MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (August 25, 2011) – The final off-weekend of the 2011 season leads into a three-week showdown to determine who will win the respective titles in the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. This weekend, American Motocross makes its lone trip to the New England area, with its most unique stop on the schedule. Moto-X 338 in Southwick, Mass., is the series’ only sand track, and has been a staple of the sport since the 1976 season. The sandy surface is traditionally one of the most challenging venues the world’s best riders will face, but is also one of the most popular because of it.
Currently, just seven points separate Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey atop the 450 Class standings, while TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing’s Chad Reed sits 25 points out of the lead. In the 250 Class, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki trio of Dean Wilson, Blake Baggett and Tyla Rattray, continue to sit atop the standings, with Wilson holding a 25-point margin over Baggett, and 43 over Rattray.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
Ryan Villopoto took advantage of his first opportunity to wear the red number plate, designated to the current points leader, by sweeping both of the day’s motos at the previous round from Unadilla. The race marked the debut of the 2012 Kawasaki KX450F, and also signified Villopoto’s birthday. With two wins to his credit this season, Villopoto will be looking to add to his points lead at a track he won at during the 2008 season.
“I felt like the bike was great for the amount of testing we did on it,” said Villopoto. “Although it wasn’t much, it was more than we had been able to do on the 2011 model. I think the KX450F is a great bike, and Kawasaki continued to improve on an already-solid motorcycle.”
Jake Weimer had his best effort of the season at Unadilla, also giving a good ride aboard the brand new Kawasaki machine. After a strong opening moto in which he finished fifth, Weimer backed up the effort with a sixth-place finish in Moto 2, for sixth overall. The first-year 450 Class rider hasn’t been as consistent as he would have hoped in 2011, but he’ll look to maintain the momentum he gained from Unadilla this weekend.
“I think that my results showed that I adapted to the new bike,” said Weimer. “We definitely had some great days of testing, and the team put in a lot of work to make sure we were ready at Unadilla. Now, I’m looking forward to finishing out the rest of the season on it.”
With the momentum of back-to-back victories coming into Unadilla, many though Ryan Dungey would have the opportunity to claim a third consecutive win. However, Dungey was not able to keep the early pace set by his championship rival in either moto, and ultimately engaged in an impressive battle with Justin Barcia for second overall. Dungey prevailed, securing the runner-up finish, and minimizing the points he lost in the championship. Now, he heads to the site where he claimed the 2010 title one year ago, and will look for even more success at Southwick.
“Overall, I’m happy with the way we rode at Unadilla,” said Dungey. “We’ve had a short break before Southwick, and I’ve focused on training and getting ready for this weekend. I won both motos there last year, and I’m hoping to do that again this season.”
Brett Metcalfe was strong at Unadilla, despite what the results sheet says. His first-moto finish of sixth put him in great position to secure another solid effort and possibly threaten for a podium finish, however, he encountered misfortune while running in the top five in Moto 2, ultimately relegating him to 12th overall. He’ll look to rebound this weekend at a track in which he nearly broke through for his first-career moto win.
“I really want to be contending for the podium again,” said Metcalfe. “We had some trouble at Unadilla, but on the positive side, I rode strong. I’m looking forward to Southwick. I had some bad luck there last year and I want to redeem myself. I’m going to be running up front, and I want to win that race.”
TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing
Feeling fully recovered from the effects of his crash at Spring Creek in July, Chad Reed was looking to challenge for the win at Unadilla, but ultimately, was not able to make his way to the lead pack with his championship rivals. Reed posted 4-5 moto scores to finish fourth overall, but lost valuable ground in the championship. With three races remaining, Reed will look to add to his four-race win total and get back into the title fight.
Justin Barcia made his 450 Class debut in a substitute role for American Honda at Unadilla. With the chance to compete in front of his hometown crowd, Barcia took advantage of the opportunity, and parlayed a pair of strong starts into 3-3 moto finishes, ultimately placing him third overall. Barcia even led a significant portion of the opening moto, gaining valuable experience in learning the pace of the premier class. With a 250 Class win at Southwick in 2009, Barcia will look for an upset victory on Saturday.
Red Bull KTM
The Red Bull KTM team suffered the loss of Andrew Short for the remainder of the 2011 season during the week break from competition. The veteran rider, who had gained tremendous ground in the standings, suffered a pair of broken arms while testing, and will surely be missed the rest of the summer.
Mike Alessi had a solid outing at Unadilla, posting 7-4 moto scores to finish fifth overall. The consistent effort helped Alessi move past his teammate in the 450 Class standings, now occupying fifth. Alessi garnered a podium result at Southwick last season, and will look to replicate that effort this weekend.
