Current Monster Energy AMA Supercross points leader Ryan Villopoto won the 19th Supercross Class race of his career last weekend at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, tying him with Damon Bradshaw for eighth on the all-time win list. Villopoto brings a 13-point lead over Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey heading into Atlanta's Georgia Dome tomorrow night.
Villopoto, who rides for the Monster Energy Kawasaki team, now has four wins on the season.
"Arlington went pretty good for me," said Villopoto. "In the main I got a great start and was able to take over the lead on the first lap. For the first eight laps I could hear Chad (Reed) behind me and saw his fender a few times. I just kept pushing and trying to stay a step ahead of him. Once he went down, I just focused on riding smooth and connecting my lines. I'm going to keep working on improving my starts and riding smart, we aren't even halfway through the season."
Dungey picked up his second second-place finish in Arlington and has five podium finishes through the first seven races, including a win at Phoenix's Chase Field.
"I was happy to be on the box in second (place) last weekend after having such a bad gate pick and not getting a good start in the main," said Dungey. "I just put me head down and focused on passing riders one-by-one and tried to get by as many people as I could by the race's end. I rode solid but by the time I got into second place Villopoto had pulled way too big a lead for me to be able to catch up. I'm definitely hungry for another win so from here on out my focus is to be consistent and be up front from the get go so I can battle for the win."
It was another tough race for JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha's James Stewart, who crashed into his teammate Davi Millsaps in Arlington and stalled his bike. The mishap caused Stewart to lose several positions, and he finished sixth overall. The two-time Supercross Class champion finished 15th the previous week in San Diego. He's fourth in the point standings, 42 points behind Villopoto.
"This season has been a crazy one," said Stewart. "It feels like small things keep adding up at the worst times. Last week in Arlington we made a few steps in the right direction. But in the race we couldn't utilize that. So we're still working, but the best part about it is that we're on the East Coast and I've been waiting for that! The dirt is more familiar and consistent. It's going be exciting to see what happens the next couple of races."
TwoTwo Motor Sports Honda's Chad Reed suffered a horrific crash while challenging for the race lead on Lap 7 and was unable to finish the race in Arlington.
Initial scans have revealed the Australian has torn his anterior cruciate ligament, broken his tibia and fibula, sustained two broken ribs and has a broken T6 vertebrae.
At this point in time doctors are waiting for the swelling on his knee to subside before they conduct surgery.
"To say I am hurting right now would be a major understatement," Reed said. "I am just trying to figure out what hurts more, the injuries or the fact that I am going to be out for a while with a knee surgery.
"This is bitterly disappointing, I felt like I had everything in my corner this time. I've never felt more comfortable, from the bike and team to my riding. I was genuinely in a position to fight for race wins week in week out and expected to be going to Las Vegas for a shot at the title. To my sponsors and fans thank-you for your messages of support, they mean a lot. This is a difficult time."
Villopoto's teammate Jake Weimer rode strong all night, finishing second behind Villopoto in his heat race. In the Main Event, Weimer inherited second place when Reed went down, which is where he rode most of the race, but was caught on the last lap. While battling to defend his position on the final lap, Weimer got tangled with another racer and held on for third. Weimer currently sits fifth in the points standings.
"Finishing on the podium is awesome," said Weimer. "After getting block passed the last few races, I came to Arlington ready to stand my ground. I felt like I did a good job of holding off (Ryan) Dungey, although ultimately I lost the fight; it was because I was stuck in second gear the last lap of the race after contact broke off my shifter lever. I did my best to put up a good fight, so I felt good about that. I really felt like I should have got second, but that's how racing goes. I'll be looking to do it again in Atlanta."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Broc Tickle has been showing signs of steady improvement over the course of the season. The heat race in Arlington proved to be his best performance to date, where he earned the holeshot and finished third behind fellow Kawasaki riders Villopoto and Weimer. In the Main Event, he finished 11th and is currently 14th in the season standings.
