This Week In Supercross: Phoenix

Cycle News Staff | January 11, 2013

The following is from Feld Motor Sports…

With four different 450SX class champions lined up at last weekend’s Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship season opener, no one ever expected Rockstar Energy Racing’s Davi Millsaps, who has not won a Main Event since 2010, to take the checkered flag at Angel Stadium. Millsaps won his fourth career Main Event and, for the first time in his career, owns the championship points lead as the racing heads to Phoenix’s Chase Field tomorrow night. SPEED will broadcast the race live at 9:30 p.m. ET, and SupercrossLIVE!® will stream three hours of practice and qualifying at beginning at 4:00 p.m. ET.

Millsaps led the first 16 laps of the Main Event before being passed by Honda/Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard. Canard led the next three laps and in dramatic fashion, Millsaps made a last-lap pass to win his first-ever season opening race. His margin of victory was 2.297 seconds, setting the stage for one of the most parity-packed seasons of all time.

“When Trey Canard passed me I was like this is like Salt Lake City all over again,” said Millsaps, who led 19 of 20 laps in Salt Lake City last year only to be passed by eventual winner Ryan Dungey. “I knew I had a good line, though, and I just pinned it in the whoops and I got back by him. I don’t think anyone really expected this. It was a new program, bike and team for me. We’ve all been working really hard during the off season to come out and do the best we can. To see where we are and where we need to be, even though we won, it’s all building blocks from here. We’ll go back and see how we can make it even better. It’s been like that the whole time. It’s really cool that Rockstar Energy Racing, Bobby Hewitt and Dave Gowland have given me the opportunity and stood behind me. It’s like a family.”

Canard put together a remarkable performance for a young man who a year ago suffered a broken back that nearly ended his career. The winner of three career Main Events, Canard, like Millsaps, was not expected to turn in this awe-inspiring performance in his first race back.

“Tonight went better than I could have ever dreamed,” said Canard. “I really had no set number or expectations coming into this race except to give it 100 percent effort and I am beyond grateful to even be lining up on the gate. I hope to be able to continue this throughout the year and hopefully get a win, but mostly I just want to be there every weekend.”

Red Bull KTM’s Dungey, who is known for his consistency, finished third, marking his 36th podium in 50 starts.

Two-time 450SX Class Champion Chad Reed played it safe, finishing fourth overall.

“A bit of a disappointing weekend in Anaheim, but we are putting it behind us and moving on to this weekend,” said Reed. “I rode a lot this week and we worked on some things and I’m looking forward to Phoenix.”

Canard’s teammate Justin Barcia made his premier class debut, finding himself in the number-3 position until he suffered a crash on Lap 15. Barcia, who won the Monster Energy Cup in October, finished seventh.

“Overall my first race went pretty well; I won my heat race, which was cool, and got a good start in the main,” said Barcia. “I was in third behind Trey most of the race until I accidently hit neutral causing me to crash, but I was able to get up and finish in seventh.”

Two-time defending Monster Energy Supercross Champion Ryan Villopoto finished a disappointing 16th, crashing three times in the Main Event. However, he is ready to capitalize on his lackluster performance this weekend in Phoenix.

“We had a really good week of testing heading into Chase Field,” said Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Villopoto. “Last week was not what we were looking for, but we’ll come into Phoenix fresh and ready to finish where we belong. I’ve never won a 450SX main in Phoenix, so we plan to change that on Saturday.”

Villopoto’s teammate Jake Weimer finished fifth overall, and after a finishing in the top five at eighth races in 2012, he is ready to make his approach to the podium in 2013.

“We had a solid weekend to build from in Anaheim,” said Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Weimer. “The bike was awesome, so we’re just looking to improve on last week’s fifth place. I feel that the podium is achievable and we were up there last year in Phoenix, so we plan to be there again this weekend.”

Yohsimura Suzuki’s James Stewart demonstrated tremendous discipline throughout the evening’s racing. After tweaking his knee and opting out of the opening ceremonies to rest, Stewart put in a smart ride in his eight-lap heat race. The talented rider got a great start on his Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 and led the first half of the race before finishing third. In the 20-lap Main Event, Stewart again played it safe and simply kept it on two wheels. As a result, the two-time 450SX Class Supercross Champion finished well within the top 10 and was happy to pick up as many points as possible in just the first race of a long, 17-round series.

