Can Villopoto Make It Four In A Row At Indy?

| March 15, 2013

Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto’s fifth win of the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, also signified a big night in the point standings for the reigning back-to-back title holder. As the season makes its return to the Midwest and Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium tomorrow night, Villopoto brings in a slim two-point lead over Rockstar Energy Racing’s Davi Millsaps to the 11th race of the Championship.

Villopoto was dominant last weekend at Daytona, grabbing the early lead in the main event and overcoming an early mistake that dropped him to third to reclaim the top spot on lap three and pull away for the win. Over the last four weeks of competition, Villopoto has claimed three wins and a runner-up effort. Additionally, he’s moved from third to first in the 450 class standings, making up a 24-point deficit along the way. Tomorrow, Villopoto returns to arguably his most dominant venue at Indy, where he has stood atop the podium for three consecutive seasons.

“We’re in the best position we’ve been all season,” said Villopoto. “I didn’t expect to be in the points lead this early after how far back we were, but we’ve been consistent and made it back to the top. The dirt is usually pretty good in Indy, but it depends on how the weather has been up there. I’m excited to have the red [number] plate back.”

Fellow Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Jake Weimer is still working his way back from injury. While each week is a progressive step towards getting to the level he was at early in the season, Weimer is still in search of better results. Following a 13th-place effort in Daytona, Weimer is eager to bounce back in Indy.

“Indy should be a good weekend,” said Weimer. “The past few weeks haven’t gone my way, but we had fun this week so it should be good. I showed I had the speed to battle up front at the beginning of the season and I feel like that is back.”

Millsaps had controlled the 450 class standings since capturing the win at the opening race of the season in Anaheim. Through the first eight races of the championship, Millsaps captured two victories and finished off the podium just once, in fourth. However, in back-to-back weeks he’s had season-worst results of sixth and 10th in St. Louis and Daytona, respectively. Despite losing control of the championship, Millsaps still boasts the best average finish of any rider in the class this season and will look to bounce back inside a venue he finished third in one year ago.

“Well, Daytona was the worst race of the season so far, so I got that out of my way,” said Millsaps. “Now it’s time to climb my way back up to the top. It’s Supercross, and it’s going to happen. Other guys had bad races and now I just got rid of mine.”

Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey captured his first podium finish in two races at Daytona, putting forth one of his most impressive efforts of the season. Dungey overcame a midpack start in the main event to eventually battle his way into third place and then catch second place just a few laps later. By virtue of his first runner-up finish of the season, Dungey minimized the points he lost to Villopoto and enters Indy 14 points out of the lead in third. Dungey shares the same finishing average as Villopoto through this point in the season.

After several weeks of tough outings, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard showed the speed he had earlier in the season in Daytona. The Honda rider battled in the front portion of the field for most of the main event and ultimately settled for a solid sixth-place result, one of his best finishes of the past six races. He now sits in a tie for fourth in the championship heading into Indy.

“It has been a rough couple of weeks for me,” said Canard. “I gave all my effort [in Daytona], but I know that I have some things I need to work on. I’m happy to be healthy and moving onto the next race.”

Fellow Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Justin Barcia was in the thick of the battle for the lead early in the Daytona main event, his first as a 450-class rider. After being passed by Villopoto, Barcia settled into second place but ultimately gave up the position to Dungey. Nevertheless, given the difficult conditions riders are faced with at Daytona, Barcia performed well in his big bike debut and is looking forward to Indy, where he can continue to close the gap on fourth in the championship.

“I am happy with how Daytona went and love being up on the podium,” said Barcia. “I want to win, but both Ryan’s were riding really good, so I was happy just to be up [on the podium] with them. The track was brutal and felt like an outdoor race for me. I rode the best I could and had a lot of fun.”

TwoTwo Motorsports Honda rider Chad Reed was excited about his return to Daytona, where he is a three-time winner. Reed was fast aboard his Honda and looked like he could contend for a win, but after midpack starts in his Heat Race and the main event, combined with crashes in each, Reed was forced to battle his way through the field the entire evening. Nevertheless, he made the most of his misfortune and in the end managed to finish fifth, which helped him move into a tie for fourth in the championship with Canard. Reed is one of only two riders to ever win inside Lucas Oil Stadium, joining Villopoto in this elite group.

“On paper that was not the result I was hoping for, but there were still plenty of positives,” Reed said. “The bike was fast and it felt good to be able to get back up, race hard and move up through the order in both my Heat and the Main. It was crazy out there, the track was gnarly and the ruts just got deeper, every lap there was someone off. Overall I felt good and I was competitive. We took a lot out of [Daytona].”

After turning things around in recent weeks and now consistently challenging for wins, Team Yohsimura Suzuki’s James Stewart hoped to keep the momentum going in Daytona. After an impressive effort in his heat race, Stewart looked to duplicate that effort in the main event, but after a midpack start and an early fall, he settled into a spot inside the top 10 and brought home an eighth-place finish. He’ll refocus his efforts on a second win this season at Indy.

