MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (September 9, 2011) – A summer full of the most intense and challenging competition on the planet has come down to a pair of motos across three classes of competition this weekend. Tomorrow, Pala Raceway, located in San Diego County, will host just its second American Motocross event, with the season-ending Traxxas Pala National. The series’ lone stop in Southern California is sure to welcome thousands of motocross fans from throughout the region and the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship comes to a dramatic conclusion.
With one title already in the books in the 250 Class, the focus shifts to the close 450 Class battle that separates Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey by just 14 points. With three overall wins apiece between the two riders, in addition to incredibly consistent results, points are at a premium with just two motos remaining to crown a champion.
Monster Energy Kawasaki
Villopoto entered last weekend’s round at Steel City with little room for error. With eight points in his favor, keeping Dungey at bay would be critical to where he stood come Pala, and Villopoto responded. After following his rival closely throughout the opening moto, Villopoto made one of the most memorable passes in series history coming out of the final turn of the moto, slipping by Dungey mere feet from the finish and stealing the win. He backed up the effort with a dominant second moto to sweep the day and gain maximum points heading into the finale. Now, he will look to simply seal the deal.
“It going to come down to just putting together two solid motos,” said Villopoto. “It’s nice to have a little bit of a cushion in the points because it puts the pressure on (Dungey) to win. I’ll go out there and ride my best, because anything can still happen, but I feel good knowing I’ve done everything I could up to this point.”
Jake Weimer had a strong outing at Steel City. The rookie 450 Class rider battled in the front half of the field throughout both motos, ultimately posting a pair of sixth-place finishes to finish fifth overall and achieve one of his best outings of the season. Weimer currently sits sixth in the championship, and will look to close in on Mike Alessi for fifth before the season comes to an end.
Dungey’s day at Steel City looked as if it was off to a fast start. The defending series champion led throughout the opening moto, and fended off Villopoto’s challenges throughout. However, the last lap pass caught Dungey off guard and ultimately led to a valuable loss of points in the championship. Despite that, he still secured the runner-up finish overall, and enters Pala with a chance at a second straight title. He swept the inaugural race at Pala one year ago, and doesn’t have many other options than to do the same tomorrow.
“I lost a bit of ground, but no excuses,” said Dungey. “We just need to keep our head up and move forward because there’s plenty of racing left. We’re going to Pala next, and to go 1-1 would be great, but all I can ask for is the most from myself. I like that track, and I was able to win both motos there last year, so it’d be great to do it again. I just want to focus on finishing the season strong for Team Rockstar/Makita Suzuki.”
Following his first career win two weeks ago, Brett Metcalfe put forth another strong outing at Steel City. The Australian veteran challenged for the podium in both motos, posting 3-4 scores to once again land on the overall podium in third. No matter what occurs on Saturday, Metcalfe has solidified fourth in the championship.
“Steel City was a great day for me,” said Metcalfe. “I felt really comfortable on the track and the bike was working great, so I knew I was in for a good day. Now, I’m looking forward to Pala. It’s kind of my hometown race. I’m just excited about that. I think it’s going to be a good event and I look forward to putting the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki back up on the podium for a strong finish in the championship.”
TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing
After terrible luck at Southwick two rounds ago, Chad Reed bounced back with a pair of solid rides at Steel City. The winningest rider in the series was looking to challenge for the podium in both of the day’s motos, and was ultimately a player in the outcome in the end, but Reed’s 5-3 scores left him just two points shy of his Australian counterpart, Metcalfe, once the points were tallied. The fourth-place finish was a good rebound effort for Reed, and he will look to end a five-race hiatus from the podium on Saturday, possibly claiming yet another win before the summer comes to an end. No matter what, Reed will finish the season third in the 450 Class standings.
Red Bull KTM
Despite missing the first two rounds of the season, Mike Alessi has had a strong 2011 season. At Steel City, Alessi finished sixth overall after posting 8-5 moto results. The solid effort helped Alessi maintain his current fifth-place standing in the 450 Class Championship, and he will be looking to end the year on a high note.
