Adam Cianciarulo holds the 250 East points lead going into tomorrow’s Indy Supercross. Photography by Shan Moore
Ryan Villopoto is in a slump. Of course, you wouldn’t know it by the point Supercross standings, where defending champ Villopoto is leading the way, but look a little more closely at the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross results and you’ll notice that Villopoto hasn’t won a race in four rounds.
Having won two races in 2014 and leading the series standings is a slump almost any other rider would kill for, but by Villopoto’s standards, going into round nine with your last win coming four rounds ago at Oakland, that’s a slump. In fact Villopoto hasn’t gone four rounds without a win in Supercross since his rookie campaign in the series in 2009.
In spite of being atop the standings Villopoto feels it’s time for him to start winning again. Fortunately for the three-time Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series Champion, Indianapolis has been a great venue for him. How good you ask? If he wins tomorrow he will be the first rider in series history to win the Indy Supercross five times in a row. That’s better than even the legendary Jeremy McGrath managed.
It's a weird deal," the 25-year-old Kawasaki ace said Thursday. "That's not a goal I've set to break or surpass, but in thinking about it or talking about it right now, that would be cool."
The race in Lucas Oil Stadium kicks off the second half of the 17-race series. Villopoto leads Roczen by nine points, which is the difference between first place and fifth in a main event. Stewart is third in the standings, 24 points out of the lead with Ryan Dungey, who won the 2010 season championship, just four points behind in fourth. At the halfway mark in the season those are the riders who realistically still have a shot at the title.
Villopoto feels there are several reasons that he’s gone through this current mini-slump.
“There’s a combination [of factors],” Villopoto said. “One of them is the field is maybe getting closer. And on my end, I’m just struggling a little bit, maybe not having the best weekends and trying to find that sweet spot, that good setting, if you can find it, if that’s ever out there. So it’s a combination of everything. Me struggling a little bit and also, like I said, a big part of it is the competition is so close this year.”
Central Indiana has had a cold, snowy winter, the most snow on record in fact, and Villopoto says that will affect the dirt.
“It [the dirt] looks pretty soft,” he said. “So it’s going to break down as the day wears on and is going to make the track pretty challenging.”
Following his second career 450 Supercross-class victory Atlanta last week, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen became the fourth different rider to record multiple wins during the 2014 season. Roczen has recorded two wins and five podium finishes in eight races, and has finished no worse than sixth. He moved to within nine points of Villopoto in the 450-class standings and will look to grab his first career win inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
Roczen’s senior teammate Ryan Dungey followed Roczen and Villopoto across the line in third at Atlanta to post his fourth podium result of the season. Since recording a DNF at the fifth race of the season, Dungey has rebounded with finishes of fourth, second, and third and has climbed from sixth to fourth in the 450-class standings. Dungey won at Indy in the 250 Supercross class back in 2009 and will look to capture his first win of the 2014 season.
Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart was seeking his third consecutive win in Atlanta, but a tip over on the opening lap while making a charge to extend his lead forced the former champion to the tail end of the field. Stewart re-entered the race and was able to make a charge through the field to ultimately finish 11th, but lost valuable ground in the championship. Stewart last won in Indy inside the old RCA Dome in 2007 but is in search of a comeback performance on Saturday night.
“I came across the start straight and lost the front end going into the corner,” said Stewart. “I’m bummed. I was riding good all day and felt great going into the main event, but you can’t win when you’re on the ground. I did my best to come back but the track was super-slippery, so the harder I rode the slower I went. I was just happy to get back up and salvage as many points as I could. I’m still confident and feeling good about my riding and I have to thank the Yoshimura Suzuki team for working so hard. We’re all disappointed but we’ll go back and get ready to come back strong for Indy.”
Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia was hoping his first podium result of the season two weeks ago would be the surge he needed to become a consistent threat at the front of the field, but the sophomore rider suffered a pair of crashes during practice in Atlanta, which ultimately forced him to miss the action late that night. Barcia had hoped to return to action in Indianapolis, but will sit out for another week.
“This was not how I wanted things to go,” stated Barcia. “Atlanta was like my home race and I have a lot of friends and family here, so I am definitely disappointed. I crashed pretty hard in the whoops and tweaked my knee in the last practice. I decided to take the night off to try and race next weekend in Indianapolis, but it looks like we’ll be back in Daytona.”
In the absence of both Barcia and fellow Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Trey Canard, who has yet to race this season as a result of an injury, current Western Regional 250-class title contender Cole Seely will fill in for the factory squad. Seely is no stranger to serving a substitute role with Team Honda Muscle Milk and will simply look to gain experience and maintain top form until the Western Regional Championship returns to action at Houston in April.
“Cole has proven multiple times that he has what it takes to run in the 450 class, so we are looking forward to having him join our team while the West 250 class is on their midseason break,” said Team Honda Muscle Milk manager Dan Betley. “His focus and determination makes him a good fit for the team. I want to thank everyone at the Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda team and all their sponsors for allowing Cole another opportunity to race a factory Honda in the premier class.”
Another rider that will begin his substitute role this weekend is Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports’ Dean Wilson. The full-time Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider was named as a replacement rider for the injured Reed while he sits idle from Western Regional 250-class competition. Wilson has never raced in the 450 class in Monster Energy Supercross and comes into Indy simply looking to gain experience and have some fun without any pressure.
“I’m really excited to make my 450 debut this weekend,” said Wilson. “I had a lot of momentum when the West went on break so I want to keep that ball rolling. I feel really comfortable on the KX450F and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I just can’t wait for Saturday.”
In the 250 class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo will be hoping to make it win number two on the season. The Supercross rookie surprised many by winning the Dallas race in what was his first official Supercross race ever. The 17-year-old made some mistakes a week later at Atlanta but stilled pulled of an impressive second.
“I think it was good to get some of those mistakes out of the way last weekend because it just helped me become a better racer,” said Cianciarulo. “You never want to end up on the ground, especially twice, but all I can do is learn from what happened and put it behind me. That’s what we did and we came away with another podium on the Kawasaki KX250F. I plan to just keep doing what I’m doing and take each weekend one race at a time.”
Cianciarulo’s teammate Martin Davalos won for the first time at Atlanta and the 27-year-old hopes to carry that momentum into Indy.
“I’m honestly just glad to finally get that win out of the way and set my sights on this championship,” said Davalos. “I knew it would take a win to have a shot at this title but I’ve just looked at it as a small piece of the puzzle. If I rode to the best of my ability, a win was going to come and that’s exactly what happened in Atlanta. Now it’s time to focus on Indy and start challenging Adam for the red plate.”
The only non-Kawasaki rider to finish on the podium so far is GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle who his coming off injury.
"My first podium of the season was such a great moment for me," Bogle said. "I can definitely say that I'm happy with that result although I'm certainly not satisfied. I am hungry for more and ready to move closer to the middle of the podium (where the winner stands).
"There was a point in the off-season right after I got injured when it looked like I wouldn't be able to ride Supercross at all this year, but my recovery went really well and now two races in I already have a podium. I can't tell you how great it is to have a team like GEICO Honda to stand behind me and support me in getting to this point. All I want to do now is reward them with more and more top finishes."