The 450 class leaves the starting gate at the Houston Supercross. Photography by Hoppenworld.com
For the first time in four seasons, Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, will head to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in Minneapolis. The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome will be the site of the 14th race of the 2013 season.
After claiming his fifth consecutive win of the season in Houston one week ago, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto carries a 21-point lead into Minneapolis with just four races remaining.
Villopoto was dominant on the way to his championship-leading eighth victory. After a strong start, Villopoto slipped past early leader Mike Alessi on the opening lap and went on to lead all 20 laps of the main event, lapping up to ninth place. The win put Villopoto within one victory of tying his career best single-season win total of nine, set one season ago, and also extended his lead in the championship to nearly an entire race.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been to the Metrodome,” said Villopoto. “Last time we were I got the win in the 250 class and I’m looking to get the win in the 450 class as well. The dirt was really slick then, so we’ll see how it is come Saturday. These last few races are extremely important to stay focused and finish strong.”
Fellow Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Jake Weimer posted his second straight top-10 finish in Houston, slipping just inside the top 10 in ninth. Weimer has picked up the pace in recent weeks and could challenge for a top five finish with a strong start.
“It’s clear where we need to be and what we’re capable of,” said Weimer. “We’re taking the proper steps to get there and I feel like we make progress every week. This will be my first time racing in Minneapolis so I’m looking forward to it.”
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Davi Millsaps made his anticipated return to the podium two races ago in Toronto and hoped the momentum would carry into Houston. Unfortunately, Millsaps got caught in the swarm of riders that gathered following a crash on the opening lap and was forced to come from behind the entire main event. After crossing the finish line in ninth on the opening lap, Millsaps battled his way to a solid fifth-place finish, but ended up losing valuable ground in the championship.
“Last weekend was just okay,” said Millsaps. “This weekend will be better.”
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey extended his podium streak to four races following a runner-up finish in Houston. While Dungey has consistently been Villopoto’s most formidable challenger over the last five races, he’s giving up points to his championship rival every week. As a result, Dungey sits 25 points out of the lead in third, a full race behind, but is heading to his hometown race tomorrow night. The championship’s previous visit to Minneapolis in 2008 served as a breakout race for Dungey, who shocked the crowd and industry with a runner-up finish in just his third-career start. Dungey was a full-time 250-class competitor at the time and was racing in the 450 class as a fill-in for an injured teammate.
Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia took over fourth place in the championship standings following his sixth consecutive top-five finish. Barcia was in the front portion of the field in the early stages of the main event, and ultimately settled for a fourth-place result, just missing out on the podium. He knows he has the speed to be in podium position more consistently and will look to get back on the box tomorrow night.
“I would’ve preferred to be on the podium, but overall it was an okay day,” said Barcia. “I felt good in practice and was able to get a good gate pick heading into the Heat. I made a mistake at the beginning of the heat but was able to come back and finish right behind Trey [Canard] in second. In the main event I didn’t get a great start, but finished fourth.”
After missing a race with a concussion, fellow Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Trey Canard returned to action with his best race in over two months. Canard was fast all night in Houston, winning his heat race and starting at the front of the field in the main event. He battled Dungey for second place early on and ultimately secured his first podium finish since the final race at Anaheim, 10 races ago. He’s in position to take over fifth in the championship this weekend.
“I am just grateful to be here,” stated Canard. “This is probably the most clear-headed I have been in weeks and that was probably the best day I have had all season. My result at Anaheim [season opener] was better, but overall [Houston] was great. It has been a long time since I have won a heat race and that really helped heading into the main. I did the best that I could and that is all I can ask for, so I was grateful to be on the podium.”
TwoTwo Motorsports Honda’s Chad Reed was out of action in Houston following surgery to repair the knee he injured last season. The timetable for Reed’s return is uncertain, but he could be back in action this weekend as his recovery has gone well. The TwoTwo Motorsports race rig is in Minneapolis, prepared to put Reed out on the track if he’s ready.
Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart was, once again, a threat to challenge for the win in Houston. The former champion was at the front of the field in the early stages of the main event and got as high as third before crashing and ultimately recording a DNF. With four races remaining, Stewart would like nothing more than to get back to the top of the podium before the season ends.
