AURORA, Ill. (March 25, 2011) – Never before in the history of Monster Energy Supercross has the supercross class points leader failed to qualify for a main event. That was until the 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, points race made a dramatic turn last Saturday in Jacksonville when Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto suffered misfortune in both his heat race and the last chance qualifier and ultimately failed to capture a transfer spot. This weekend’s race at Toronto’s Rogers Centre offers a new script with a much tighter points race.
Villopoto came into Jacksonville with a comfortable 26-point lead over Team San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart. For Stewart, it was an opportunity – if he earned a win – to move within one point of Villopoto’s points lead.
“I can’t change the past, but I’m hoping to have a good weekend in Toronto,” said Villopoto. “After all the crashes in Jacksonville, I’m very lucky to have left that race uninjured. I want to look forward and hopefully make back the points at the next race.”
Villopoto wasn’t the only one that ran into bad luck. Stewart, a two-time Supercross class champion, tangled on the first lap with privateer Matt Goerke which resulted in both riders being escorted off the track with the help of the Asterisk Mobile Medical team. Stewart was awarded a 17th-place finish, dropping him to fourth place in the standings, 23 points out of the lead.
“I was definitely banged up pretty good in Jacksonville, but I’m feeling a lot better now and ready for Toronto, said Stewart. “At this point it’s all about the championship and every race counts. I want to thank my fans, my team and my sponsors for all of their support this week and every week of the series. It really means a lot to me.”
Trey Canard, who rides for American Honda, rode to the second victory of his blossoming career with TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing’s Chad Reed and Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey finishing second and third, respectively. In turn, Reed made up 22 points on Villopoto and is just seven points out of the lead coming into Toronto. Dungey made up 20 points and now sits 18 points out of first.
“I’m stoked that I was able to put American the Honda Racing team on top at Jacksonville and it was equally awesome to see Honda finish one-two on the podium with (Chad) Reed finishing runner-up,” said Canard. “We had a good battle at the end of the race but I held my own and came away with the win. I’ve learned a lot this season and I’m really happy to have two wins, especially considering how stacked the Supercross class is this year.”
Reed is a seasoned veteran and knows that anything can happen. He told Racer X Illustrated, “I knew that this championship would be unpredictable, and I knew it would take large swings. Now, I’d be lying if I told you I predicted a night like Jacksonville, but anything can happen. That’s why we go racing.”
Dungey, the defending Supercross class champion, has yet to pick up a win, but cutting the margin down to 18 from 38 is a nice shot in the arm for the Minnesota native.
“All in all, today was a good day,” said Dungey after Jacksonville. “My Rockstar Makita Suzuki felt great, practice was good, and the bike settled in really well too. Going into the night race (at Jacksonville), I got a good start in my heat race and got the heat win. In the main, I got caught up in the pack a little bit but was able to work up to third. I was trying to gain on the leaders, but I just couldn’t make up enough time and then made a pretty big mistake on my part. Overall, I think it was a great night and big step in the right direction. I’m looking forward to Canada. It’s a big stadium and the track layout is pretty amazing there. It will be good to go to another country as well. Hopefully we can get good starts and put ourselves in a good position there.”
Red Bull KTM Team rider Mike Alessi nailed the holeshot in the Jacksonville main event and went on to finish seventh, his best finish of the year.
“I actually pulled the holeshot in my heat and in the main event and was very excited to be out front early on my KTM 350 SX-F,” said Alessi. “I am feeling better each week and getting closer to a top five finish which is my goal before the end of the season.”
His teammate Andrew Short also had a decent night finishing fifth overall.
“I came out inside the top ten off the start and quickly made some passes to move myself into the top five. I was able to hold that position the whole race and finish fifth for the night. I am happy with our progress so far and look forward to racing in Canada this weekend.”
In Supercross Lites Eastern Regional Championship competition, points leader Justin Barcia has no plans of slowing down as the championship heads north of the border this Saturday. Atop his GEICO Honda CRF250R machine, Barcia has recorded two wins and three runner-up results in the first five races of the season and has a comfortable 17-point lead in the championship standings.
“I just need to keep doing what I’ve been doing all season and that will keep me up there,” Barcia said. “I want this thing bad. It’s all I’ve ever thought about since as far back as I can remember. I’m not going to let off until it’s over. I feel like I’m riding the best I ever have and I’m riding smart and it’s turning into podium finishes every weekend. It’s an exciting time for the GEICO Honda team and we want to stay after it.”
Coming off a second-place finish in Jacksonville, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider Dean Wilson looks to Toronto for another big race.
“I am happy to get back into the swing of things,” said Wilson. “I had a few bad weekends, but now I feel like I am back in the groove. Hopefully I can get some more wins and be in the mix for the championship in Vegas.”
Overcoming a tough weekend, Wilson’s teammate Blake Baggett, who failed to qualify for the main event in Jacksonville, is also keeping a positive outlook as the team heads to Toronto.
“I was pretty bummed out after not making the main in Jacksonville, but now the pressure is off and I can focus on getting some more wins,” said Baggett. “I know I am fully capable of winning and I really want to get another win in Toronto.”
Barcia, who won last year’s Toronto race, will be joined this weekend by teammates Kevin Windham and Blake Wharton. After overcoming a couple of early-season spills, Windham is hanging tough in the top 10 of the supercross standings and captured his best finish of the season in Jacksonville with a fourth-place effort. Wharton currently sits tied for fifth behind his championship-leading teammate in the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites rankings.
SPEED will broadcast the AMA Supercross class at 12:00 p.m. EST/9:00 a.m. PST and the AMA Supercross Lites class at 6:00 p.m. EST/3:00 p.m. PST on March 27, 2011.
For more information on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, please log on to www.SupercrossOnline.com.