MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (May 27, 2011) – A tremendous crowd was on hand at the opening round of the 2011 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship last weekend. The world’s best riders kicked off the summer at the Rockstar Energy Hangtown National, and after two-and-a-half hours of competition, three riders grabbed the early advantage in the championship standings – TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing’s Chad Reed, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett and DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha’s Jessica Patterson.
This weekend, American Motocross heads to the Lone Star State of Texas, for the Rockstar Energy Freestone National. The challenging facility in Wortham is one of the toughest rounds of the entire championship thanks to its difficult layout and high temperatures. Winning at Freestone is one of the most rewarding experiences for any rider, as it is a true test of physical stamina and mental toughness.
TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing
Chad Reed kicked off the 2011 season in the same manner in which he began 2010, by taking the overall win at Hangtown. Reed was strong from the start, securing a runner-up finish in the first moto, which put him in position for the overall. In Moto 2, Reed slotted himself into third during the early stages and, through line selection, gradually worked his way into the lead. After fending off defending champion Ryan Dungey in the late stages, Reed took the final moto victory and the overall.
“I’m really happy about last weekend’s opening-round win, and I couldn’t ask for a better start to my season,” said Reed. “I plan to continue riding the wheels off my Honda for the entire season and put TwoTwo Motorsports on the podium at the next 11 rounds in the series.”
Ryan Dungey picked up 2011, where he left off in 2010, with an opening moto victory. His dominance in the first race of the year looked to carry over into the final moto, but a tenacious Reed, battled it out with Dungey. After pacing his rival for most of the race, Dungey attempted to make one final pass on Reed to claim the overall, but to no avail. Despite the second place result, Dungey still holds a share of the points lead heading into Freestone.
“Overall, our day was really good at Hangtown,” said Dungey. “I was able to get out in front and pull away for the win in the first moto, which was a good start to the season. I wasn’t able to get the job done in the second moto and ended up in second for the moto and second on the day. It’s a really good solid start for the season. We’ll keep moving forward and building from here and we’ll be good. Texas should be good. We’ve done pretty well there the last few years and I like the dirt there – It’s pretty much like what I grew up riding on.”
Brett Metcalfe’s return to action led to a promising start to his 2011 season. A pair of fifth-place moto scores slotted the Australian rider into fifth overall and now he returns to a track that helped generate considerable momentum towards his impressive 2010 season.
“It was really awesome (at Hangtown),” said Metcalfe. “It’s good to be back with my Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team after being out injured for a while. It is good to be back racing and I really like the outdoors, so that’s a plus for me. I wanted to get a good start to the season and I’m really happy with fifth overall. I’m really looking forward to the next round in Texas, so I can build on this result. Freestone can be one of the more gnarly events with the heat and humidity. I’m actually heading out there early to get acclimated a bit. Hopefully that will translate into a better performance.”
Monster Energy Kawasaki
In his first Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship race since 2009, Ryan Villopoto ran solid throughout both motos to finish third overall. The newly-crowned supercross champion ran up front early in the second moto, but eventually settled into the final podium spot. With a long season ahead, Villopoto sits in a strong position and heads to a track where he won, back in 2008.
“I was a little disappointed with my result at Hangtown, but I got some good points and there is still a lot of racing left,” said Villopoto. “It was my first race back in almost two years so it felt good to finally get a motocross race out of the way after so long. I was a little sick, but I’ve been feeling better everyday and I’m getting closer to getting back to 100 percent.”
Hangtown was a fresh start to Jake Weimer’s 2011 season. After missing nearly the entire supercross championship due to injury, Weimer is back to full health and kicked off his rookie campaign in the 450 Class with a 12th-place effort. After a tough opening moto, Weimer rebounded in Moto 2, finishing sixth. He knows he has the speed to run up front, and will look to do so in Texas.
“The second moto last week was really good for me to see that I could run up at the front of a very competitive class,” said Weimer. “I really want to continue to improve, and I think we can do well in Texas.”
After deciding to compete at Hangtown at the 11th hour, Kevin Windham put forth a strong effort for American Honda. Despite very little testing and preparation for motocross, Windham found his way to the front of the field in the first moto and continued to run within the top five throughout the day. His 6-4 moto scores resulted in fourth overall and gives Windham confidence heading into Freestone.
“I’m looking forward to Texas this weekend,” said Windham. “I’m hoping the weather can be a little kinder to everyone there than what it’s been in the past. I’m feeling good, and last weekend’s fourth overall was a positive start to the motocross season.”
Despite losing second rider Justin Brayton to injury for the first part of the season, the Joe Gibbs Racing team had a strong start to the season in Hangtown, thanks to Davi Millsaps. The first-year JGR rider rode to a strong fourth-place finish in the first moto, and followed it up with a seventh in Moto 2. The solid results put Millsaps in sixth overall, and he will look to keep the momentum going this weekend.
Hangtown resulted in a promising start to the 2011 season for MotoConcepts. Tommy Hahn led the way for the team, riding strong in both motos to post a pair of eighth-place finishes for seventh overall. Right behind him, teammate Christophe Pourcel followed in eighth overall, posting 7-11 moto scores in his debut for the team and in the 450 Class.