BTO Sports KTM’s Andrew Short raced to another top-10 finish in Houston, bringing home a seventh-place finish. Short has finished inside the top 10 for the last three weeks and will look to keep the momentum going and possibly challenge for a top-five finish over the final month of competition.
Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX’s Justin Brayton has had an up and down second half of the season, but in Houston he posted his best finish since the championship last visited the state of Texas in Dallas. Brayton’s sixth-place finish helped extend his advantage over 10th in the standings and provided a much-needed boost in confidence and the season begins to wind down.
RCH Racing/Dodge/Sycuan Suzuki’s Broc Tickle lost some ground to Brayton in Houston, but still managed to leave with a 10th-place finish, maintaining control of that spot in the championship. Tickle has finished inside the top 10 in three of the last four races and is looking for more consistency from here on out.
Ironically, only five of the riders who qualified for the main event in Minneapolis in 2008 are potentially going to be in action on Saturday – Josh Hill, who won in 2008, Dungey, Short, Millsaps, and Reed.
Tomorrow night marks the penultimate race of the Eastern Regional 250-class Championship, which will take a two-week break from action before the season finale in Las Vegas. Last weekend, the division welcomed its fourth different winner of the season, setting the stage for a captivating night of racing in Minneapolis.
GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn has had sole possession of the championship lead since St. Louis and has two wins to his credit. In Houston, Hahn just missed out on his third win of the season, but still managed to secure a runner-up finish that ultimately extended his points lead to eight coming into tomorrow night. He still also remains the only rider in the championship to finish on the podium at each race.
“I’m definitely happy with that result,” Hahn said. “I obviously wanted to win, but being able to gain some points this late in the season is great. I rode good all day, felt confident in practice, won my heat and was riding great in the main. I made a few mistakes but overall I am happy; we maintained the points lead and the red plate will stay on the GEICO Honda heading into Minneapolis.”
Red Bull KTM’s Marvin Musquin carried a three-race win streak into Houston and was in position to make it four in a row until an early crash left him alone in third for the majority of the main event. Despite his misfortune, Musquin still has a lot of momentum and will look to add to his class-leading win total tomorrow.
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Blake Wharton has been close to winning on several occasions this season, but in Houston he broke through for his third-career victory. Wharton led for virtually the entire 15-lap main event, but had to fend off strong challenges from both Musquin and Hahn in order to do so. It was a great moment for the entire Rockstar Energy Racing team, which along with Red Bull KTM has claimed victories in both the 250 class and 450 class this season.
“I thought the track was good,” said Wharton. “There were big whoops, a big finish line jump and some big bowl turns. It’s nice to go back to Texas and see my family. That was the first race my grandpa had ever been to in his life. He had never been to one while my dad was racing, during my amateur career or since I have been racing professionally. It was cool to have three generations there. Not many people know that I was born in Houston. I spent some time growing up racing there. It was great to get the win in my home state, in front of my family and friends.”
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki welcomed newly crowned AMSOIL Arenacross Champion Tyler Bowers to the team last weekend in Houston, filling in for injured riders Dean Wilson and Justin Hill. Bowers was one of the fastest riders in both practice and the heat race, which translated into a career-best fourth-place finish in the main event. Confidence is high for Bowers, who recognizes that this is the best opportunity of his career. Coincidentally, Bowers may have a slight edge on the field in Minneapolis as he is the only rider who qualified for the 250 class main event back during the 2008 season.
“Last weekend was a great starting point,” said Bowers. “We put in some good days testing this week and I feel even better going into Minneapolis. I know I have the speed to battle up front, so I just need to get the start and should be in the hunt for the win. I raced at the Metrodome back in 2008 so it’ll be cool to go back.”
Broadcast coverage from Minneapolis will air live via next-day coverage, with the 450SX class airing Sunday, April 14, at 12 noon EST on CBS Sports. Coverage of the 250SX class will follow on SPEED at 4:30 p.m. ET. SupercrossLIVE!® will stream three hours of practice and qualifying at www.SupercrossOnline.com beginning at 3 p.m. ET.