Adam Cianciarulo joined James Stewart as the big winners last weekend in Arlington. Photography By Shan Moore
James Stewart will be looking to tie Ricky Carmichael’s all-time wins record of 48 when he takes to the track tomorrow night inside Atlanta’s Georgia Dome for round eight of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series.
Stewart grabbed his second win in a row last weekend in Arlington’s Cowboys Stadium, taking advantage of a strong start to assume the lead on lap two from Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey. The Yoshimura rider consistently extend his advantage throughout the remainder of the 20-lap Main Event to claim the win.
After starting the season with a 17th-place finish, Stewart has finished no worse than seventh and has amassed a total of four podiums, with two wins. As a result, he’s moved to within 14 points of Villopoto atop the 450SX Class standings. He is also the defending race winner in Atlanta.
“It was a great race,” said Stewart. “I got a really good jump off the gate and I was keeping the pace nice and smooth because Arlington is a track you could easily override. I did have a few sketchy moments, but overall it was awesome. It was perfect. It was great to get a win last weekend and then to get another win this weekend. After our Heat Race we made some changes to the bike that just made the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 all that much better. I know my team believes in me and that’s the best part. But I also believe in myself and when it was time to go racing, I was there. Now I’m looking forward to doing it again next weekend at Atlanta.”
Villopoto endured one of the toughest outings of his season in Arlington. Despite a solid start, Villopoto was unable to make much progress moving forward and stayed in sixth place for half of the Main Event before finally making a charge that ultimately landed him just off the podium in fourth. The resilient effort is a major reason why Villopoto was still able to extend his championship lead over Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen one a night where he wasn’t challenging for the win.
“I’m really looking forward to Atlanta,” said Villopoto. “The dirt last week was extremely slick while Atlanta usually has more qualities of east coast dirt. It’ll be rutted and loose which suits my riding style.”
Roczen’s sixth-place finish inside AT&T Stadium tied for his lowest result of the season and is an indicator of how consistent the rookie has been against his more experienced 450SX Class counterparts. Each week Roczen has proven to be a factor at the front of the field and even when he hasn’t had the kind of night he might have hoped for, he’s been able to minimize the damage in the championship. Heading into Atlanta, Roczen sits 12 points behind Villopoto, but just two points ahead of Stewart in third.
After a four-race absence from the podium, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey was back in the hunt for victory in Arlington. The former champion began the season with back-to-back podium efforts but has battled consistency since then. Dungey fell as far as sixth in the 450SX Class standings, the lowest of his career, but thanks to his strong ride in Arlington Dungey has moved into fourth with his sights set on closing in on the three riders that lie ahead.
Despite numerous broken bones, Reed still chose to give it a go in Arlington in hopes of salvaging his championship hopes. The veteran rider took to the track in practice but was unable to complete the session and ultimately decided to step away for the remainder of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross season in order to get necessary surgery. In his absence, the team recently announced that Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki Western Regional 250SX Class rider Dean Wilson would ride for the team at select east rounds, beginning in Indianapolis.
“For me I’m ready to heal up and get back into training and focus my time and energy on getting ready for outdoors,” said Reed. “I’m excited for Dean because it is the team’s long-term goal to have multiple riders on the team and Dean’s name has been kicked around the semi for a long time. This is our first chance to see how it goes with another rider in the mix. Not only is Dean a good friend, but is also somebody who I respect for his talent. I’m excited for the chance to work with him and not dwell on the fact that I’m out of the championship. I’m excited to put a headset on and go to the races as team owner and try to see what we can do and have fun with Deano.”
Wilson added, “Joining Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports is going to be an awesome experience for me. Obviously I know Chad pretty well and I got the phone call last Saturday after he decided that he wasn’t going to be racing. It was a pretty cool phone call to get, that he wants me to race his bike! I’ve wanted to do the 450 rounds on the east coast just to keep racing because I feel like I’m riding pretty well at the moment. Mitch (Payton) and Reid (Nordin, Kawasaki race team manager) were really supportive of this move, as well as the other team sponsors. I just want to mix it up with the boys and have fun. There is no pressure so it should just be some good racing and some good experience for me.”
While he won’t be in action this weekend in Atlanta, Wilson will make his debut in Indianapolis next weekend.
Although it took him seven races to do it, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia can now build some momentum off his season-best finish of third in Arlington. The sophomore 450SX Class rider’s first podium result was on the heels of an impressive performance in which Barcia needed to fend off the pressure of both Roczen and Villopoto. It was a breakthrough ride for Barcia who now heads to what he considers his home race in Atlanta.
“It was a good night of racing. Obviously I always want to win but third is great for me, especially since I haven’t had the best results so far,” explained Barcia. “Mentally, this season has been a challenge so it feels really awesome to be back up on the podium. I wish I rode in the Main [Event] how I did in the Heat Race. I felt really solid and think I could have caught James [Stewart] if there were a few more laps, but in the Main I got pretty tight towards the end and was just trying not to make any mistakes. I am really looking forward to next weekend. I love Atlanta. It’s kind of like a home race for me, so I have a lot of friends and family coming, which is exciting. Hopefully I can get on the podium again.”
GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn grabbed the third top-10 finish of his season in Arlington to maintain a spot inside the top 10 in the 450SX Class standings. Despite a lingering injury to his hand, Hahn is showing resiliency and making improvements each week during his rookie season in the premier division and will look for even better results in Atlanta.
"It's been two weeks off the bike for me, which is a long time in the middle of a season,” said Hahn. “I took last week off because my hand just wasn't ready and I wasn’t even sure if I could ride tonight. Two weeks without riding a dirt bike and then come in here and have the same finish I had in Oakland was pretty good considering the cards I've been dealt."
RCH Racing/Soaring Eagle Suzuki’s Broc Tickle captured his best result of the 2014 season inside AT&T Stadium in seventh. The veteran rider has fought hard for his results throughout the early part of the season and the determination is starting to pay off. He’ll look to keep the momentum going in Atlanta.
“I liked the track all day; it’s similar to our test track so I felt comfortable right away,” said Tickle. “In the Main [Event] I got a decent start and rode by myself in seventh the whole time. I feel like I’m back on my feet from where I was at Anaheim 1 and Phoenix, and I can build on being closer to the elite pack. I think if I had been a little better in my first five laps, I would have been there and possibly could have latched onto the top six. My goal now is to work on getting a better start in the Main Event and run up front with those guys and see where it takes me. I haven’t been up there at all so for me it would be really good. I showed I have the speed to do it and I’m ready to start building that momentum more and more. I had a good race and it built some confidence. It may take a couple races, but with a good start I believe I can be in the top five.”
Tickle’s RCH Racing/Soaring Eagle Suzuki teammate Justin Hill finished ninth.
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Ivan Tedesco soldiered home to a 12th-place finish in Arlington. The veteran has fought hard during every weekend of competition this season and will look to claim his second top 10 finish on Saturday in Atlanta.
"It was a little bit of a rough night for me,” said Tedesco. “Practice actually went a little better than normal. I qualified 14th, which I guess is good for me since I've been struggling in practice. In the races I just didn't get the greatest of starts and on this track, starting position was important. I had to ride every race, and go to the LCQ to transfer into the Main [Event]. Once again got a bad start in the Main, I tried to ride a good 20 laps but just didn't have it tonight."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s began its Eastern Regional 250SX Class campaign in the best way possible, by sweeping the podium. In his first career Monster Energy Supercross start, Adam Cianciarulo emerged with a memorable win to make an early statement in the championship and show the world he’s ready to compete at the elite level.
“Last weekend was amazing,” said Cianciarulo. “I want to take what I learned in Dallas and carry it on to Atlanta and throughout the season. I’m excited to get on some east coast dirt and really be able to get aggressive. I get to run the red plate as well.”
Blake Baggett challenged his teammate for the win in Arlington for the bulk of the 15-lap Main Event and even briefly made a pass for the lead. However, Baggett held on for second to get his season off to a strong start coming off a broken foot suffered in December.
“I feel like I’m only going to get stronger as the season goes on,” said Baggett. “I was injured over the off season so every week I get more time on the bike and continue to progress. Last week I was right there and want to capitalize when the opportunity is that close.”
Veteran Martin Davalos looked like he might be on his way to the first 250SX Class win of his career, but the third member of the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki squad crashed out of the lead on Lap 3 and was forced to climb his way from fifth to secure the third and final spot on the podium. Atlanta serves as a home race for the Ecuador native, so there couldn’t be a better place to rebound and try to earn that elusive first win.
“Atlanta is a home race for me,” said Davalos. “I know I have everything I need to be up front and winning. I’m ironing out the mistakes and really looking forward to coming back to the Georgia Dome.”
GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle had high hopes for his anticipated return to action, but after suffering some serious injuries during the offseason he knows in time he will only get better. At AT&T Stadium, Bogle had to go through the Last Chance Qualifier to secure his spot in the Main Event. After a tough start, Bogle battled his way through the field to secure a solid fifth-place finish.
“My Heat Race was horrible, probably one of the worst races I have ever had,” said Bogle. “I just rode so much better in the LCQ, got that win, and that lifted me up mentally. I ended up kind of having another bad start in the Main [Event], but I knew the lines I wanted to ride and I ended up in the top five, which was my goal at the start of the race."
Bogle’s GEICO Honda teammates Blake Wharton and Matt Bisceglia finished in seventh and 19th, respectively.
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Cole Thompson made his 250SX Class debut for the team and rode to an impressive sixth-place result. While he isn’t necessarily expected to challenge for wins or the title as a fill-in rider for an injured Joey Savatgy, Thompson recognizes the opportunity that lies ahead of him and is willing to lay it all on the line for the opportunity to achieve success.
"Good progress for the first round, made it through healthy and ended up with some good points,” said Thompson. “I'm looking forward to Atlanta now that I have one under my belt. I need a better start and to be more aggressive throughout the whole race and I should be able to put myself into a better position."
For the first-time ever, the entire Monster Energy Supercross season will air live on FOX Sports. FOX Sports 1 will air 13 races live and FOX Sports 2 will air four races live, in addition to every race re-airing on FOX Sports 2. The live Monster Energy Supercross programming on FOX Sports 1 and FOX Sports 2 also includes live coverage on the authenticated FOX Sports Go app.