Ryan Villopoto could clinch the 2013 Supercross tomorrow night in Salt Lake. Photography by Hoppenworld.com.
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, makes its
second-to-last stop of 2013 at Rice-Eccles Stadium Salt Lake City tomorrow night, where Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, who has found his way on to the podium in the last nine races, has a realistic shot of clinching his third straight SX Championship in the premier (450) class.
While a win in front of his hometown Seattle crowd last weekend was a priority for Villopoto, the reigning back-to-back champion didn’t force the issue on the tricky track conditions that resulted from a rainy weekend in the Pacific Northwest. Villopoto positioned himself in second place in the early stages of the main event and stayed there, ultimately gaining even more ground on his closest championship rivals despite missing out on a ninth victory. As mentioned, he enters tomorrow’s race with a chance of clinching the title. If Villopoto leaves Salt Lake City with the same 25-point advantage he currently holds, he’ll enter the final round in Las Vegas next week with the title already in his hands. The last time Villopoto raced in Salt Lake City in 2011, he emerged victorious. Last year, he did not compete after injuring his knee the week before at Seattle.
“I know we can wrap up the championship up here [in Salt Lake City],” said Villopoto. “But my main goal is to go out of this race as good as possible. If I don’t wrap it up, I know I’m in a good position heading to the finale in Las Vegas. My Monster Energy Kawasaki team has been great this year and we have all worked hard to put ourselves into a good position to win.”
Fellow Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Jake Weimer had one of his best races of the season in Seattle, finishing fifth. The performance was definitely Weimer’s best since returning from injury earlier in the season and with two races remaining, Weimer has his sights set on continued consistency and potentially breaking back into the top 10 in the 450-class standings. A native of Idaho, the Salt Lake City stop serves as Weimer’s hometown event. Last season, he grabbed a spot on the podium in third.
“I had a good race last week,” said Weimer. “We have been working to get the results I know I can achieve and I’m ready to be fighting for a podium this week.”
After losing control of second in the championship the week prior, Rockstar Energy Racing’s Davi Millsaps did what he had to do in Seattle to take the position back. Millsaps rode a consistent main event and was rewarded with a third-place effort, giving him back-to-back podium finishes. While his margin over third sits at just one point, Millsaps has the momentum in his favor. Millsaps has even more motivation to duplicate his runner-up finish in Salt Lake City from one year ago.
“It was a tough race,” said Millsaps. “It was a great night though and it was my 10th podium of the year, so I’m pretty stoked on that, also my seventh heat race win. It’s just been an awesome season. I know I lost the point’s lead, then dropped to third, and now I’m back to second but it doesn’t matter. It’s been a great run and the best of the best are all in this class right now and we’re all near the front.”
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey showed impressive resiliency in Seattle en route to a fourth-place effort. The Minneapolis race winner was hoping to keep the momentum going from his victorious effort, but he was involved in an incident in the first corner of the main event. Dungey re-entered the race in 18th place, but battled his way into the top five before the halfway point. Despite the come-from-behind effort, Dungey still fell to third in the championship standings behind Millsaps and will look to get back onto the podium on Saturday in Salt Lake City, where he is the defending race winner.
Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Justin Barcia’s inaugural 450-class victory in Phoenix earlier in the season was done with a near-perfect wire-to-wire performance. Last weekend in Seattle, Barcia duplicated that performance to claim his second career win. Barcia’s rookie season has had its highs and lows, but he’s proven to be one of the most formidable riders in the championship.
“It was an unreal feeling,” stated Barcia. “The last few weeks have been frustrating with fourth-place finishes, so it is awesome to finally make it happen. I haven’t been getting good starts and there isn’t much you can do to catch up from a bad start, especially with the speed of [the 450] class. I was really looking for a podium [in Seattle] and to be able to get the win was so awesome.”
Fellow Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Trey Canard suffered from misfortune in Seattle after running at the front half of the field early on. Canard was riding comfortably running in fourth before he stalled the bike in the slowest part of the track. Once he resumed, Canard encountered more misfortune and ultimately finished 18th.
TwoTwo Motorsports Honda’s Chad Reed saw his night in Seattle come to an end before it even began when he was one of several riders involved in a first-turn incident. The veteran was unable to continue following the incident, finishing 20th and recording one championship point. Despite the misfortune, Reed still maintains control of fifth in the standings. As a former winner in Salt Lake City and a rider still in search of his first win this season, Reed will give it his all tomorrow night.
