Preview: MetLife Stadium Monster Energy AMA Supercross

| April 25, 2014
  Ryan Villopoto can clinch the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship in New Jersey. Photography by Kit Palmer

Ryan Villopoto is poised to win his fourth straight Supercross Championship tomorrow night at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

If all goes well for Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto during tomorrow’s 16th stop of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, an FIM World Championship, at the MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, he will be celebrating his fourth straight Supercross title at the end of the night. If so, he will be just the second rider in the sport’s 40-year history to do so. Jeremy McGrath is the only other rider to win four titles in a row. All “RV” has to do is finish 18th or better in the main event at the inaugural MetLife Stadium race and the title will be his with one round still left on the schedule.

The riders of the 2014 Supercross series will be back at it tomorrow after their first and only break of the 17-round series. At the previous stop of the championship in Seattle on April 12, Villopoto won for just the second time in his hometown with a dominant wire-to-wire effort. Villopoto’s 2014 win total now sits at five, putting him into a tie with James Stewart as the winningest riders in the division. As a result of back-to-back victories over the past two races, Villopoto has the opportunity to lock up the championship at the same

“It’s great to be in a position to wrap up the title this weekend, but we’re going into New York business as usual,” said Villopoto. “We’re going out there to win, but we do have the luxury of knowing that if things don’t necessarily work out then we can grab a solid result and still walk away with the championship. It’s going to be a lot of fun to race at a new venue and I’m sure the atmosphere with the fans is going to be unlike anything we’ve seen before.”

Villopoto’s Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Jake Weimer will make his anticipated return to action following an injury. Weimer has been sidelined since the San Diego stop in February, but is ready to get back onto the track and do battle with his fellow competitors.

“I’ve been waiting for this weekend for a while now, so I’m glad it’s finally here,” said Weimer. “I feel good on the bike and I just went to get back out there and mix it up at the front. I feel better than I did to start the season am looking forward to getting back behind the gate.”

Stewart is one of just two other riders that still have a shot at winning the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross title. Stewart has been one of the strongest riders in the 450 class in recent weeks and will look to secure his sixth victory of the season for Yoshimura Suzuki. In Seattle, Stewart put on a hard charge to try and catch Villopoto, but settled for second to secure his fourth podium finish in the last five races. A win in East Rutherford will be of the utmost importance for Stewart.

“[Seattle] was a bit of a struggle,” said Stewart. “I never could really get comfortable with changes we made to the bike. I was trying to make up time in the race, but it was really easy to override the track because of the ruts. I’m not quite 100 percent yet, but I felt like I rode well so it was kind of a bummer. But we’ve still got two races left and having a week off helped me get totally healthy. I have to thank the Yoshimura Suzuki team for their hard work and for standing by me. We’re second in the overall championship points and I’m just looking forward to going into the last two races of the season strong.”

The third and final rider that maintains a shot at the title is Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey. Like Stewart, winning is a must for Dungey. The former champion has one win this season to go along with nine podium results, but he has not finished ahead of both Villopoto and Stewart since his triumphant outing in Indianapolis seven races ago. In Seattle Dungey’s impressive consistency continued with a third-place finish, but he knows he’ll need to step things up in East Rutherford.

Fellow Red Bull KTM rider Ken Roczen is guaranteed to finish inside the top five following his first full season of 450-class competition. Roczen currently sits fourth in the standings and comes into MetLife Stadium on the heels of a seventh-place effort in Seattle. The break in action this past weekend allowed Roczen to re-energize himself for the final two races of the season and he’ll come out swinging on Saturday in hopes of closing out the year the way he started it.

Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia has finished inside the top five for five consecutive races, including three podium results. Barcia’s recent surge has put him in a position to potentially grab his first win of the 2014 season over the final two races. Considering Barcia is a New York native, the chance to race and win in front of the hometown crowd is the opportunity of a lifetime and following a fifth-place finish in Seattle, Barcia’s feeling optimistic about Saturday.

