AURORA, Ill. (April 4, 2014) – Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, makes its anticipated westward return this weekend in Houston with Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart on a hot streak. The two-time 450SX Class champion has won three consecutive Main Events to give him five victories in 2014 and now has 50 career wins, second on the all-time wins list. This weekend’s annual visit to NRG Stadium marks the 14th stop of the championship.
After a brief hiccup in Toronto, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto was back in top form in St. Louis one week ago, battling Stewart for the win. Villopoto enjoys a healthy 35-point lead in the 450SX Class standings and his runner-up effort at the previous stop was the eighth podium result of the season. With back-to-back wins in Houston over the last two seasons and victories in three of the last four years at NRG Stadium, Villopoto will look to further extend his advantage in the title fight.
“Houston has always been good to us,” said Villopoto. “We have won the last two years and would like to make it three in-a-row. Each week we have been able to extend our points lead and as long as we continue to do that, we’ll be in a good spot for the championship.”
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey carried a six-race podium streak into St. Louis and looked to be a formidable challenger for the win after a strong showing in practice. However, Dungey started outside the top 10 and had his work cut out for him in the Main Event. He made a surge through the field and positioned himself in a battle for the podium on the final lap, but crashed, relegating him to ninth. It was Dungey’s worst finish since a DNF at the third stop in Anaheim in February, but the former champion is ready to get back on the box in Houston.
Fellow Red Bull KTM rider Ken Roczen was in the thick of the battle for the podium in St. Louis. Roczen has endured adversity over the last month of competition, but continues to lay it all on the line each week. His rookie campaign has been successful and with fifth and fourth-place finishes over the last two races, he’s ready to try and secure his first podium result in three races.
Stewart’s recent run of dominance has vaulted him back into the championship picture. While he still faces a 36-point deficit to Villopoto atop the standings, Stewart has moved to within just one point of Dungey for second and appears ready to capitalize should Villopoto endure any misfortune over the final month of competition. As a former winner in Houston, back in 2009, he’s ready to make a run at a fourth straight victory.
“I don’t know what’s best, this weekend or last,” said Stewart. “Last weekend was obviously special but to win again this weekend in a different state and to get a milestone like 50 race wins is unbelievable. I’ve got to give it up to the Yoshimura Suzuki team because we kind of had some issues all day but they came through for me in the Main Event. I feel like we’re riding really great and the Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 was working amazing, especially through the whoops. It was a tough race and everybody was riding really good, but I was able to get in the lead and keep it going. Now we’ll just get ready for Houston and see if we can get another win there.”
Toyota/Yamaha/N-Fab/JGRMX rider Justin Brayton was a fixture in the battle for the top five in St. Louis, but was collected in the last-lap crash by Dungey. As a result, Brayton dropped to 10th at the checkered flag and suffered a blow in the 450SX Class standings. While Brayton still holds on to fifth in the championship, he lost seven points to Roczen in fourth and gave nine points to Barcia in sixth. Brayton knows what it takes to battle up front and will be looking to rebound inside NRG Stadium.
Outside of Stewart, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia has been the hottest rider in the 450SX Class. The sophomore rider had a slow start to the season and even missed two races due to injury, but he’s getting more comfortable on his Honda each week and now enjoys a two-race podium streak. If he can keep his recent pace, a win could be in Barcia’s future.
“I rode good tonight but I am definitely not 100-percent satisfied. I really want that win,” stated Barcia. “I’ve won before and I know what that feeling is like and I’m not feeling it right now. It feels good to hit the podium though; I just have to keep charging forward for that top spot. James [Stewart] and Ryan [Villopoto] rode a great race. It was a tough track tonight and there were some areas that I struggled.”
Last weekend marked the 2014 debut of fellow Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Trey Canard. In his first race back from a broken arm, Canard grabbed an impressive fifth-place finish. While the Oklahoma native has acknowledged he’ll need some time to get up to the pace of his rivals, he proved that he’s still got a lot of speed despite giving his fellow competitors a 13-race head start. Canard earned his first career 450SX Class win in Houston back in 2011 and would love nothing more than to rekindle that magic this weekend.
“I am so happy to be back,” exclaimed Canard. “I was definitely a ball of nerves today but I was excited to back out there racing with these guys. I had a lot of fun and am leaving here safe, which is most important.”
