Two big winners left Salt Lake City with title hopes high, and for others, championship hopes were blown after disaster struck. Among the fortunate riders at Utah’s Rice-Eccles Stadium were Ryan Villopoto and Eli Tomac. And the unfortunate – Josh Hansen and James Stewart.
Small snow flurries came and went throughout the night program, and ominous skies threatened to spoil the penultimate Supercross round all week, but ultimately, most riders called it the best Salt Lake City round they’d raced. The course was tight, technical and short, with lap times only around 45 seconds. It made for quick main events, and limited anyone’s abilities to do damage control. In the Lites main event, Hansen was the one who could have used a longer race in order to climb back up through the field. In the premier class main, it was James Stewart.
James Stewart started out his main event well, and grabbed the holeshot and the early lead. Stewart quickly checked out and looked all but untouchable, until…
The San Manuel L&M Racing Yamaha rider washed out in a turn just before the whoop section and hit the ground. Stewart remounted quickly, only to fall again halfway into the whoops. He slipped all the way back in the field to 15th after having to pull into the mechanics area and have his front wheel kicked back into place.
The advantage was Villopoto’s, but the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider was less focused on Stewart, however, and more focused on Chad Reed who was hot on his tail. Reed is the rider who Villopoto needed to gain points on, and inheriting the lead gave him the opportunity he needed to take an even bigger advantage in the points.
Villopoto kept his lead over Reed to the finish, with Dungey following in third to take the last podium position. Andrew Short finished fourth and Davi Millsaps rounded out the top-five.
Villopoto’s win gives him a nine-point lead in the championship with only one round remaining. All Villopoto needs is a top-five finish in Las Vegas to get his first title wrapped up. Reed sits nine points back with Dungey a mere three points behind him in third. Stewart’s 10th place finish leaves him 23 points away from the championship, sitting a distant fourth in points.
Supercross Main Event Results
1. Ryan Villopoto
2. Chad Reed
3. Ryan Dungey
4. Andrew Short
5. Davi Millsaps
6. Kevin Windham
7. Jake Weimer
8. Tommy Hahn
9. Justin Brayton
10. James Stewart
Like Stewart, the race started out well for Hansen, who quickly tried to muscle his way into the lead on the opening lap of the Lites main event. But GEICO Powersports Honda’s Eli Tomac had control of the race at the end of the opening lap. A few turns into the second lap, Hansen tried to make an aggressive move on Tomac in a 180-degree turn, but the move backfired on the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider. Hansen ended up on the ground while Eli slipped away with the lead, and adding insult to injury, Hansen was stuck underneath his KX250F while the entire field paraded by. Hansen flailed and squirmed his way out from under the bike in time to remount in dead last, leaving Tomac to ride the rest of his race unheaded to the finish.
Behind Tomac, the field eventually tightened up into a four-way battle for second. Ken Roczen of the Red Bull KTM squad made his return to the AMA Supercross Lites West Series after taking several weeks to get his FIM World Motocross GP season started back home in Europe. Roczen was impressive in Salt Lake, and was looking more aggressive than ever. The young German made his way past Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle to overtake second place. Tickle didn’t let him get far, however. He stayed right on Roczen’s rear wheel, and meanwhile, Troy Lee Designs Honda rider Cole Seely and DNA Shred Stix/Star Yamaha’s Kyle Cunningham pulled up to join the train. Their close racing in the last few laps had the Utah crowd going, but their positions didn’t change.
Roczen claimed second place – a career-best finish for him, as well as for the KTM team. Tickle maintained a strong third place, a finish that is good enough to put him into the lead in the Lites West points chase. Tickle now holds the lead by two points over Tomac, which pits the two riders against each other a winner-take-all showdown in Las Vegas next week. Hansen’s dismal 13th place finish has all but dashed his championship hopes.
Lites Main Event Top-Ten Results
1. Eli Tomac
2. Ken Roczen
3. Broc Tickle
4. Cole Seely
5. Kyle Cunningham
6. Tyla Rattray
7. Ryan Morais
8. Martin Davalos
9. Travis Baker
10. Ben Evans