To preview this weekend's AMA Supercross class finale and the Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Shootout, part of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, at Las Vegas' Sam Boyd Stadium, the top three riders in the premier class - Chad Reed, Kevin Windham and Davi Millsaps - and the Regional AMA Supercross Lites class champions - Trey Canard and Jason Lawrence - were featured at the pre-race press conference today.
First to the podium was Red Bull Honda's Millsaps, who registered a career best two wins and eight podium finishes this season: "At the beginning of the year I had to take my whole life into my own hands,” he said. “I have a lot of good people around me. This was my first full year for me and it turned out to be a good year. It's been a great stepping stone for my career. I believe next year will go good as well. [Chad and Kevin] are in their own race and they're fighting for the championship. For me I try to ride my own race and not worry about them. Last weekend they both came from the back and ended up 1-2, and it was kind of crazy. I learn something new every day from these guys. The [Las Vegas] track is really technical normally. There are going to be three sets of whoops and we got the flat tracking going on in the back. This year has been all soft pack dirt and this week we're getting back to hard pack dirt. If I'm in the lead and Kevin and Chad are second and third, I don't' think its really going to matter because of the points. I'm trying to think about that. I'm sure those guys will be up in the front riding as fast as they can and I'm not going to worry about that.”
Geico Honda's Windham, who has four wins and 11 podium finishes, will be riding for his team's new title sponsor Geico in Vegas. He commented on his resurgence and the pending AMA Supercross championship. "My goals this season have been changing, and here recently they've been put into warp speed. It was a tough year to come into, after an '07 season that was not that stellar. To be honest, we are working with contracts from year to year. Motivation has been at an all-time high. It's easy to lose sight of how successful we've been this season. If I win this race it will match my all time career high for wins in a season with five. [The championship battle] is tense. I think that its' a true look into our lives and our eyes about how much we want this thing. We both want this really bad. He's in the driver's seat a little bit. It's his to lose. At this point [looking back] it would be easy to find 10 points. It's going to be easy to armchair quarterback at this and find all the things I've done wrong and all that. I'm 30 and I feel like I'm in the prime of my career. Winning is my only option at this point. Vegas is great. I love this town, I love this track and the vibe of the town is incredible. The crowd has been really behind me this year.”
Team San Manuel Band of Mission Indians Yamaha's Reed, who holds a 10-point lead heading into the season finale, talked about his season, the injuries and what I will take to win his second career AMA Supercross Championship.
"There have been a few bumps along the way,” he said. “The ups and the downs is what you work hard for. At Anaheim, I said I was sick of seconds and thirds and everyone was talking about James. No one was even talking about Kevin at that point. I've had to battle through some injuries the last few years. It's been an awesome learning year, and I've learned that every point counts. At times this year I've thrown it on the ground, but been able to get back up on the podium. A lot of people question how hurt I really was [at Detroit]. Unfortunately, I spent the entire day at the hospital with the broken scapula. I had been there before [with a hurt shoulder], but this time I couldn't really get rid of the pain. You have to fight to the end. That's why it's a championship. That's why it's run over 17 rounds. We have a lot of great competitors out here. I know what I got to do to win. “We've been around this sport for a long time. I've had nothing but respect for [Kevin]. I've had a professional relationship through the years with Ricky [Carmichael] and James [Stewart]. [Kevin] seems to have an opinion, and I seem to have an opinion, and they don't meet in the middle. One of us will walk away with the championship on Saturday night. From May of last year I did a lot of soul searching. We did a lot of work on bike set up. The bike was a lot better this year and made my job a lot easier."
