Photography by Kit Palmer
It was veteran versus rookie Saturday night at Anaheim III, and in the end it was the experience of Chad Reed that held off, just barely, the youthful exuberance of Ken Roczen in an international battle at Angel Stadium. Reed took the lead on the first lap aboard his Discount tire Kawasaki and held off several stabs by Roczen. It came down to the final lap and Reed handled getting by a lapped rider just a bit better than his young rival and that was all he needed to earn his second victory of the season, by .918 of a second, and draw within two points of Ryan Villopoto in the Monster Energy Supercross chase.
It was a popular win for the fans who have really turned fully into Reed backers this season, appreciating the tenacity of the 31-year-old Australian.
The track conditions were cool and slippery at Anaheim. It bothered all the riders, especially the series leader. Villopoto, who loves a tacky surface so he can rail around turns, had the exact opposite on this night, with the surface loose dirt over hard-pack. Villopoto hung tough with Reed and Roczen three-quarters of the race, but in the closing laps he decided to think big picture and rode home to a safe third. He was nearly 10 seconds back from Reed at the finish.
Justin Barcia emerged in fourth and Weston Peick was fifth, both benefactors of crashes by early top-five runners James Stewart and Ryan Dungey. Stewart picked up his Yoshimura Suzuki and soldiered on to finish seventh (four seconds behind Justin Brayton), but Dungey’s KTM was damaged too badly to continue. He was credited with 20th.
Villopoto and Stewart both got great starts and were side by side going into the first turn. Stewart lost a bit of traction and was quickly passed by Reed and Roczen. The Anaheim crowd roared when Reed made his pass on Villopoto to take over the lead and by the second lap it was Reed, Villopoto, Roczen and Stewart all running close.
Mike Alessi was running near the front early, but dropped out with brake issues. Eli Tomac was out early as well, a flat tire the culprit.
Roczen carried momentum through a whoops section into a turn and made the pass on Villopoto for second on lap four. Things then settled for a few laps, but the top three ran within seconds, so it appeared things were simmering for a three-way battle to the flag, but it came down to just Reed and Roczen.
Roczen made a bid for the lead at the halfway point, coming alongside in failed block pass attempt. The next try came on the final lap. Roczen once again pulled up to the rear wheel of Reed. The leading duo came upon Jimmy Albertson. Albertson was not letting off and Reed and Roczen got stuck behind him for a few turns. Reed then got around at a perfect time, leaving Roczen hung up for just a fraction of a second with a couple of turns to go and that was it. Reed took the checkered flag victorious for the second time this season.
When asked about the pressure, Reed smiled and said, “From a rookie too.” He then went on to explain how he did it and it had to do with tire choice for the slippery track.
“That was a blast,” he said. “I didn’t feel awesome all day, but I felt decent. I thought they were going to cut the whoops down and make it easy, make it a goat trail out here, but it’s just awesome to be around for a few years and just attack the whoops. This bike is awesome in the whoops. I could just come in there and feel so comfortable. We gambled a little bit. I went with a different rear tire that I’ve never raced with on this bike before. I made a few little tweaks here and there with the suspension. Kind of like James [Stewart]. I listened to his interview. I wasn’t going to be the fastest guy, but I was going to be the smartest and the guy who got his settings right. I like to pride myself and my team as being the best out here at setting up a motorcycle and I’m just so proud of this whole Discount Tire. TwoTwo Motorsports race team. We’re doing alright.”
Reed scored his 43rd-career Supercross win and tied Jeremy McGrath and James Stewart for the most wins at Anaheim with eight each.
Roczen claimed getting balked by Albertson cost him his chance to try for the lead on the final go around. “I tried to push again on that last lap,” he said. “But we got a lapper in between us. Otherwise I think I would have tried that little bit to try to make the pass in that next corner. “
Villopoto shook off the third, understanding well that occasionally you have to accept a finish like this if you want to win championships.
“The track was so slippery,” he said with emphasis. “The holes were starting to come out. I tried to keep the gap close, but there at the end it just kind faded away. I figured leaving the West Coast on the box is always good.”
This was the first round of the Toyota Triple Challenge, which will continue at Race 7 in Arlington, Texas, and concludes at Race 16 in East Rutherford, N.J. With the win tonight Reed is in line to win a brand new Toyota Tundra and is the only rider eligible to win $250,000 if he were to win all three Toyota Triple Challenge races.
Monster Energy Supercross heads to San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium next Saturday, February 8.
450SX Class Results: Anaheim
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Kawasaki
2. Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
3. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki
4. Justin Barcia, Pinetta, Fla., Honda
5. Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki
6. Justin Brayton, Cornelius, N.C., Yamaha
7. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki
8. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki
9. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM
10. Ivan Tedesco, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
450SX Class Season Standings
1. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki, 104
2. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Kawasaki, 102
3. Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 97
4. Justin Brayton, Cornelius, N.C., Yamaha, 86
5. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 80
6. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 76
7. Justin Barcia, Pinetta, Fla., Honda, 74
8. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM, 61
9. Wil Hahn, Menifee, Calif., Honda, 52
10. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki, 50
Toyota Triple Challenge Standings
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Kawasaki, 25
2. Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 22
3. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki, 20
4. Justin Barcia, Pinetta, Fla., Honda, 18
5. Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Suzuki, 16
6. Justin Brayton, Cornelius, N.C., Yamaha, 15
7. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 14
8. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki, 13
9. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM. 12
10. Ivan Tedesco, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 11