 “I’m not thrilled on how [Seattle] ended up. It was a tough day,” stated Barcia. “I struggled a lot with bike setup and the track was really challenging. Going from east coast to west coast dirt and track conditions was difficult, and I wasn’t able to adapt or find the right settings. I rode okay in the Main Event; didn’t get a great start and just had to fight through the pack to finish fifth. I was able to regroup and we’re heading into New York strong. I want to win there bad; it would be incredibly special since it is a home race for me. I know I can win, we just need to put all the pieces together.”

In his third race of the 2014 season, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard posted his third straight top-10 finish. The veteran has shown consistent progress since returning to competition and in Seattle he was forced to battle his way through the field, showing he has the speed and ability to charge through the field. He’ll look to keep his solid run going inside MetLife Stadium.

“My start was not where it needed to be [in Seattle],” said Canard. “I felt good all day and really enjoyed the track and my bike, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to be up there racing with the top guys. Unfortunately, I started outside the top 15 and had to work my way all the way through the pack. I’m happy to have been able to make it into sixth and head into New York healthy.” KTM’s Andrew Short was engaged in a heated multi-rider battle for the top five in Seattle. Short has been one of the most consistent riders in the championship throughout the 2014 season, finishing inside the top 10 in 14 of the 15 races thus far. As one of the most experienced riders in the sport, Short recognizes the significance of Monster Energy Supercross’ return to East Rutherford and is looking to make the most of it.

RCH Racing/Soaring Eagle Suzuki’s Josh Hill was inspired in Seattle, racing in front of his native Pacific Northwest crowd. Hill was a fixture inside the top 10 all night long and ultimately finished ninth. He has five top 10 finishes in the last seven races and will look to post a season-best result in East Rutherford.

GEICO Honda rider Eli Tomac challenged for his second career podium finish in Seattle, but ultimately settled for fourth. Tomac is feeling more and more comfortable on his Honda and has finishes of sixth, ninth, and fourth over the last three races. He’ll look to pick up where he left off on Saturday night.

“Overall I am pretty satisfied with my night [in Seattle],” stated Tomac. “It was a long 20 laps, but I’m getting stronger and stronger each weekend. It was an okay start; I was somewhere around the top seven, then made some early passes and ended up settling in fourth place.”

The first race inside MetLife Stadium also signifies the return of the Eastern Regional 250-class Championship, which will host its penultimate round of the 2014 season on Saturday night. The championship, however, took a big turn during the week when Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Martin Davalos broke his ankle while practicing midweek in California. Davalos is currently the series points leader by just eight points over GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle but will unfortunately miss the final two rounds of the series, forfeiting an excellent chance of winning his first ever Supercross title.

In fact, the entire Pro Circuit East 250 team will be sitting this one out. Adam Cianciarulo is already sidelined with a shoulder injury and the team’s third rider, Blake Baggett, is also out of action with an eye injury. A few weeks ago, Baggett took a rock to the eye while practicing and is still suffering some vision problems.

Bogle earned his first career win two races ago in Toronto and it has vaulted him into being a title contender. In seven races this season, Bogle has five podium finishes to his credit. He stands a good chance to be the new points leader after the New Jersey race.

“I’m right where I need to be with my riding. A few races ago we were 25 points back and now we’re only eight with two races left,” said Bogle. “I am happy with the points we’ve gained and now I am just ready for New York.”  

Fellow GEICO Honda rider Matt Bisceglia has showed promise in his rookie season. The Texas native has three top 10 finishes to his credit this season, including a seventh in St. Louis. Bisceglia will look for another solid result in East Rutherford.

GEICO Honda will also hope for the return of Blake Wharton who injured his knee earlier this season. Wharton underwent surgery and has been recovering in hopes of getting back on track in East Rutherford.

Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin has endured a tough sophomore season but has posted some impressive results. Martin is considered to be one of the sport’s rising stars and will hope to build on his season-best fourth-place finish at MetLife Stadium.

The New Jersey race will air live on FOX Sports 2 at 7:30 p.m. ET/4:30 p.m. PT.

By Freelance