Geico Honda's Canard stepped up to the podium to discuss his recent Eastern Regional AMA Supercross Lites title and the upcoming Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Supercross Lites Shootout in Las Vegas. "[Ryan Villopoto] can do what he wants to do,” Canard said. “I'm going to go base it like a normal race. I didn't mean to take him out. But my back wheel slid and gave him a little love tap. I feel bad that he went down and hit the pole like that. I just hope we can go out there [Saturday] and race it like a normal race. After the last four Nationals [last season] I wasn't too excited about how I rode and performed. I just put my head down in the off season and got ready for Supercross. I gave it all I had every day and it worked. Things didn't go too bad for me this season until Detroit. Minneapolis is where it started going bad. Then Dallas was another roller-coast ride and then Detroit it got worse. I think it was good what happened in Detroit [where a crash cut his points lead to just three points with one race remaining], because it put me into attack mode and changed my view. “All the pressure is kind of gone, so I'm going out there [on Saturday] to have some fun. It's always been cool to watch these guys in the past wear the 1E and the 1W [number plates], so I'm going to run that on my bike. I've looked at the [Las Vegas] track map, and it looks like a track that we'll have to attack. I try not to think about the riders too much and think about the track. There are some really good riders like Jason [Lawrence] and Ryan [Dungey]. The Lites class is probably at an all-time high. There aren't too many standouts that reign over it all."
Boost Mobile Yamaha's Lawrence was the final rider brought to the podium.
"I would like to see how I stand up against Trey and Villopoto,” he said. “But at the same time I want to save myself for the outdoors. I feel confident in the outdoors. I always feel more confident going into the outdoors than I do for Supercross. I think it's going to take a few weeks to wear off [winning the West Lites championship]. The track in Vegas is like a non-watered test track. It will be blue-grooved in the whoops. My plan is that Trey and I battle it out for the win. Two champions battling it out. To see the red background on my bike looks pretty cool. I plan on coming back and defending my title [next year]."
Michigan native Nick Wey currently sits ninth overall after an up-and-down season. Now, after finally recovering from injury and illness he has stepped up his game with improved starts, smooth riding and better results.
"Nick [Wey] has been steadily improving the past few weeks, and we can't wait to see what he'll bring to the table in Vegas," stated MDK KTM Factory Team Manager Steve Lamson. "We haven't given up on Supercross yet. There is one more race left, and we are going to hit the Supercross test track again today in order to prepare as best we can."
His teammate Martin Davalos is awaiting word from his doctor on whether or not he can ride in Las Vegas this weekend after pulling a groin muscle at the St. Louis Supercross. "I have been riding all week, but it is still very sore,” Davalos said. “If I’m not released in time to ride Vegas, I will be healed and ready to go by the first outdoor round."
Also injured is MDK KTM rider Billy Laninovich, who is still recovering from a herniated disc in his lower back. "I’m slowly recovering and looking forward to the outdoor season where I will be joining Nick Wey on the MDK KTM Factory Motocross Team," said Laninovich.
The decision to move Laninovich to the KTM 450SX-F full-time for the outdoors was decided last week.
"Steve [Lamson] and I feel that Billy is better-suited for the 450. He looks more comfortable aboard the larger machine and has stated his preference to race in the Motocross class for outdoors," stated MDK KTM Lites Team Manager Danny Paladino. "Plus, it's always great to have another KTM 450SX-F out on the track."
Contending for the Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Shootout title will be MDK KTM Lites Team riders Ryan Sipes, Justin Brayton and Matt Goerke. All three riders are in great shape and ready to give it their best in Las Vegas.
Monster Energy Kawasaki is geared up for the final Supercross race of the season in Las Vegas. Timmy Ferry is coming into the event fresh off of a top-five result in Seattle that saw him narrowly miss the holeshot award. Even though he missed three races due to injury, the veteran rider is looking to move up to the fifth spot in the final points standings.
"Las Vegas is always a difficult weekend," said Ferry. "It is the last Supercross race of the season, so you want to do well and carry that confidence to the outdoor season. The track is also tough, so I know it is going to be a hard race. I know I can get a good result because I have been riding well this year."
