AURORA, Ill, (May 6, 2011) – The greatest season ever in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, history will culminate tomorrow night and in order to kick off the final weekend of the 2011 season, Feld Motor Sports® hosted the pre-race press conference from Sam Boyd Stadium, featuring the points contenders for each respective championship.
Never before in the history of the sport have four riders entered the final race of the season with the shot at a the Supercross class title, and on Saturday night, Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey and James Stewart will go head-to-head in this sure-to-be memorable showdown. Just 23 points separate all four riders and each contender spoke to the media on Friday about this historic occasion.
After his season-leading sixth win of the season last weekend in Salt Lake City, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto enters Saturday night’s final race of the season with a nine-point advantage over second place in the standings. Since joining the Supercross class in 2009, Villopoto has experienced his fair share of ups and downs. After suffering the most devastating injury of his career last season, Villopoto has come back stronger than ever in 2011 and now in on the cusp of his first title on a 450cc machine.
“Having nine points makes it more relaxing coming into this last race,” said Villopoto. “I’m going to come here like it’s a normal race. I’m not going to change anything. I’m just going to get the 20 laps out of the way. It’d be awesome (to win this title). As a rider, you’re hired to do a job and yeah, we’ve won races, but we’ve also had problems. To (win) it for Kawasaki would be awesome. They’ve been behind me the whole time. I’ve worked really hard this season and if we could win a championship, it’d be really rewarding.
“This year has been awesome. We’ve had some ups and downs, but in a 17 race season, it’d be hard to not have that happen and not make any mistakes. If a win presents itself (on Saturday), I’m going to take it, but I won’t put myself in any position that won’t be good for me. All the (hard) work is done before the season – the training, the fitness, and everything else is taken care of and I feel confident about that.”
TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing’s Chad Reed sits second behind Villopoto in the championship. Prior to the start of the season, Reed wasn’t sure he would even compete in 2011 after not receiving any offers to ride during the offseason. As a result, Reed chose to start his own team just before the opening round of the championship and in his inaugural foray into the world of team ownership, Reed has amassed one win and a shot at his third Monster Energy Supercross title thanks to tremendous consistency. The veteran has defied the odds throughout this championship, and hopes to end the year on a high note.
“I’ll be as aggressive as I need to be (on Saturday),” said Reed. “I’ll ride like everyone else has talked about, leaving here knowing you left nothing on the table. I think for me it’s been a blast from the get go. Coming into this season the way I did, it was fun. Each and every week we progressed and got better. It’s been a challenge. Win or lose, I’ve learned a lot and we’ve positioned ourselves with a chance to win the title. As a team owner, that is what you’re trying to do.
“All titles are special. This one is hyped up, but it doesn’t feel a lot different than any other year. We’re nine back and I’m going to give it everything I got. What’s made this season so different is that every rider has had something go wrong with an abnormal mistake. There are still 20 laps to go and anything can happen.”
After one of the most impressive rookie seasons in the history of the sport in 2010, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey entered 2011 knowing that defending his title would be one of the biggest challenges of his young career. As the youngest champion of all time, Dungey sought to battle bar-to-bar with the biggest names in the sport and ultimately has compiled a strong title defense. Despite having just one win, Dungey has the most podium results this season and has been the most consistent rider throughout the second half of the season. A rare DNF earlier in the year threatened to derail Dungey’s title hopes, but he kept fighting and has been rewarded for his resiliency, sitting just 12 points out of the lead.
“I’m just going to try to take it like every other night, one race at a time and not get ahead of myself,” said Dungey. “No matter what, I’m going to give it my all and I’ll let things play out for the best. It’s been a long season and it’s been a big step for my career. I just need to get a good start, log 20 solid laps, and put the hammer down.”
“I don’t necessarily come here to prove anything to anyone other than myself. Throughout this whole season, I could have made excuses, but it’s part of life. You move on. I was 40 points down in this title at one point, so it’s just been about being consistent and trying to be perfect. Sometimes you learn the most from the bad things that happen. We have a great opportunity tomorrow night and can get the job done.”
The 2011 season for San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart can best be described as a roller coaster of fortune. The former champion has consistently been one of, if not the fastest rider on any given weekend and he’s led more laps than anyone through 16 races. However, misfortune has struck Stewart seemingly as often as success and even with five wins this season, he must overcome three riders in order to claim a third world title.
“I felt like all year I’ve (performed at) the same (level),” said Stewart. “I’ve had some unfortunate incidents, but I can’t change those. I felt like I got on a roll around Oakland, and then in Atlanta we had a rough night and it kind of went on from there. As a season, it’s been tough. Coming off the injury (last year), I thought we’d be better. We’ve been there, but the results haven’t shown for it. This whole year there has been things that have gone wrong, but there are no regrets. When I sleep at night, I sleep fine. There are moments I’d like to have back, but as a whole I’m satisfied.”
“Basically, I threw away the championship. I had a chance to win it and there were opportunities, but I didn’t take advantage of it. I can’t really say exactly what went wrong, but what’s positive is that it allows us to look back at things, look how we can improve, and move forward.”
The Supercross Lites class across both the Eastern and Western-Regional Championships has also been memorable with highly-competitive action between veteran riders and rising stars. Through eight races apiece between both regions, eight different riders have stood atop the podium, showcasing the tremendous parity and depth of talent in the class.
Coming into Saturday night, GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia sits 20 points ahead of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson in the Supercross Lites Eastern Regional Championship. Both riders boast three wins apiece and through their entertaining exchanges out on the track, a new rivalry has blossomed between two of the fastest up-and-comers in the sport and following the final 15-lap main event, one of the duo will walk away with his first career championship.
“I’ve been working hard this year and off season,” said Tickle. “I’m ready for whatever comes towards me. I’m looking forward to taking (the title) so hopefully I can do it. I’ve been struggling since San Diego, but just putting the week together was good. I was expecting to be in this situation, so I was prepared to be here. It’s been a childhood dream to be supercross champ so it kind of takes pressure off me.”
“It’s always good to be leading, so it’s my job to get out front,” said Tomac. “The biggest thing for me has been starts. There are too many fast guys in supercross and there are too many guys to be dinking around the back. I’m the guy in second, so I need to worry about myself getting out front, not the guy behind me.”
The Supercross Lites Western Regional Championship has been a three-rider showcase amongst Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki teammates Broc Tickle and Josh Hansen as well as supercross rookie Eli Tomac, who riders for GEICO Honda. Heading into Las Vegas, Tickle carries a miniscule two-point lead over Tomac and has one win to his credit this season. Tomac has come on strong in the second half of the season and now boasts two wins in the last three races. The tension will be high for each rider on Saturday night as they both look to secure their first career titles.
“I think it’s been an advantage to have some time off,” said Barcia. “I got to work in the gym and let my wrist heal. It was good for me. My wrist is good and it’s been healing well so I’m excited. Vegas is crazy so we will see some good racing for sure.”
“I know what I have to do,” said Wilson. “I can’t do much else than try to win. Both Justin and I aren’t afraid to be aggressive so the racing should be good. If I could redo this season, I’d try to get my starts better, because all my wins this season have come from behind. I’ve been working on (my starts) because they’ve been killing me all season. Hopefully I can look past the bad races and have a good weekend.”
The final race of the 2011 Monster Energy Supercross season takes place this Saturday, May 7 with practice and qualifying beginning at 12:30 p.m., and the main event starting at 7:00 p.m.
For more information on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, please log on to www.SupercrossOnline.com.