What started off as a sloppy, muddy day at Steel City in Delmont, Pennsylvania, shaped up to be great day after the sun came out and dried the track to near-perfect conditions. Despite swirling rumors on the internet, Ricky Carmichael did not show up to race the Steel City round of the Toyota AMA Motocross Championship. And it was announced in a press release sent out Saturday morning that Kawasaki's James Stewart is out for the remainder of the series. But Steel City fans were still treated to some bar-to-bar racing that came down to the wire in the Motocross class.
Factory Yamaha's Grant Langston came away with his first Motocross win after taking the checkers in the second moto, but nothing came easy for Langston. In fact, he had to fight, claw and scrap his way all the way to the end with Red Bull KTM's Mike Alessi and SoBe/No Fear/Samsung Honda's Kevin Windham.
All eyes were on the duo of Factory Honda's Andrew Short and Monster Kawasaki's Tim Ferry, as the two came into Steel City tied in championship points, but it was a lack-luster day for both riders.
In the first moto, Mike Alessi grabbed the holeshot and sprung out to an early lead ahead of Windham and Langston. Short and Ferry, meanwhile a few spots back, and never made it out front to join the fight for the lead. The Langston K-Dub & Alessi train, however, broke away from the pack and had some great racing, swapping positions and even a little paint before the dust settled. The highlight of the first moto was the battle between Windham and Langston for second, which resulted in a mid-air collision. Coming through the rhythm section, Langston hit a slippery spot on the face of a jump, making contact with K-Dub's Honda, sending him off the track. A visibly heated Windham pointed an angry finger at Langston (not that finger), and he hopped back on the track behind Langston.
Alessi took the win in the first moto, the first of his career in the premier class. Langston took second, and Windham finished third (and promptly had some words with Langston after crossing the finish line).
The three riders were at it again in the second moto, with even more position-swapping going on. Windham had the early lead and controlled most of the race. Alessi worked his way around Langston for second, which put him in the position to take the overall win. The KTM rider was almost looking at a 1-1 finish as he pulled up next to Windham a few times, but was waiting for a better window to make his way into the lead. Instead, a mistake dropped Alessi back to third and Langston got by for second, which put Windham in the position to take the overall. But in the last laps, Langston got around Windham, which gave him the overall win. Alessi stayed right on Windham to a photo finish. K-Dub took second in the moto, and third overall, with Alessi taking third in the moto, and second overall.
Andrew Short ended fourth overall with a 5-4 finish and Ferry (after a tangle with Jeff Alessi off the start of the second moto) did his best to salvage points. He finished fifth overall with a 4-7.
It looked like Ryan Villopoto's day was over before it started when he went down in a horrendous pile up off the start of the first moto. Villopoto started near the back of the pack alongside his teammate and points rival, Ben Townley. Another Monster Kawasaki rider, rookie Austin Stroupe in his first AMA Pro Motocross, gave chase to "Iceman" Broc Helper who got off to an early lead. Honda's Tommy Hahn took over the lead at one point early in the moto, and held off Hepler for a few laps, but the Iceman soon regained control, and kept it to the finish. Stroupe hung in third most of the moto, eventually passing Hahn for second.
Villopoto, meanwhile, sliced through the pack like a man on a mission, desperately trying to make time on the lead pack. It was impressive when he reached the top five, and nothing short of amazing when he moved into a podium position when Hahn made a mistake, allowing Villo by for third. Hahn held on for fourth ahead of Josh Grant, who was riding injured after dislocating two fingers during the morning practice. Ben Townley was sixth, followed by Suzuki's Nico Izzi.
The second Lites moto saw Villopoto get off to a much better start. He grabbed the holeshot and held the lead to the finish, taking the overall win. Hahn, again, was up front early, holding off Helper. Once Helper moved into second, however, he was looking at the overall win. That was before disaster struck (twice) for the Yamaha rider. A tip-over in a corner bumped him back to seventh place, and another crash left him desperately kicking his stalled bike. Unable to get the Yamaha relit, Helper took a disappointing DNF in the second moto. Townley had moved into second, where he finished, and Hepler's hard luck, as well as a late race crash by Hahn, moved Brett Metcalfe into third at the finish.
Townley ended up with second overall with a 6-2 score behind Villopoto, who took the overall with his 3-1. Metcalfe made it an all-Monster/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki podium, taking third overall with an 8-3 finish.
Rookie riders Stroupe and Izzi rounded out the top five overall with 2-12 and 7-7 finishes, respectively.