James Stewart and company head to Los Angeles where they will christen Dodger Stadium with its first Supercross race.
The 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series is sliding into L.A.’s Dodger Stadium for the first time ever. As the stadium prepares for the inaugural event by having its historic field covered with 550 truckloads of dirt, the SX series has encountered more tension as San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart recently added his name to the list of 2011 winners. Racers have extra incentive to lodge their names in the history books as the first winner at Dodger Stadium. The new venue is going to be a key for gaining a stronghold over the rest of field in both classes.
“I’m very excited for this,” said Michael Young, chief revenue officer for the Los Angeles Dodgers. “I’m excited to expose this venue to millions of Supercross fans across the world that have never had the opportunity to come to Dodger Stadium and hopefully convert them into baseball fans. This is an amazing sport and the growth of Supercross is staggering, particularly in a time when many sports are shrinking.”
In the previous round at Phoenix, Stewart led an impressive start to finish victory over his competition. The 25-year-old labored off the start in Anaheim but ripped the holeshot at Chase Field which made the remaining laps much easier. Heading to Los Angeles, JS7 still remains two points shy of current points leader, Ryan Villopoto.
“It’s been a long road back and it feels great,” said Stewart of his return ot racing. “I really have to thank all my fans, sponsors and team for their support because I can feel it when I’m out there.”
Still in its infancy, the 2011 Supercross season already has terrific battles which should last the entire 17-race series. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Villopoto has returned from his 2010 injury with remarkable determination and speed by winning the opening round and taking the runner-up spot behind Stewart. One of the most exciting plot lines unfolding this season is the fact that Villopoto has the pace necessary to run with Stewart, who in the past was largely unchallenged in sheer speed. In terms of preparing for a brand new venue like Dodger Stadium, Villopoto will approach it much the same way he does every other race.
“It’s always a different track no matter the stadium,” Villopoto said. “It really comes down to the dirt as some is really soft while others are really hard. If it is anything like the dirt we have at other rounds in California, it should be good.”
If there’s anything that can be taken away from the first two rounds it’s the importance of starts. With such an accomplished field of competitors lined-up, the need for the slightest advantage is vital to getting and maintaining the lead. One rider that has taken advantage of this fact in both
rounds so far is Honda’s Trey Canard. In his first SX season he’s already lodged a pair of top-five finishes, one of which being a podium finish at the most recent round in Phoenix. The rookie may not have the greased-lightning pace of Stewart or RV, but he’s already managed to outshine the likes of 2010 defending champion, Ryan Dungey, and two-time Supercross champ, Chad Reed.
The Number 1 plate is appearing to weigh heavy for Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Dungey. After finishing a close second to Villopoto in the opening round, the champ lacked assertiveness at Phoenix and his speed began to wane near the close of the 20-lap main. But the addition of a new venue to the lineup may be just the thing Dungey needs to spring life into his 2011 Supercross campaign.
“I hear a lot of good things about it (Dodger Stadium),” said Dungey. “It’s always good to be able to race at a place like that with that much history and the memories. It’s exciting to go into new places.”
TwoTwo Motorsports/Shift Racing‘s Reed is another rider with his reputation at stake. The Aussie has taken top-five finishes in both rounds so far but his speed has not been on par with the winners’. As a result starts will play a key role for
Honda’s Trey Canard is off to an outstanding rookie season after landing a podium finish in Phoenix.
Reed in the coming rounds as he attempts to improve on his fifth-place position in the standings.
Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Josh Hansen continued to conquer the Lites class in Phoenix where he picked up his second straight win of the season. Despite utter chaos taking place around him and with numerous riders making mistakes and taking digs to the dirt, Hansen remained poised and collected another 25 points in the standings. Meanwhile, Hansen’s teammate, Broc Tickle, suffered a crash while in the lead but quickly recovered to finish second. As a result Mitch Payton’s Kawasaki team has fully controlled the podium during the first two rounds. But the season is far from over and other teams are beginning to knock at the door. The Rockstar Energy Suzuki team of Ryan Morais and Martin Davalos are quickly emerging as strong rivals for team green after getting good starts and pressuring in both rounds. Dodger Stadium could be the staging point for Suzuki to overthrow the Kawasaki riders, but for now the Pro Circuit squad reigns supreme.