"The heat race in Arlington went great," said Tickle. "That was the best I've felt all season. I worked with Kyle Lewis last week on improving my starts, and it really paid off in the heat race. I am slowly getting better, but I am getting tired of coming home frustrated. I just have to keep pushing forward because it's the only way to succeed. I know all my hard work will eventually pay off."
Yoshimura Suzuki's Brett Metcalfe suffered a nasty crash in practice in Arlington but rallied to finish fourth in his heat race aboard his Yoshimura-prepared Suzuki RM-Z450. In the 20-lap Main Event, Metcalfe didn't get the start he wanted, and while working his way through the pack, he collided with another rider coming off the triple. No one was injured, though Metcalfe's shifter was damaged and stuck in second gear. He went on to finish eighth.
"I was feeling pretty good coming into Arlington," said Metcalfe. "We had some positive practice sessions, but then I crashed in practice and that kind of beat me up a bit. I'm still a little bit sore from that. In the main, I hit the triple and I nearly landed on somebody, which shook me up a bit. Then, I realized that my shifter had gotten bent, so I was stuck in second gear. Luckily, this was the kind of track where you could get away with using one gear for the whole lap, so it wasn't so bad for me. After that, I backed it down because I just wanted to finish the race. Now I'm just looking forward to Atlanta. I think everyone loves to go to Atlanta. The dirt's really good, and the track's always fun. I just want to have a solid week of practice, get some rest and get ready for Atlanta."
In the Supercross Class, Star Valli Yamaha's Bobby Kiniry won the LCQ and went on to finish 14th in the Main Event, while his teammate Nico Izzi, who races in the Western Regional Supercross Lites Class, made it to the Supercross Class Main Event with a seventh-place heat race finish. In the finale, Izzi put in about seven laps before retiring with wrist pain and may sit out the next few races. Finally, Star Valli Yamaha's Austin Stroupe crashed in practice and suffered a shoulder injury. Stroupe will be out for the foreseeable future.
TiLUBE/Foremost Kawasaki's Nick Wey had a solid day in Arlington. After scoring 16th fastest in the afternoon timed practices, Wey qualified for the Main Event with an eighth-place heat race result. The Rockstar Energy rider finished off the night with a consistent ride for a 12th-place finish in the Supercross Class.
After spending most of the week recovering from his crash in San Diego, Team Honda Muscle Milk's Justin Brayton put together a respectable ride aboard his CRF450, finishing in ninth place.
"The night went okay since I came into this round not even knowing if I was going to be able to ride," said Brayton. "I did a lot of therapy this week but wasn't able to get on the bike. In the main, I got landed on in the first lap. The right side of my body and my muffler were pretty messed up. I am happy to be going home safe and have another week for rehab. I think I'll be able to go to Atlanta more on point like I was before my crash in San Diego."
GEICO Honda's Kevin Windham finished third in his heat race before earning seventh in the Main Event. This weekend Windham will make his 200th career start.
"The GEICO Honda was running incredible and things were going great almost all day," said Windham. "I don't know what happened, but with three to four laps to go, I made some major mistakes causing me to get passed a few times. I don't want to dwell on it too much since the majority of the day went well but I just need to focus on finishing the last five laps strong. I'm excited for Atlanta which will be my 200th start and am hoping to turn things around and make it on the podium."
Defending Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class Champion Justin Barcia started his 2012 season exactly where he left off last year-on top of the podium.
"The night started okay - I got a bad start in the heat race but was still able to take the win," said Barcia. "I turned it around in the main, got a pretty good start and made some strong passes. I ended up getting the lead and was able to pull a nice gap. This is a great way to start off the season and I am excited to head to Atlanta."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Darryn Durham nailed the holeshot aboard his 2012 KXTM250F in the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class season opener and went on to secure the runner-up spot and earned the first career Supercross Lites Class podium of his career.