After missing a top-10 finish for the first time in 2014 two weeks ago, BTOSports.com KTM’s Andrew Short was back on track in St. Louis. The veteran quietly put forth a solid ride to finish eighth and solidify his seventh-place position in the championship. Living just a short drive from NRG Stadium, Houston serves as a hometown race for Short and he’ll look for another strong result in front of family and friends.
GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn had a scary crash in his Heat Race in St. Louis and ultimately suffered season-ending injuries. The 450SX Class rookie had shown impressive improvement, but a broken arm and fractured skull will keep him sidelined for the remainder of 2014.
Fellow 450SX Class rookie and GEICO Honda rider Eli Tomac was in the thick of the hunt inside the top 10 in St. Louis and enjoyed one of his best outings of the season. After a solid 20 laps in the Main Event, Tomac finished sixth for his second-best result of the 2014 season and is looking forward to carrying the momentum into Houston.
“I wanted more, to be honest, but we’ll keep working at it,” stated Tomac. “All those guys who finished in front of me are going so fast and have been racing all year, so I guess in that sense I’m pleased. I had some good laps and we’re healthy, so that is definitely a positive.”
Houston signifies the return of the Western Regional 250SX Class, which last competed at the San Diego stop in early February. After a near two-month break in action, the championship battle will hit the home stretch with three races in the final four stops on the schedule.
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson has been in control of the West Region for the majority of the 2014 season and sits in control of his own destiny to a first career pro title. Anderson has three wins in six races this season, including four podium results. He finished second at the last stop in San Diego and brings a four-point lead in the championship to Houston.
“We did some outdoor testing right after San Diego but I’ve been working hard and focusing on supercross lately,” said Anderson. “I can’t wait to go racing again this weekend in Houston! I’m going to take it one race at a time but want nothing more than to hold that No. 1 plate when we leave Las Vegas!”
Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Cole Seely is the rider hoping to track Anderson down over the final month of competition. Like Anderson, Seely is in search of his first career professional title and thanks to one win and four podium finishes this season, has been able to keep pace with Anderson. A first career win in Houston would prove significant to Seely’s title hopes and after a brief stint filling in at Team Honda Muscle Milk’s 450SX Class effort during the break, he hopes the extra race time works to his advantage.
Seely’s fellow Troy Lee Designs teammates have also been solid throughout the 2014 season and as a result, the team has collectively enjoyed its best season to date. Currently, all four team riders – Seely, Malcolm Stewart, Jessy Nelson, and Shan McElrath – currently occupy positions inside the top 10 in the championship.
After a dominant effort in the Eastern Regional 250SX Class Championship, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki is hoping the momentum from that success carries into the West Region. Both Justin Hill and Dean Wilson sit in the championship picture and the duo are the two most recent winners in the championship. Hill captured his first career win at the last stop in San Diego while Wilson took the victory at the race prior to that. Hill faces a 24-point deficit to Anderson atop the standings while Wilson sits 33 points back, but the team’s momentum could work into their favor in Houston.
“It has been a long two months off,” said Hill. “After getting my first win in San Diego I was so fired up, but then we were on break. I’ve continued to ride and train and am planning to carry the momentum I had in San Diego into Houston.”
“I’m excited to get back in the mix,” said Wilson, who filled in for an injured Chad Reed in the 450SX Class during the break in action. “Racing the 450SX Class with TwoTwo Motorsports was a great opportunity for me and allowed me to continue to race during the break. It feels good to get back on my KX250F and all I can do is go out and win and see what falls in place. San Diego put us down some points, but our goal of winning has not changed.”
GEICO Honda’s Zach Osborne is another rider that will make his return to competition in Houston. The Virginia native suffered a broken collarbone at the third Anaheim race but is back at full health and ready to make a run at victory on Saturday night.
Yamalube/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb is eagerly awaiting the return of the West Region. The rookie has been a bright spot in the 250SX Class this season and after the success achieved by his longtime amateur rival Adam Cianciarulo in the Eastern Regional Championship, Webb will look to build on his second and third-place finishes this season in hopes of breaking through for his first career pro victory.
For the first time ever, the entire Monster Energy Supercross season will air on FOX Sports. Catch every Monster Energy Supercross race Saturday night on FOX Sports 1 (fourteen races) and FOX Sports 2 (three races) including next-day re-airs on FOX Sports 1. In addition, the authenticated Fox Sports Go app will air each race at the same time it airs on FOX Sports 1 & FOX Sports 2.
For more information on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, please log on to www.SupercrossOnline.com, the official website of Monster Energy Supercross.