Travis Preston is also looking for a good result in Las Vegas. With James Stewart scheduled to return for the motocross season, Preston is looking at his last race for the Monster Energy Kawasaki team.
"This has been a great opportunity," said Preston. "I hope I can get on the podium this weekend for the team. The guys have been great. It was a tough start for me. I had only been on a bike for a week before I was racing, so it took a while to get my endurance up. You know, everything has been coming together so hopefully we can get on the box."
The unique format for the Supercross Lites class in Las Vegas means all four riders on the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team will be on the track competing in the East/West shootout. All four riders placed in the top five in the final season standings, so each one is a threat for the win.
"I'm really looking forward to this race," said Austin Stroupe, who finished third on the West Coast. "We've had a good season and racing against everyone will be fun. I ride with Ryan [Villopoto] and Branden [Jesseman] at the Kawasaki track and now we'll be able to really race each other."
Ryan Villopoto, who just missed earning the Eastern Regional AMA Supercross Lites class title is also ready to race in Las Vegas.
"We struggled last year in Vegas," said Villopoto. "But this year I think we will be good. Everyone on the team pushes everyone else so hopefully we can all stand on the podium together. It's going to be my last AMA Supercross Lites race and I want to go out with a win."
This weekend's AMA Supercross race at Las Vegas' Sam Boyd Stadium marks the final race in the premier AMA Supercross class and the end-of-season shootout for the AMA Supercross Lites class. Rockstar Makita Suzuki's David Vuillemin will participate in the former, while his AMA Supercross Lites teammates for both West and East Coasts, Ryan Dungey and Nico Izzi, will participate in the latter.
Vuillemin goes into the final AMA Supercross round, having secured a string of top-10 finishes. His outlook for the weekend's Las Vegas race is optimistic.
"Supercross didn't go as planned, since the first race," said Vuillemin. "Too many injuries before and during the season, on top of a lack of off-season preparation. I've done a few races that I’m happy with, but for most of them, I wasn't at 100 percent. I tried to race as much as I could for my sponsors and salvage points, but overall it was a frustrating season for me because I never showed what I was capable of with the Rockstar Makita Suzuki team. Las Vegas is always a special race, because it's the last one but also because of the Vegas atmosphere. I’m hoping to end the season on a good note, then turn the page and focus on the Motocross season. We've been testing a little bit and I feel good on the bike at the motocross tracks."
Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Dungey finished the 2008 season in second-place overall, after winning three AMA Supercross Lites West Coast races. Additionally, during the series' two-month hiatus, Dungey raced select AMA Supercross-class events aboard the RM-Z450 and picked up a podium finish as well as a fourth-place result. Dungey won last year's shootout and is eager to race this weekend.
"I'm feeling really good about the race in Las Vegas," said Dungey. "I like the city, but I really like how both the East and West Coast riders come together. It gives us all a chance to see what kind of speed the other guys have. I know it'll be a dogfight, everybody will be going for it because there are no points and there's no pressure about a championship. It'll be racing just for the fun of it."
Dungey's Rockstar Makita Suzuki AMA Supercross Lites teammate Izzi is also excited about racing in Las Vegas. This year was Izzi's rookie season and he finished fifth overall in the SX Lites East Coast series, with a podium finish and a top-five finish. The remainder of Izzi's results was almost all top-10 finishes.
"It'll be awesome," said Izzi. "There were a lot of fast guys in the East Coast and a lot of fast guys on the West Coast - both series were stacked so it should be one of the crazier years. I'm excited to get the opportunity to be racing with my teammate Ryan. I'm looking forward to getting behind him and learning some stuff. It'll definitely push me a little harder and help me to do better."
The AMA Supercross class will air on SPEED Sunday, May 4 at 6:00 p.m., and the AMA Supercross Lites class race will air on SPEED Saturday, May 10 at 2:00 p.m. CBS Sports will air a season-end recap show Sunday, May 4 at Noon EST.