Andrew Short grabbed another top-10 finish aboard his BTO Sports KTM in Seattle. The veteran rider claimed his first career victory in the Pacific Northwest one year prior, and although he wasn’t able to duplicate his efforts from the previous season, Short still posted a solid ninth-place finish.
Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX’s Justin Brayton extended his current streak of top-10 finishes to three races in Seattle, putting forth a solid effort en route to eighth. Brayton currently sits ninth in the championship standings but has two races remaining to erase the 12-point deficit to eighth, currently held by an inactive James Stewart.
RCH Racing/Dodge/Sycuan Suzuki’s Broc Tickle finished just one spot ahead of Brayton, his closest competitor in the standings. Tickle has shown he has the ability to consistently finish inside the top 10 and his seventh-place effort helped him gain a little ground on Brayton for ninth in the championship, where seven points separate the pair.
There will be a couple of big names missing from tonight’s lineup, including Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart and MotoConcepts/Smartop’s Mike Alessi. Both riders announced this week that they would forgo the final two Supercross races in order to prepare for the upcoming outdoor Nationals. A sore wrist that he injured at the Minneapolis Supercross compounded Stewart’s decision.
Tomorrow night also signifies the eighth of nine races for the Western Regional 250 class Championship, which has boiled down to a two-rider showdown.
Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen raced to his third win in four races last weekend to extend his championship points lead. Through the first seven races of the Western Regional Championship, Roczen has finished either first or second. That exceptional consistency has helped Roczen pull a 20-point lead heading into the final two races of the championship and if he continues that trend on Saturday night, he could have the opportunity to wrap up his first career title on American soil. GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac has been Roczen’s biggest challenger throughout the season. Tomac began the season by winning the first three races, but lost control of the championship when he suffered a DNF at the fourth race. Since then, Tomac as attempted to close the gap and appeared to be on his way to a fifth win in Seattle before a late crash relegated him to second. He’ll pull out all the stops over the final two weekends of the season, particularly this weekend in Salt Lake City where he is the defending race winner.
“I was hoping to close the gap a little [in Seattle], but wasn’t able to,” explained Tomac. “I was fired up heading into the Main after winning my Heat Race. I got a good start and was able to establish a nice lead for most of the race, but I got stuck in a deep rut coming out of the whoops and went over the bars. Luckily, I was able to get back up on the bike and hold onto a podium spot. I haven’t made repeating the championship easy on us, but I will fight till the very end.”
Zach Osborne landed on the podium for the first time in 2013 last weekend. The GEICO Honda rider took advantage of a strong start and maintained his position throughout the main event. Osborne currently sits fourth in the championship standings, 11 points out of third.
“The whole day went really good for me,” said Osborne. “The practice and my heat race both went good, which gave me confidence heading into the main. I got a solid start and was able to work my way through the pack. I got into third and was able to stay there till the end.”
Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Cole Seely was forced to come from behind in Seattle following a midpack start and early misfortune. However, the former winner surged through the field and closed in on a chance to take over third on the final lap of competition, ultimately settling for fourth. The resilient ride helped him maintain control of third in the standings.
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson was hoping to grab his third podium finish in Seattle after landing on the box in two of the last three races. After a good start, Anderson was in position to challenge for a podium spot, but suffered misfortune while battling for position. Anderson did all he could to overcome the deficit over the remainder of the main event, but settled for 10th place. Anderson captured the best finish of his career last year in Salt Lake City with a runner-up effort.
“My night started out good,” said Anderson. “My starts are getting better. I just need to put it all together with laps and not getting too anxious, and not crashing. I was riding good [in Seattle] so I can take that away from it.”
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Martin Davalos was in a heated battle for a spot inside the top five for the majority of the main event in Seattle. However, the veteran experienced misfortune in the late stages of the race, relegating him to a ninth-place finish. He’ll look to bounce back in Salt Lake City, where he finished third one year ago, in search of his third podium finish of the season.
“I’ve won four heat races [this season],” said Davalos. “I just need to translate that into the main event. I’ve been training hard and I know I can end the season on a high note.”
Fellow Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider Tyla Rattray was battling alongside his teammate when Davalos experienced the misfortune, but he avoided incident to capture his best finish of the 2013 season in fifth. Rattray hopes the momentum from the strong result carries into tomorrow night.
“We had a good race last week,” said Rattray. “This year has been difficult so far, but it is good to see our work is starting to pay off. I hope we can get back up on the podium and end the season as best as we can.”
Broadcast coverage from Salt Lake City will air live tomorrow night exclusively on SPEED, beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET. SupercrossLIVE!® will stream three hours of practice and qualifying at www.SupercrossOnline.com beginning at 3 p.m. ET.