Justin Brayton led the way for Joe Gibbs Racing at Unadilla, and was in the midst of a strong effort before encountering misfortune in the final moto. Despite that, Brayton continued to push forward, ultimately finishing with 8-7 moto scores, landing him seventh overall.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
With another dominant outing at Unadilla, Mitch Payton’s team still boasts an undefeated record in the 2011 season. Adding his name to the list of overall winners this summer was current 250 Class points leader Dean Wilson. Despite being the most consistent rider in the entire series, Wilson had yet to break thorough for a win. However, at Unadilla, he relied on strong starts to sweep both motos in convincing fashion, and extend his points lead to 25 coming into Southwick.
“It’s definitely nice to have the points lead rather than be chasing it down with only a few rounds left,” said Wilson. “But it does put a lot of pressure on me to maintain it. I would like to just go out and ride like I did at Unadilla. I know that I can do it. Now I just have to prove it.”
Blake Baggett was looking to add to his series-leading win total at Unadilla, but ultimately relied on a consistent 2-3 effort to secure the runner-up spot overall. He now moves into second in the 250 Class standings, and will look to chip away at the deficit he faces.
“All I can do is go out and try to get the win each moto,” said Baggett. “That will be the only way I can guarantee that I have a chance in the final round. Anything can happen in motocross. That’s why we race until the checkered flag flies.”
Tyla Rattray experienced a tough outing at Unadilla. The three-time winner this season started the day off with a strong third-place finish in the opening moto, but following a crash in the early stages of Moto 2, was unable to finish, ultimately going 3-36 on the day for 11th overall. The misfortune dropped Rattray to third in the standings, and he’ll be looking to bounce back at a track he won at one year ago.
“Last year I won the race at Southwick, which was really special because my daughter was born on that day,” said Rattray. “It would be a great first birthday if I could do it again. I like that the track is rough, and you really have to be in shape to tackle it. I’m hoping that will give me the advantage over my teammates.”
DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha
Kyle Cunningham didn’t get his day off to the start he was hoping for at Unadilla, posting an eighth-place finish in the opening moto. However, Cunningham came back strong in Moto 2, finishing just off the podium in fourth, which ultimately landed him fourth overall. He maintains possession of fourth place in the 250 Class standings heading into Southwick.
Gareth Swanepoel was looking to excel at Unadilla as well, and keep up his recent string of strong efforts. The South African started his day with a fourth-place effort in the opening moto, and was able to fight his way to 16th after a tough start in the final moto. In the end, Swanepoel secured eighth overall, and enters Southwick sixth in the championship standings.
Eli Tomac made his anticipated return to the overall podium at Unadilla, leading the way for the GEICO Honda team. After a solid top-five finish in the first moto, Tomac kept Dean Wilson within his sights throughout Moto 2, eventually recording a second-place finish. Thanks to his consistent efforts, Tomac finished third overall and has a firm hold on fifth in the 250 Class standings.
Justin Bogle’s professional debut was one to remember. Fresh off winning the AMA Horizon Award at the Amateur National Motocross Championships, Bogle was impressive against his much more experienced counterparts, and showed the speed necessary to be a regular contender at the front of the field. While he will continue to acclimate to the pace and endurance of the professional ranks, he is surely proud of his 6-6 moto scores that helped him finish fifth overall.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki
Martin Davalos was able to secure another top-10 finish at Unadilla. The veteran rider got off to a slow start in the opening moto, finishing 14th, but bounced back in Moto 2 with a solid fifth-place finish. As a result, Davalos finished seventh overall for the day, and heads into Southwick ninth in the 250 Class standings.
“Unfortunately my tooth got knocked out at Unadilla, and I had to endure some pain throughout the day,” said Davalos. “We had a weekend off to regroup and work on some things, and I went to see the dentist to get everything fixed up. So, I’m looking forward to Southwick – it’s one of the toughest races on the circuit, and I’m prepared for it.”
The Motorcycle-Superstore.com Women’s Motocross Championship will resume its eight-race championship at Southwick as well. Saturday’s race will serve as the sixth round of the season, kicking off a three-week run to the finish. Currently, American Honda’s Ashley Fiolek holds an eight-point lead over her DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha rival Jessica Patterson. The pair have traded overall wins throughout the summer, and they will resume their closely-contested battle for the title this weekend.
Television coverage for Saturday’s Rockstar Energy Southwick National begins with a live broadcast of the opening motos for both the 450 and 250 classes on FUEL TV, beginning at 1 p.m. EST. SPEED will provide same-day, final-moto coverage of both the 450 Class and 250 Class, back-to-back at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. EST.