Photography by Kit Palmer
SALT LAKE CITY (April 28, 2013) – Ryan Villopoto clinched the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Saturday night in front of 43,149 fans in Rice-Eccles Stadium and he did it in outstanding fashion. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider warded off a relentless late-race challenge by his rivals Davi Millsaps and Ryan Dungey to win his ninth race of the season, matching his win total of 2012.
With the championship Villopoto joins an elite group of riders who have won three straight AMA Supercross Championships. He etched his name alongside those of Bob Hannah, Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael, the only other riders to have accomplished the feat.
For Villopoto it was a season of overcoming challenges early in the year before going on a tear.
“It’s been an incredible season,” said Villopoto, who earned his 33rd-career win and whose only struggle on the evening was to find the adjectives to describe his feelings. “I just thank everybody who stuck behind me this year. To win a race in this series with what we do… that’s unreal on its own. To win a championship, it’s amazing and to win three in a row… man it’s unbelievable.
“We started off the season really rough. We had a lot of stepping stones to climb and as a team we did it and I can’t thank everybody enough.”
Villopoto won a riveting main event.
Dungey took the holeshot on his Red Bull KTM, but three turns in Villopoto made an inside turn pass to take the lead. Millsaps worked through from a poor start and on lap four the fans came to their feet when Millsaps and Dungey raced side by side for a half a lap in the battle for second. Millsaps took the position by way of brilliant riding through the whoops.
Up front it appeared Villopoto was going to check out, but Millsaps and Dungey never gave up. With eight laps to go the duo closed in on Villopoto. It then got even tighter in the closing laps when Villopoto started having to pick his way through heavy lapped traffic and avoid a couple of yellow-flag sections.
Every time Villopoto made a small mistake Millsaps and Dungey closed, but the champ was always quick to recover and that enabled him to hold off a torrid final lap challenge by Millsaps, who threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at the leader on the last go around. In the end he came up
“I gave everything I had,” said a spent Millsaps after the race. “I had zero left in me when I crossed the finish line. I could see the lap board. I was doing everything I could to catch him, but congratulations to him (Villopoto), he had a great season. It was definitely fun racing with him. I hadn’t done that all the way through (a race). It was a learning year for me, I definitely enjoyed it. Everyone that’s been behind me it was a great run.”
Dungey was on Millsaps rear tire all night and looked poised to take advantage had either one of the leaders made an error, but it wasn’t to be. In spite of turning in a great ride Dungey ended the night a close third. His attention now turns to the battle with Millsaps for second place in the series next weekend in Las Vegas.
“My focus is definitely on the next round,” Dungey explained. “That second place is important. Although the championship is already wrapped up it was a good series. All in all there’s a lot to take from it. Sometimes it doesn’t turn out the way you want it, but maybe it’s that much better for you in the end and someday you’ll realize it. Second place is still possible and we’ll shoot for that.”
Team Muscle Milk Honda teammates Trey Canard and Justin Barcia rounded out the top five.
Jason Anderson broke through to win his first Supercross main in the 250 West final. The Rockstar Energy Suzuki rider got by early leader Zach Osborne and then rode a steady and sure race to the checkered flag winning by 5.688 seconds over Troy Lee Honda’s Cole Seely. Martin Davalos raced his Monster Energy Kawasaki to third in spite of twisting his ankle earlier in the night. He credited the Asterisk Medical crew for getting him ready to race in the main.
For Anderson, who scored his best previous career result in Salt Lake last year when he led for ten laps before finishing second, the win was the race he’ll remember for a lifetime.
“I actually struggled with the track in the first few practice sessions,” Anderson admitted. “But there’s something in the Salt Lake air that I dig the vibes when I come here or something. It was definitely a good race. My Suzuki got me off to a good start and I can’t thank my Rockstar Energy team enough. It’s been a struggle this year, but getting my first win here in Salt Lake… I couldn’t be happier.”
The story of the night, and maybe the season, in 250 Supercross West competition was the disastrous night experienced by Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen. The points leader coming into the event did not make the main in Salt Lake. He crashed twice in his Heat race and pulled off the track to preserve his energy for the Last Chance Qualifier. It went from bad to worse in the LCQ. Roczen was caught up in a first-turn pileup. He was near the back of the pack once he got going and heroically sliced through the field, but came up just short, finishing third and missing the main. Erin Bates tried to interview Roczen immediately after the LCQ and he muttered a few words before breaking down unable to finish.
But lady luck had mercy on well-liked German. In the final his main championship rival Eli Tomac struggled mightily. He was all over the track in the early laps bouncing off tuff blocks and botching the whoops to go from second all the way back to ninth. He rallied late in the race and moved up to finish sixth. That puts him five points down to Roczen going into the Las Vegas finale.
Tomac was scratching his head trying to figure out how he could have blown such a golden opportunity to take the series lead.
“I started out in second and just pretty much blew the race in the whoops,” Tomac said. “It’s disappointing because that’s a section that’s got me all day. There were one or two passes where I got out of control. I was thinking, ‘Man, I can’t completely throw this thing away.’ I had to start doubling and hopping and skipping. That was the best that I could do tonight.”
Monster Energy Supercross will bring the 2013 season to a close next weekend from Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium on Saturday, May 4.
450SX Class Results: Salt Lake City
1. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki
2. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
3. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM
4. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda
5. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda
6. Justin Brayton, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Yamaha
7. Josh Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Suzuki
8. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM
9. Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki
10. Chad Reed, Australia, Honda
450SX Class Season Standings
1. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki, 346
2. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki, 318
3. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 315
4. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda, 261
5. Chad Reed, Australia, Honda, 224
6. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda, 220
7. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM, 202
8. Justin Brayton, Fort Dodge, Iowa, Yamaha, 177
9. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 174
10. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Suzuki, 165
Western Regional 250SX Class Results: Salt Lake City
1. Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Suzuki
2. Cole Seely, Murrieta, Calif., Honda
3. Martin Davalos, Ecuador, Kawasaki
4. Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., KTM
5. Christian Craig, Wildomar, Calif., Honda
6. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda
7. Ryan Sipes, Ekron, Ky., Suzuki
8. Tyla Rattray, South Africa, Kawasaki
9. Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., KTM
10. Travis Baker, Romoland, Calif., Yamaha
Western Regional 250SX Class Points
1. Ken Roczen, Germany, KTM, 163
2. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda, 158
3. Cole Seely, Murrieta, Calif., Honda, 135
4. Jason Anderson, Edgewood, N.M., Suzuki, 124
5. Martin Davalos, Ecuador, Kawasaki, 114
6. Zach Osborne, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Honda, 111
7. Kyle Cunningham, Aledo, Texas, Yamaha, 96
8. Christian Craig, Wildomar, Calif., Honda, 87
9. Tyla Rattray, South Africa, Kawasaki, 87
10. Joey Savatgy, Thomasville, Ga., KTM, 87