“I’m sad for the outdoor series to end, because I love racing motocross,” said Alessi. “I do like Pala and I am looking forward to the last event. After this, it is time to start testing supercross and preparing for the next season.”
Justin Barcia has enjoyed his time as a member of the American Honda team. Unfortunately, Steel City marked the young rider’s worst outing since being named to be a part of the factory effort for the remainder of the season. However, even with the misfortune, Barcia maintains a positive outlook and would like nothing more than to win tomorrow afternoon in an effort to show his gratitude to the team.
“Steel City was a tough one for me,” said Barcia. “The track just wasn’t my sort of track, and I struggled to find my groove. I used a lot of energy in moto one – I pushed really hard and finished in fourth place. However, I think I over-did it. Come the second moto, I was feeling fatigued and nearing the end of the race, I was overcome by the heat. I thought the safest thing for me to do was pull off, rather than risk hurting myself. I really want to finish the season off on a high note and make the most of this great opportunity Honda has given me to ride for the factory team. I’ll definitely be bringing my A-game to the final round at Pala this weekend!”
Justin Brayton missed the first half of the 2011 season, but since his return, he has wasted little time in establishing himself as one of the most consistent riders in the class. At Steel City, that consistency was on display, as Brayton posted a pair of seventh-place finishes to land seventh overall. As a result of his strong riders since returning to competition, Brayton has fought his way into ninth in the 450 Class standings.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki is looking to complete the single-most dominant season by team in history on Saturday, as its four riders gun for an astonishing 12th straight overall victory this summer. With Dean Wilson securing the 250 Class title one week ago, his fellow teammates in Tyla Rattray, Blake Baggett and Broc Tickle will all look to end the season strong for the team, by capturing an historic victory.
For Wilson, his first career title is something he’s dreamed about since he started riding. The Scottish rider has been the most consistent rider in the entire series, boasting more points and a better average finish than any other rider, in either class. Wilson dominated at Pala one year ago, and will look to do the same in front of family in friends and put an exclamation point on his championship.
“I’m so happy to have wrapped up the title,” said Wilson. “At first, I was bummed because my parents weren’t there to enjoy it with me, but now that it’s over, I can just go out there and have fun this weekend with no pressure. I ride my best when I’m just enjoying myself, so I hope can get another win for my mom and dad.”
Rattray and Baggett are currently engaged in battle for the runner-up spot in the championship. Rattray’s four victories and Baggett’s five are the most in the division, and each rider will want to cap the year off in the best way possible tomorrow. As of now, only nine points separate the two riders heading into the final pair of motos.
Eli Tomac’s recent surge has helped vault him into fourth in the 250 Class standings. At Steel City, Tomac looked eager to grab his second career win. Following a strong runner-up finish in the first moto, Tomac took charge in Moto 2, passing for the lead and putting himself in position to win. However, he settled for second in the end, garnering his best finish of the season in the runner-up position overall.
DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha
Kyle Cunningham has had a rough couple weeks. At Steel City, Cunningham finished 11th overall, on the heels of scoring no points just one week prior. As a result, he fell from fourth to fifth in the 250 Class standings, and will be looking to reclaim the position tomorrow with a pair of solid rides.
Gareth Swanepoel has been one of the strongest riders in the class over the second half of the season. At Steel City, Swanepoel finished fifth overall, after posting 7-6 moto scores. He currently sits sixth in the 250 Class standings, within striking distance of his teammate for fifth.
Like their male counterparts, the Motorccycle-Superstore.com Women’s Motocross Championship will also crown a champion tomorrow afternoon. Currently, American Honda’s Ashley Fiolek sits is position to claim her third WMX Class title in four years, boasting a 22-point lead over DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha’s Jessica Patterson, the defending champion. Last weekend at Steel City, Patterson dominated en route to her fourth win of the year, but will have her work cut out for her on Saturday if she is to repeat as champion.
Television coverage for Saturday’s Traxxas Pala National is live all day. It all kicks off with a live broadcast of the opening motos for both the 250 and 450 classes on FUEL TV, beginning at 4 p.m. EST. SPEED will bring the 2011 season to a dramatic conclusion with live final-moto coverage of both the 250 Class and 450 Class, back-to-back at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. EST.