Clear blue skies and temperatures in the 60s greeted riders, media and industry at Angel Stadium today for the Supercross press day. This year, dark clouds aren’t threatening to spoil the opening round of the season, yet a different type of “doom and gloom” still hangs over the AMA Supercross paddock. The economy has taken a crippling toll on many in the industry, making it a bigger challenge than ever to go racing. But the good news is there are still many teams ready and gunning for Anaheim I – round one of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship.
JGR Yamaha’s Josh Grant was present at the conference, fresh off a crash on the practice track in which he rang his bell pretty hard. Grant had on sunglasses which he only momentarily removed to reveal two shiners. Grant is not 100 percent sure if he is going to race on Saturday, but says he’ll wait and see how he feels.Grant was the winner of Anaheim I last year in one of the biggest upsets of the season. The Joe Gibbs Racing has some new sponsorship for 2010, including Muscle Milk and Shift Racing, and the team is definitely looking forward to more podiums and more wins this season.“That was probably the best moment of my entire life,” Grant said of his win last year. “That feeling was unreal! Every time I win a race it’s going to be exactly like that.”
Heading into his rookie year in the premier class is Ryan Dungey. The Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider is coming off a banner year in 2009 in which he won the 250cc Supercross championship, the AMA Motocross Championship and led the U.S. team to victory in the Motocross of Nations. Dungey talked about taking the final step up and what he is expecting in 2010.“I really want to come out strong. I think after the first round, we’ll see where everyone’s at. It’s a long season – my first full supercross season. So to be consistent, healthy, safe, to be right up there and challenge with the top guys, that’s what I really want. But we’ll just try to put ourselves in a good position, take one race at a time and do like we know how to best. That’s all I can ask of myself and to give it my all. Hopefully that’ll put us where we want to be.”
Ryan Villopoto is fresh off a few wins (if you consider last May “fresh”). Before injuring his knee and opting for reconstructive surgery last summer after a crash at Hangtown, Villopoto was gaining momentum in the stadiums. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider is now entering his sophomore year in the premier class, and is looking forward to picking up where he left off.
Villopoto talked about taking the summer off from racing – something he hasn’t done since the start of his pro career.
“It was nice,” RV commented. “It was bummer on one side of it because I could have been out there winning races and probably could have won the championship but on the other side of it, I didn’t really have to do anything. Just work on my knee and didn’t have to pay attention to anybody or have any obligations to anybody.”Villopoto will also be sharing the Monster Energy Kawasaki rig with rival Chad Reed for the ’10 season. But remembering the ’08 season when he was on the Pro Circuit Kawasaki team with Ben Townley, Villopoto knows what it’s like to share the rig with a fellow title contender.“I’ve dealt with this type of situation before with Ben [Townley] in outdoors where me and Ben were both the guys that were supposed to win the championship and we were under the same truck. So I just have to deal with it like that. We just gotta stay level-headed and make sure you respect who you’re racing against – especially your teammate.”
Chad Reed showed up at Angel Stadium for the first time donning a green shirt. The newly-signed Monster Energy Kawasaki rider is heading into his first year of a two-year contract with the team.In the thick of the championship battle all the way to the bitter end (very bitter end), Reed had a disappointing and dramatic season last year. But with a renewed spirit and an all-new program, Reed says he’s ready to shake off the frustrations of last year and focus on a better 2010 season.In another interview, Reed talked about how it got harder to beat guys like Carmichael and Stewart the more personal their battle became. But the AMA Motocross Champion talked about putting last year behind him and facing his competition this year with a different mentality.“A lot happened last year and I was frustrated for many reasons. For that, you move on. You reset the clock and try to not make the same mistakes twice and try to improve in laces that you feel you need to. I think it’ll be a good 2010. I think I have what it takes to win races and win the title. Last year winning more races would have got the job done. Whether it was one race, two races more, who knows? At the end of the day, we all put the effort in to win races. Last year I wasn’t able to achieve that. I only won three races and I thought that was pretty [lame]! I wanted to win a lot more than that! [laughs] I’m going into this new year wanting to win and put myself in that position to win.”
Another rider wishing to put the challenges and frustrations of last year behind him is James Stewart. The San Manuel Yamaha rider started off last year with a DNF, and from there, fought an uphill battle to reclaim the points lead. Stewart talked about last year’s season and claiming his hardest-earned title.“I think 2009 was a fun year being a fan, but also for me it was an emotionally tough year. The biggest challenge was to come to the races just trying to mentally get focused, knowing that race I have to win (to overcome the 17-point deficit). Not coming to the races like, ‘Alright, I can get second or get on the podium.’ I gotta win. I did that for seven weeks. All that basically to just get a three-point lead. So that was tough.“But at the end of the day, I won the championship. Hopefully this year [winning the championship] won’t be like that.”
Stewart was presented with his Supercross Championship ring during the press conference – a ring which he hopes to keep on his finger this time and not have to hand over at the end of the year.
The gate drops in less than 48 hours at the Angel Stadium of Anaheim, and only then will we see what kind of season we’re in store for. Tune in to SPEED Channel for live coverage of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross season opener beginning at 7 p.m. PT or tune in to Supercross LIVE! on www.supercrossonline.com.