Red Bull KTM
Hangtown was a rough weekend for the entire Red Bull KTM team. After posting the fastest lap of the opening practice session, Mike Alessi crashed in the final practice, suffering severe enough effects from the incident, sidelining him indefinitely.
“I am very thankful that I am going to be okay,” said Alessi. “I had a really bad crash and was lucky to walk away with no broken bones. My doctors advised me to wait three to four weeks before returning, so I am hoping to make High Point my first race back.”
The team’s other rider, Andrew Short, also experienced some misfortune at the opening round. After a solid ninth place finish in the first moto, Short was relegated to 34th in Moto 2, finishing 17th overall. It wasn’t the start to the season the veteran had hoped for, but with the series heading to Texas this weekend, where Short resides, he hopes the familiarity with the climate will play into his advantage.
“I had a rough week in Hangtown,” said Short. “Although we struggled with some mechanical problems, there were lots of positives to take away. I had really good speed in the second moto and felt like I was where I belonged. Our plan is to put last weekend behind us and focus on my hometown race this weekend. I am really looking forward to Freestone, as I will have lots of family and friends in attendance.”
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
It was a clean sweep of the podium for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team at Hangtown. While Baggett secured his first career motocross win, his teammates Dean Wilson and Tyla Rattray both boasted strong outings to finish second and third overall, respectively. Now, the team and all of its riders head to Texas with a little momentum.
“I have been training a lot to be ready to push the entire 35 minutes of racing,” said Baggett. “One win is nice, but now I am ready to keep adding to it. I’ve done well in Texas before and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
“I think I rode pretty good last week, but I made a few mistakes that ended up costing me,” said Wilson, who almost grabbed the overall win at Freestone in 2010. “Last year in Texas, I had some moments as well, so hopefully those are all behind me now and I can go out and get a win.”
“Texas is pretty brutal,” said Rattray. “It will be the toughest man standing after finishing two 35-minute motos. It’s been a good week of training so hopefully I can go out and finish the moto on top.”
Hangtown looked promising for both GEICO Honda riders – Eli Tomac and Justin Barcia. Tomac set the pace early on in the opening moto and ultimately settled for a third-place result. In the final moto of the day, he looked to stay consistent and not force the issue, finishing fourth to secure that same spot in the overall standings. While he didn’t defend his 2010 victory at Hangtown, Tomac is happy about the start to his season and looking forward to Texas.
“I think I’ve really grown as a racer since my rookie motocross season last year,” said Tomac. “But no amount of experience really matters when it comes to dealing with the Texas heat. However, I feel like I’m a little more prepared this year and I know that the worst case scenario is weather, so I’ll be doing everything I can to stay cool. Fourth overall in the series points is a good platform to build from.”
For Barcia, Hangtown presented mixed results. A strong opening moto gave Barcia the momentum to take the early lead in Moto 2, but misfortune struck the third-year rider and his 18th-place result ultimately dropped him in the overall standings to 13th.
Red Bull KTM
Marvin Musquin can walk away from his American Motocross debut proud after a pair of strong motos. The French rider, who brings the past two World Motocross MX2 Championships to the states, was in the mix at the front of the field throughout both motos. It did not take Musquin long to adapt to the pace of the field and the rough terrain of the Hangtown track, and at the end of the day, his 4-6 moto scores resulted in a fifth-place overall finish.
“I am really excited about my results at Hangtown,” said Musquin. “I felt really comfortable on the bike all day. I wish I would have had a little better start, but I was able to come through the pack pretty well. I am looking forward to this weekend.”
DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha
South African, Gareth Swanepoel, was the lead rider for the Star Yamaha team in Hangtown. A top-10 finish in the opening moto gave Swanepoel more confidence heading into Moto 2, where he posted a top-five finish to land sixth overall. Kyle Cunningham also got the season off to a solid start, posting a pair of eighth-place moto scores that resulted in seventh overall.
Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda
Cole Seely found himself in the thick of the battle at Hangtown, continuing to ride strong in what has been a breakout year for the sophomore rider. His seventh and 13th-place moto finishes that gave him 10th overall aren’t necessarily an indicator of how well he ran, and as the season goes on, Seely will surely be pushing forward.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki
Hangtown presented an up-and-down day for the Rockstar Energy Suzuki team at Hangtown. Both veteran Martin Davalos and rookie Jason Anderson led the way for the Suzuki stable, trading 11th– and 12th-place moto results to finish just outside the top-10 in 11th and 12th, respectively.
Reigning Motorcyle-Superstore.com Women’s Motocross Champion, Jessica Patterson, picked up right where she left off last season in the season-opening round of the WMX’s eight-race season. After dominating the opening moto, Patterson showed even more strength aboard her DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha in the second moto, coming from behind to work her way past both American Honda’s Ashley Fiolek and Red Bull KTM’s Steffi Laier en route to a moto sweep.
This weekend, Patterson leads the field into Freestone, where she and Fiolek have engaged in some memorable battles in the past. Currently, Fiolek sits just six points out of the championship lead, and she will look to close the gap at Freestone.