Photography by Hoppenworld.com
The Monster Energy Supercross, an FIM World Championship, returns to action tomorrow after its one and only break of the series at Houston’s Reliant Stadium for the 13th stop on the schedule. At the championship’s lone international stop in Toronto two weeks ago, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto captured his seventh win of the season to extend his current winning streak to four races and pull to a double-digit advantage in the 450 Supercross-class standings.
Villopoto’s path to victory in Toronto wasn’t easy, as the reigning back-to-back champion needed to overcome strong efforts by both Davi Millsaps, his closest championship rival, and veteran Chad Reed. Villopoto was able to make a pass for the lead just past the halfway mark of the main event and pulled away for his fifth win in the last six races and his sixth consecutive podium result. Houston was the sight of Villopoto’s historic championship-winning ride one year ago in which he not only grabbed the victory, but also clinched the 450 title earlier than any rider in history. While he will not be able to wrap up the title this weekend, Villopoto can still add to his 12-point lead in the standings.
"We're in a good spot heading into Houston," said Villopoto. "After the Easter weekend break, I'm excited to get back to racing. It was refreshing to have a weekend off, but now it's back to business. There are still lots of races left, so we need to stay focused and take it race by race."
In Toronto, Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Jake Weimer was arguably the strongest he’s been since returning from injury several weeks ago. After suffering from misfortune the week prior, Weimer bounced back with a solid sixth-place finish in Canada and moved into 12th in the standings.
"We're finally starting to get back to where we should be," said Weimer. "After getting hurt, it's taken longer than anticipated to be back to where I was. We've been rebuilding and I'm excited for Houston. Houston has some of the better dirt that we race on all season."
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Millsaps continued his resurgence in Toronto, leading the majority of the main event. Following a three-race drought from the podium during which he lost possession of the championship lead, Millsaps claimed his best finish in five races with a runner-up effort behind Villopoto. Millsaps minimized the points lost in the title fight and now enters Houston with a 12-point deficit and some momentum on his side. He finished second to Villopoto inside Reliant Stadium one year ago.
"It was definitely good to get a solid weekend under my belt, it's been about six weeks for me,” said Millsaps. “I had a weekend off, so I’ve had a lot of time to practice and get back to where I was. Toronto was a great race for sure and [Ryan] Villopoto rode awesome. I just made a few mistakes here and there and he capitalized on it. He was obviously going faster than me. All in all from the past couple weekends to this weekend, I'm going in the right direction. It's crazy how three days of riding a bike helps so much.”
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey is keeping himself in the battle for the championship with consistency. The KTM rider has posted three consecutive podium finishes and has finished on the box in seven of the last nine races. In Toronto, Dungey had to overcome stalling his bike halfway through the race in order to finish on the podium in third. While he currently faces a 22-point deficit to Villopoto in the standings, Dungey is still doing what he needs to do in order to give himself a chance in Las Vegas.
Following arguably one of his best rides of the season in Toronto, TwoTwo Motorsports/Discount Tire Honda’s Reed announced that it would be his final outing for the time being. According to Reed, he had not completely recovered from the torn ACL suffered last season and would undergo surgery in order to ensure he is at 100 percent health. The fourth-place finish in Toronto also featured Reed in the mix at the front of the field and in a battle with Dungey for the final spot on the podium. Currently sitting fourth in the championship standings, Reed is sure to miss Houston but could potentially return to action prior to the completion of the 2013 season.
“I am excited to be getting the surgery so I can get back to being 100 percent healthy,” said Reed. "My knee surgery that I had last year unfortunately has not healed completely and I was hoping to make it all the way through Supercross and motocross to get it fixed in the off-season. I think it is best that I get it fixed as soon as possible and then get back on the bike ASAP as well. I am looking forward to getting back out there, representing my sponsors and my team, and having fun with the fans."
With Reed on the sidelines, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia will likely assume control of fourth place in the championship following Houston. Two weeks ago in Toronto, Barcia battled hard to secure a fifth-place finish, his fifth straight top-five effort. Barcia has had success in Houston in the past, winning the 250SX Class Main Event during the 2011 season and will look to return to the podium on Saturday night.
“I’m not quite sure what happened in [Toronto],” explained Barcia. “I felt good all day in qualifying and got second in my heat, but rode really tight in the main. The track was really gnarly and changed so much heading into the night. Starts are so important and mine haven’t been that great in the last couple weeks, which has really hurt me. I know I have the speed to be in front; I just need to work on a few things.”
Fellow Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Trey Canard was forced to miss Toronto as a result of a concussion suffered at the previous stop of the championship in Indianapolis. With two weeks to recover, Canard is feeling better and ready to return to action in Houston. Despite losing control of sixth in the championship by virtue of being sidelined, Canard is still within four points of reclaiming the position. The former race winner has not finished on the podium since the third race of the season, but will look to contend for a spot inside the top three on Saturday night.
Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart looked as though he might be the rider to beat in Toronto, but following a mid-pack start and an early fall in the Main Event, he settled for a seventh-place finish. Despite missing out on the result he had hoped for, Stewart still moved past Canard for sixth in the championship standings. As one of the winningest riders in Houston history (four wins), Stewart would like nothing more than to emerge with his second victory of the season.