“Things started out pretty good in Anaheim,” said Stewart. “We were fastest in practice and top qualifier. We had some really good speed and the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 was working great all day. Then I had a little mishap in practice; I didn’t fall over, I just caught my knee wrong. That turned my night around right there. Honestly up until then I felt like we had a win in us. We finished eighth, but with the pain and being able to finish in the top 10, I feel like I won the race. The knee is a bit banged up, but we’re going to Phoenix and hopefully get things rolling from there. The points are wide open right now, the competition finished all over the board, so even though we had an off night, we’re right there in points.”

Kevin Windham began his 18th professional season with a 10th-place result in the 450SX Class. Windham had qualified sixth in his Heat race.

“My goal was to ride hard but ride smart at the same time,” said Windham. “I need to build my confidence back up. Obviously riding safe isn’t going to translate to wins and I know I’ll need to turn it up a notch, but tonight was really about keeping it on two wheels. There was a lot of carnage out there with guys going for broke. I didn’t think it was time for me to push it that hard.”

After showing that he can compete with the top guys at the Monster Energy Cup back in October by finishing fourth in the first two Main Events and taking the third Main Event win, defending Western Regional 250SX Champion Tomac continued his winning ways with an impressive opening race win at Anaheim.

“Starts are so key for racing,” said Tomac. “If you don’t get a good start it can really put you out of rhythm for the whole race, which seems to be what happened in my heat. Luckily, I got a good start in the main and was able to set a comfortable pace that allowed me to keep a good gap on [Ken] Roczen. The No. 1 plate motivates me. I don’t think of it as a weight around my shoulders. I worked hard to get it and I will work even harder to keep it. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”

Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson recorded a career-best fourth place finish at Anaheim.

“I started off a little rough in practice,” said Anderson. “We made some improvements to the bike and some suspension adjustments. Then I carried in my syndrome of bad starts from last year, but I broke that habit in the main. I came out of the first turn, dudes endoing in front of me in the middle of the rhythm section, and was able to start just out of the top five. I was able to work my way into fourth. I wasn’t able to get around Cole Seely for a podium but I made it through A1. Now we will build on this going into Phoenix.

Anderson’s teammate and 2012 Indianapolis winner Ryan Sipes finished sixth aboard his new ride.

“I felt like it was an ok night,” said Sipes. “Obviously sixth place is not where we want to be, but everything was there except the start. I felt comfortable and I felt like my speed was right there. If we start in the top three, we will finish in the top three and be in the hunt for a win. Those guys looked really good out there but I felt very strong.”

GEICO Honda’s newest addition Zach Osborne had a successful first race aboard his CRF450R, grabbing a second in his heat and finishing a respectable seventh-place in the main after going down in the first turn.

“I enjoyed myself all day and I feel like a great weight has been lifted. All the first-race jitters are gone now and I can just ride my bike and get some podiums.”

Troy Lee Designs/ Lucas Oil/ Honda’s Cole Seely put together a solid race finishing third overall on the podium. Seely won last year’s season opener in Anaheim and turned in a strong first performance since his injury last year in Salt Lake City.

“I haven’t raced since Salt Lake City, so I came into the day a little nervous and tight,” stated Seely. “After I was able to loosen up and get more comfortable I started to ride like myself, so I’m really happy how the night went. A third is awesome, and it set me up good for the points chase so I’m hoping to just stay consistent and get some wins.”

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Tyla Rattray finished eighth overall in his 250SX Class season opener.

“I was happy with my finish last week in Anaheim,” said Rattray. “I just wanted to get through the weekend healthy and now we can move forward. We made a few adjustments this week to improve the bike and help me feel comfortable and able to push the limits. Phoenix is always a good track and great city, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Rattray’s teammate Blake Baggett, an early favorite for the Western Regional 250SX Class title, was involved in an early crash, but mustered a 14th-place finish.

“The team and I have been working really hard so last week was disappointing,” said Baggett. “We pushed through and salvaged as many points as we could last week. Now we just have to play catch up.”

After winning his Heat Race, Martin Davalos, of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team, played catch-up following the same pile-up that Baggett was involved in.

“I’m really looking forward to this weekend in Phoenix,” said Davalos. “Last week we were really prepared and I felt great in my heat race. Unfortunately, first lap I got caught up in a pile-up and my bike was too damaged to continue. We’ll go into Phoenix with the same confidence as last weekend and look to finish on top of the box.”