“All day long [in Daytona], I felt pretty good,” said Stewart. “I qualified second in practice and I was happy about how I rode in my Heat Race. But then I made a pretty significant change with the tire between the heat race and the main event and I completely went the wrong way. In the start of the main event, I got kind of cross-rutted coming out of the gate, but I was able to sneak around the inside and came out fourth or fifth. But, I struggled from lap one to lap 20. The Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 worked great, I just picked the wrong tire and that was that. We’ll be back. I want to thank the Yoshimura Suzuki team, the last four races have been really good for us and I hate it that we got these results because of a decision that I made. I felt great going into the race and my endurance was good. But we’ll be back, there’s still a lot to fight for this year and we’ll get ’em at Indy.”

In three races aboard the BTO Sports KTM machine, Andrew Short is still in search of the consistency that helped him capture almost weekly top-10 finishes early in the season. Since joining the team in Atlanta, Short has just a best result of 10th and will continue to dial in the bike as the season heads to Indy tomorrow night. Despite the up-and-down results of late, Short still maintains control of eighth in the championship.

GEICO Honda rider Eli Tomac, the current Western Regional 250-class points leader, competed in his third race during a guest appearance in the 450 class this season. After mixed results the two weeks prior, Tomac experienced his best effort aboard the big bike in Daytona, almost battling his way to a spot on the podium. The fourth-place finish gave Tomac confidence aboard the 450 Honda and he will look to possibly make another surprise run at the podium inside Lucas Oil Stadium.

“I finally rode like I know how to and felt really comfortable on the bike,” said Tomac. “I didn’t get the best start, but I was able to relax and make the passes I needed. I’m learning a lot this time on the 450 and definitely feel like I know what it takes to ride at this level.”

Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX’s Justin Brayton had a tough outing in Daytona, encountering misfortune en route to a 20th-place finish in the main event. Despite that, Brayton still sits ninth in the standings and will look to rebound tomorrow night at a venue where he grabbed a runner-up finish one year ago.

In four races of Eastern Regional 250-class Championship competition, three different riders have stood atop the podium. Through it all, GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn has emerged as the rider to beat, claiming two wins and finishing on the podium in each race, the only rider to do so. Hahn brings in a five-point lead into Indy as the championship leader and will look to keep his stellar start to the season going.

“I was satisfied with a second last weekend,” Hahn said. “The heat win really helped my confidence heading into the night, so that was cool. I got a fourth-place start in the main and just tried to stay consistent and capitalize on any mistakes that were made in front of me. I wanted to win, but by the time I got into second, Marvin (Musquin) was gone.”

Hahn’s GEICO Honda teammate Zach Bell is still learning what it takes to be consistent in the pro ranks. The rookie rider has arguably the most raw speed of any rider in the class, but has yet to find the consistency to make him a consistent threat.

“I had a really good heat race finishing second behind Wil (Hahn), so I wanted to work off that,” said Bell. “But the main didn’t go as well as I had hoped. I got a great start but came together with Dean (Wilson) and fell down. I made my way back up to eighth, but towards the end I fell again and finished 18th.”

Many expected Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson to be the rider to beat in the Eastern Regional Championship, but since grabbing the win at the opening race, he’s yet to claim another checkered flag. Wilson suffered from his worst outing of the young season in Daytona, finishing off the podium for the first time, and now facing a five-point deficit in the championship this weekend in Indy, he’s looking for nothing less than a win.

“We are still very much in this championship,” said Wilson. “We’re only five points back with five rounds remaining. I have everything I need to win races and plan to do so.”

Fellow Pro Circuit rider Justin Hill continues to improve each week. The rookie rider endured his toughest test of the season in Daytona to finish with a solid sixth-place result and will look to keep it going tomorrow night. He currently sits sixth in the championship standings.

“I had a strong week leading into Indy,” said Hill. “I’ve been working hard on pushing myself and maintaining my pace throughout the full 15 laps [of the main event]. We’ll be ready in Indy.”

Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin has been chasing his first career Monster Energy Supercross victory for over a year. The French rider has incredible speed and the ability to challenge for the win, but he had yet to put it all together until last weekend in Daytona. After a perfectly-timed start out of the gate in the main event, Musquin held off an early charge from Wilson to eventually pull away from the field and claim that maiden victory on U.S. soil. The triumphant effort also moved him to third in the championship, 14 points out of the lead.

Rockstar Energy Racing’s Blake Wharton had to overcome a tough start in Daytona, but the veteran rider did well to battle his way through the field and ultimately finish fifth. While he lost third in the championship to Musquin, Wharton is two points from reclaiming the position. He will defend his Indy victory from one year ago tomorrow night.

“[Daytona] was a gnarly track,” said Wharton. “It is always gnarly; technical, dark, shadowy with deep sand. It definitely wasn’t my best night. I was off for sure. If this can be my worst night and still be at least in the top five, that’s alright. It was just an average night for me. I didn’t get the starts I would have liked either. Next weekend is Indy and I won that last year, so that’s always good.”

Broadcast coverage of the 450 class and 250 class will air live on SPEED, tomorrow night, March 16, beginning at 7:30 p.m. SupercrossLIVE! will stream three hours of practice and qualifying at beginning at 2 p.m. ET.

By Denny Hartwig/Feld Motorsports