Photography by Hoppenworld.com
In Houston’s NRG Stadium tonight Ryan Villopoto went a long way in securing his fourth-straight Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship by scoring his fourth victory of the season in dominating fashion and ballooning his series lead to 45 points with just three rounds to go. The victory puts Villopoto in a very good position to clinch the title next Saturday at his home Supercross race in Seattle.
Villopoto led every lap on his Mike Williamson-tuned factory Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450Fand was never challenged on his way to a massive 13.669-second victory over Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia. Red Bull KTM rider Ken Roczen rounded out the podium with third, 10 seconds back from Barcia.
James Stewart’s three-race winning streak came to an end. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider reported being sick all week leading up to Houston and didn’t look himself in the main event. In spite of illness and exhaustion, Stewart toughed out a fifth-place finish and that moved him up to second in the standings over Ryan Dungey.
Dungey was lucky to escape unscathed in Houston. He was involved in an ugly, multi-rider crash early in the first lap, but was able to recover and salvage a seventh.
Villopoto nailed the holeshot, just slipping inside fast-starting Mike Alessi as the 22-rider pack dove into the first turn. From there he simply walked away from the field. It was an especially impressive performance considering Villopoto had hit the ground three times in Houston, including a particularly hard fall in his Heat race, forcing him to qualify for the main via a Semi.
While Villopoto began to open a gap on the field, Barcia and Roczen asserted themselves in second and third, ultimately maintaining those positions throughout the Main Event.
“It was awesome tonight considering everything we had to overcome,” said Villopoto. “With the start the way it was, I don’t think I could have asked for anything more and it made my life easy. The track was tough, but our Kawasaki was able to handle everything. That’s not the way I wanted the Heat Race to go, but we were able to bounce back even stronger.”
Barcia seemed pleased with his steady improvement. He said it was the best he’s felt on the factory Honda all season. He made a jump in the main he hadn’t attempted all day.
“I felt very comfortable on the bike, the Honda/Muscle Milk guys had it dialed, so I’m pumped about that,” Barcia explained. “The track was extremely tough tonight. I didn’t bust out that quad all day and I busted it out in the main event, so that was pretty intense. I did a few things out there that cost me some time, but Ryan (Villopoto) rode a great race. I’ve just got to keep on working and get better every weekend.”
Roczen was on the podium again after a long dry spell.
“It feels awesome to be back up here,” said the German rookie. “Obviously I never did the quad. If I could have done that I think I could have stayed a little closer to Justin. The track was pretty tough out there. I went through the whoops pretty decent all race and thenjust started jumping them with a couple laps to go. Other than that my riding was OK. Nothing too good, or nothing too bad.”
Monster Energy Supercross heads to Seattle’s CenturyLink Field next Saturday, April 12, for the 15th race of the 2014 season. Live broadcast coverage on FOX Sports 1 begins at 10:30 p.m. ET.
450SX Class Results: Houston
1. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki
2. Justin Barcia, Pinetta, Fla., Honda
3. Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
4. Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda
5. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki
6. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM
7. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM
8. Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Fla., Suzuki
9. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda
10. Chris Blose, Phoenix, Ariz., Honda
450SX Class Season Standings
1. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki, 293
2. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 248
3. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 247
4. Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 235
5. Justin Barcia, Pinetta, Fla., Honda, 198
6. Justin Brayton, Cornelius, N.C., Yamaha, 196
7. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM, 181
8. Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Suzuki, 126
9. Wil Hahn, Menifee, Calif., Honda, 122
10. Josh Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Suzuki, 112
To read our in depth coverage of the Houston Supercross in this week’s issue of Cycle News, click here