."
The win was the fourth Supercross victory of Millsaps career.
"The last couple of years I've been getting hurt, getting hurt, getting hurt," Millsaps said. "And really haven't had an off-season. I put my head down and me and Yogi worked really hard in the off-season and pushed and pushed and pushed. It's a lot of work paying off and that's why it's an emotional victory."
Third place, over 10 seconds behind Canard, went to Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey. Dungey had battled early on with Canard's teammate Justin Barcia before tipping over. But Barcia would go down on the same lap that Canard had taken over from Millsaps, giving the spot back to Dungey.
TwoTwo Motorsports' Chad Reed was well back in fourth after a solid return to AMA racing after suffering his 2012 season-ending knee injury. He would finish a second ahead of Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jake Weimer. Andrew Short was sixth, four seconds ahead of the remounted Barcia.
Fast qualifier James Stewart ended up eighth, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider having suffered a tweaked knee on the final lap of practice. He wasn't himself in the final and basically went into survival mode, leaving Anaheim with a top-10 finish when not racing seemed like a possibility at one point during the night.
Trey Canard gets second place in his Supercross comeback. Photography By: Kit Palmer
JGR Yamah's Justin Brayton and GEICO Honda's Kevin Windham rounded out the top 10 finishers.
And what of defending series champion Ryan Villopoto?
The factory Kawasaki star had a night to forget. Despite coming up just short to Barcia in the first of the two 450-class heat races and starting the main event as the favorite for victory, it wasn't to be. Villopoto got a bad start and it went downhill from there. After completing the first lap in 13th, Villopoto put together a charge that saw him inside the top 10 by the fifth lap. But then he went off the track to lose more spots. And it got worse. After charging back up to ninth, Villopoto suffered a big crash while trying to work his way past Stewart. That put him all the way back to 14th. One more miscue left him well back and he would eventually finish 16th. Not the start to his title defense he was hoping for.
GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac got a bad start in his 250-class heat race and fought through to finish sixth. Nothing special there. So going into the main event, heat race winners Martin Davalos - in his debut with the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team - and Red Bull KTM's Ken Roczen looked to be the favorites. Then the race started and it became Tomac time.
Eli Tomac tops 250 main. Photography By: Kit Palmer
After a big crash that took Davalos out of the race altogether, Tomac jetted into the lead and was never headed. The defending series champion pulled a gap on Roczen and that was all she wrote. He would slow in the closing laps to win by a yawning 6.4 seconds. It was the eighth 250 Supercross win of his career.
Roczen would finish second, some five seconds ahead of Troy Lee Honda's Cole Seely. Jason Anderson and Malcolm Stewart rounded out the top five.
1. Davi Millsaps (Suzuki)
2. Trey Canard (Honda)
3. Ryan Dungey (KTM)
4. Chad Reed (Honda)
5. Jake Weimer (Kawasaki)
6. Andrew Short (Honda)
7. Justin Barcia (Honda)
8. James Stewart (Suzuki)
9. Justin Brayton (Yamaha)
10. Kevin Windham (Honda)
1. Eli Tomac (Honda)
2. Ken Roczen (KTM)
3. Cole Seely (Honda)
4. Jason Anderson (Suzuki)
5. Malcolm Stewart (KTM)
6. Ryan Sipes (Yamaha)
7. Zach Osbourne (Honda)
8. Tyla Rattray (Kawasaki)
9. Max Antsie (KTM)
10. Michael Lieb (Honda)