The AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF begins its final month of action this weekend as the Honda Spring Creek Motocross National Presented by Scott USA kicks-off a three-week stretch to close out the season on August 16-17. This marks the 26th year of AMA Toyota Motocross in beautiful Millville, Minn. The series returns to action after a two-week hiatus. At the last round in Washougal, Washington, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s James Stewart continued his run at perfection and his first career AMA Motocross Championship, cruising to the overall victory. With an impressive 145-point advantage, he can wrap up the title by maintaining at least a 100-point lead over teammate Tim Ferry after Millville.
“I’m still looking at this one race at a time,” explained Stewart. “I still have the same goal I set at the start of the season. First I wanted to make the Glen Helen race, which I did and then I wanted to win the championship. I’m close to the championship and I just need to keep doing what I’m doing to make sure I’ll win it.”
Ferry is the only other AMA Motocross class rider with a mathematical shot at overcoming Stewart. He took advantage of the time off to relax a little in preparation for this weekend’s action. “I took some time off,” stated Ferry. “I spent some time on the couch because it has been a long season. Obviously I know how to ride a motorcycle so taking some time to relax isn’t going to hurt me. I love going to Millville. It’s a good track for me. It’s rough and it has a bunch of sand in it. It is a real outdoor track. You can make up time during the moto because there are a lot of different lines.”
In AMA Motocross Lites, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto left his home state with his considerable points lead intact, but had his seven-race winning streak snapped. With his second runner-up finish of the season, Villopoto can wrap up his third consecutive AMA Motocross Lites title, joining elite company in Ricky Carmichael, Mark Barnett, and Broc Glover as the only riders to ever accomplish such a feat.
“Millville is a good track,” said Villopoto. “I’m riding good and I’m ready to start racing again. I can’t say I didn’t think about wrapping up the championship during the break, but I know I just need to stay consistent. Ryan (Dungey) took the overall at my home track so hopefully I can return the favor this week at his home track.”
Brett Metcalfe’s second half run towards the top of the standings continued in Washougal. After finishing fourth overall, he solidified his spot at third in the points. After battling through injury throughout the season, he welcomed the break.
“The break was really good,” said Metcalfe. “I’m sure a lot of guys took the time to relax and I kind of did the same. I’m finally back around 100 percent so I did ride a lot. I’ve only had limited practice on the bike because of my injuries so with the time on the track I’m really confident heading to Millville.”
At Rockstar/Makita Suzuki, it has been all smiles throughout the team after Ryan Dungey fended off Washington-native Villopoto for his first AMA Motocross Lites victory. Now, the series current runner-up is motivated more than ever to keep his Kawasaki rival from winning the championship. He is peaking at the perfect time as the series heads into his home state, where Villopoto will undoubtedly want to return the favor.
“I’m definitely pumped to get my first outdoor win,” explained Dungey. “That was a big step forward for me in my future. It’s great to just know how it feels to win. Coming into Millville this weekend, I’m just really pumped to be going into my home track race this year. It’s a really enjoyable track, and this will be the first time I’ve ridden there this year so it’ll be new and fresh for me. Also, I’ll have a lot of friends and family there, so that’ll be pretty special. At the same time, I’ll try to take it like any other race.”
Teammate Nico Izzi continued his solid second half run with another top-10 finish. He currently sits an impressive fifth place in the standings in his rookie AMA Motocross Lites campaign. The young rider is as ready as ever for this weekend’s action returning to the site of his professional debut.
“With a few weeks off between races, I did a little bit more training and stepped up the intensity,” said Izzi. “I did a little bit more running, a little bit more riding and just generally stepped it up to see if it will help out at Millville. This race was the first outdoor (race) I did last year as a pro and I’m looking forward to racing there again with a little more experience under my belt.”
In AMA Motocross, Michael Byrne continues to climb up the points standings, posting his third podium finish over the last four races. The result helped Byrne maintain his chase for third place in the points, now just 10 points behind. With his recent wave of momentum, he wishes the series kept racing through the time off.
“I really only took five or six days off during the few weeks that we had off,” said Byrne. “I just hung out and lived a normal life for a few days. Even though it was nice to have a bit of a break, I kind of wish we hadn’t had those weeks off. It would have been better to have just gotten the last races done with. But I’ve been back to riding and training this week and I’m hoping to build on the good results we had before the break. I’m looking forward to getting back to racing this weekend at Millville.”
Over at the Red Bull Honda stable, three bikes will be on track for the first time since June 28 at Thunder Valley. Andrew Short has been leading the way for Honda throughout the season. He currently sits third in the standings and posted a runner-up finish at Washougal. Ivan Tedesco makes his triumphant return to the series after being forced to sit out of action with injury since the second moto at Thunder Valley. Honda will welcome a new face this weekend in Millville, calling upon impressive privateer rider Jimmy Alberston to close out the season. Thanks to his recent string of strong runs, Albertson earned the opportunity to impress on a factory ride and he’s excited about it.
“I can’t wait to go racing this weekend,” exclaimed Albertson. “Having the opportunity to ride for the Honda factory team is awesome and it’s not something I am going to take lightly. I am really keen to get out there and show everyone what I can do when I have the best equipment to ride on. With only three rounds left in the championship I will be going hard at it to grab as many championship points as I can.”
The AMA Motocross Lites squad at GEICO Powersports Honda suffered a big blow in Washougal as Trey Canard suffered a broken leg on the final lap of the race, marking the end of the season for him. On the positive side, Josh Grant grabbed third overall and led a large portion of the first moto after grabbing the BTOSports.com Holeshot Award. Jake Weimer grabbed a pair of sixth-place finishes for sixth overall. At Factory Yamaha, Broc Hepler is expected to race for the first time in 2008, making a comeback from injury. He will join Josh Hill, who has been the flag bearer for Yamaha all season, and Sean Hamblin, who has made the best of his opportunity with the factory team.