"Arlington felt amazing," said Durham. "That was my first supercross podium ever. Being a part of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki is awesome. I couldn't have done it without the team; they all have been working hard to get me to this level. I'm pretty stoked on my new Kawasaki, I ripped the holeshot and felt solid on it all night. I am going to work on getting faster in the whoops and try to take it home next week at the Georgia Dome."
Red Bull KTM's Ken Roczen, competing his sophomore year in the Supercross Lites Class finished third. Prior to the start of the season, Roczen broke his wrist in a training accident.
"Dallas was a lot of fun and I'm happy I started my season off with a podium result," said Roczen. "After not riding for several months because I broke my wrist, and only getting back on my bike two weeks ago, I think I did good getting third. I know I have the speed to win so I will be giving it everything I got in Atlanta this weekend."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Blake Baggett came to Arlington with high expectations. Two years ago he earned his first professional win at Cowboys Stadium. After a good start in the Main Event, he made a mistake in the rhythm section and suffered a crash. When he picked the bike back up he was at the back of the pack, but worked his way into 15th place before the finish.
"Arlington didn't go how I wanted," said Baggett. "I had high hopes going into the first race of the championship, so I'm pretty disappointed with my performance. I got a good start in the main and came around the first turn behind Darryn (Durham), but went down in a rhythm section and that was it. I tried to fight my way back, but I lost a lap and just couldn't push it on that track. I will definitely be working hard to get on the podium at the Georgia Dome."
Yoshimura-backed Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki's Blake Wharton qualified fourth in his heat race. In the Main Event he rebounded from a crash to finish fourth
"It was an interesting night," said Wharton. "I would have liked to be on the podium - that's certainly how you want to start out your season, but I felt like I had some good things going on. Ultimately, I have some things to work on, but the bikes were great and my starts were on point. Now, I'm definitely looking forward to Atlanta. I've raced there twice and I've done well. I like the track and it's another place to make a statement. Every race is an opportunity, and I just have to keep pushing for it. I think I'll be there in the end."
His teammate Hunter Hewitt picked up the final transfer spot in his heat race and finished 12th in the Main Event.
"Arlington was one of those days where I never really got into my groove," said Hewitt. "I worked really hard in the off-season, so it was pretty frustrating, but the Rockstar Energy Racing team really helped keep me upbeat. We got through the heat race and into the main, and I just tried to ride my own race. We're going to Atlanta next, and I think it'll be a good race for us."
The Star Valli Yamaha team put forth a heroic effort in Arlington. Kyle Cunningham scored an impressive third in his heat race, but a first-lap crash in the Main Event saw him retire for the night. His teammate Kyle Peters suffered a practice crash earlier in the week and did not race in Arlington. Peters is hoping to be back in action this weekend in Atlanta.
"Arlington didn't go as we had planned to be coming out of the first race of the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class Championship," said Cunningham. "But we had a solid heat race. I just got in an unfortunate pile up first corner of the Main Event, and went down, so that kind of ended the night. The wrist is a little sore - I've been going to Dr. G's and we're going to do whatever we can, to get this wrist feeling good and be back out there for Atlanta this weekend. One race is over with, but there's still a lot of racing to go, and we're looking forward to it, so I'm going to do whatever I can to be there in Atlanta and be there racing this weekend. That's the plan right now."
SPEED will broadcast Monster Energy Supercross from Atlanta LIVE at 7:30pm EST on February 25, 2012.
Tickets are available at the Georgia Dome Box Office, all Ticketmaster Outlets, charge by phone at (800) 745-3000, www.supercrossonline.com, or online at www.ticketmaster.com. Practice and qualifying begin at 12:30 p.m. and the Main Event starts at 7:00 p.m. Club Level tickets are $52 Adult/Child; Price Level 2 $45 Adult/Child; Price Level 3 $35 Adult/Child and Supervalue tickets are $10 Adult/Child. . FREE Pit Passes are available at over 500 Atlanta area Subway locations around Atlanta beginning Feb. 3rd when you buy a 32 oz drink.