Ryan Villopoto hopes to win the Monster Energy Cup for the second time. Photography by Steve Cox.

Ryan Villopoto says he’s 100-percent ready to go for Saturday’s Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas. Photography by Steve Cox.

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (Oct. 17, 2013) The usual suspects were on-hand this evening for the pre-race press conference for this weekend’s Monster Energy Cup at Las Vegas, Nevada’s Sam Boyd Stadium. The race’s two winners – Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia (pictured on front page) – were joined by event rookie James Stewart, from Yoshimura Suzuki, GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac (preparing for his full-time 450cc debut), and two-time event runner-up Ryan Dungey, from Red Bull KTM.

This Saturday’s Monster Energy Cup represents the first race back after foot surgery for Villopoto, who sat out the Motocross of Nations in order to be prepared not only for the Monster Energy Cup, but the fast-approaching off-season testing schedule in preparation for Anaheim 1 in January. Villopoto said his foot has healed well, and then was asked about his confidence in relation to the Monster Energy Cup.

“[This race is good to] see where we’re at,” Villopoto said. “We’ve done some testing and things for the new season, but we still have to kind of see what we need to work on from there. But to show up every weekend and show up for a race like this, having some off time before, I mean, the preparation that you put in during the week and the hard work is what makes you mentally strong. And I think to show up ready, that’s where it all comes from.”

Stewart missed the first two Monster Energy Cups.

“Well for me, the first year it was here, I was going back and forth between the team I’m on [Yoshimura Suzuki] and JGR, so I actually didn’t have a ride,” Stewart said. “And then last year I came off my injury with my finger from Unadilla, so I only had a week or so riding the motorcycle. And this year just everything fit in perfect. I had some time off and then just started riding a few weeks ago, so I just wanted to come out and race.”

During the press conference, Ryan Dungey was actually asked by the press-conference host why he and Ryan Villopoto didn’t have a rivalry like they used to have in the ’70s or ’80s when racers would end up getting in fist-fights in the pits after a particularly gnarly heat race. The best answer for that question came a minute or so later when Stewart chimed in.

“When you were talking about how come we don’t punch each other in the face and all that, I think we have respect for each other,” Stewart said, reiterating what Dungey had said before him. “And to be honest: media. Back in the day, you didn’t have the social media. You didn’t have people that read what you do one second, and then two seconds later it’s everywhere. So, I think a lot of it is: 1) we respect each other, but 2) it’s just about how the media can spin it and how people see it and can spin it. I think if us, as riders, could just go race and do our business and not have to worry about when we get home, whether the house is going to be on fire or if people are going to talk about us during the week [things would be different].”

The Monster Energy Cup’s unique format has the racers going at it three times in three separate 10-lap main events. Dungey was asked if that changes the pace at which the top guys race.

“In my opinion, yeah, the 10 lappers is very short, less than a minute lap times,” Dungey said. “So, yeah, it’s an all-out sprint effort, everything you’ve got. Three 10-lappers, there’s not really much room for error, either. To me, it’s all-out effort. Make quick work, get up front and position yourself right and go.”Defending Monster Energy Cup champ Justin Barcia, running the number-one plate this weekend, was asked about whether or not racers would work extra hard in the final main event to try and prevent another racer from winning the million dollars at stake if a racer sweeps every main event. He struggled to answer, laughing as he did it.

“That’s a tough question,” Barcia said. “I’m not going to answer that right now. You’ll see it [out on the track] if it’s going to happen.”

Tomac is running pink gear and pink graphics on his GEICO Honda not just because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but because his mom, Kathy, is just finishing up a fight against the disease that she was diagnosed with near the end of the 2013 AMA Supercross Season.

“It is breast cancer awareness month, so that’s a cool deal we’re doing,” Tomac said. “But my mom was also going through some treatments earlier this year. She’s actually done really well with it and she’s on the upside of things, so that’s really good to see. So it’s just me showing support for her and it’s as much as I can do right now.”

The other big news from the press conference is that the 2014 Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Season will return to a similar race format from many moons ago. In short, the Semis are coming back to the 450cc class.

However, it’s not going to be exactly like it was before, as the 450cc class will be the first bikes on the track in the first two Heat races of the night, followed by the 250cc Heats, then the 450cc Semis, the 250cc LCQ, the 450cc LCQ, and then the 250cc and 450cc main events. So, the good news is that in 2014, there will be more racing for the spectator dollar, and sponsors of racers who can’t necessarily win a Heat race very often will get more play when their racers successfully win a Semi.

The race is this Saturday, October 19th, at 6 p.m. PST, and will air live on Fox Sports 2

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