2011 AMA Supercross Atlanta Preview

February 23, 2011
Matt Davidson
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Danger, adrenaline and competition are what fuel this moto enthusiast. Driven by a spirit for sportsmanship, our racing guru here at MotoUSA can be spotted at finish lines the world over as he delivers the latest battles from the two-wheeled realm.

Chad Reed rode to his first victory of the season in San Diego despite the slippery conditions.
Chad Reed put his TwoTwo Motorsports Honda CRF450R into the winner’s circle last week.

Things only seem to be getting more difficult for riders in the 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. Like a torture rack, the 2011 Supercross season is slowly stretching riders to their breaking point as the field heads east toward Atlanta’s Georgia Dome. First, the season saw two breakaway stars, Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and Yamaha’s James Stewart, rise to the top of the ranks. A few rounds later in Houston, the series witnessed Honda’s Trey Canard grab his first premier class victory only six rounds into his rookie season. Lastly, in the previous contest TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed fashioned his first win of the season to bring the top-four competitors even closer together in the standings. Predictions for the 2011 SX Championship are gradually coming true as more race winners are added to the circle, and with each new victor comes a tightening of the series.

In front of rain-soaked fans, Reed collected redemption in San Diego by seizing his first win of 2011. Despite slippery conditions, the former champion managed his sixth career win at Qualcomm Stadium to tie Canard for third in the series. It was by far Reed’s most dominant showing this year, which has already seen the two-time champ secure two podium finishes, and a major milestone for his upstart privateer team.

Ryan Villopoto had a sub-par weekend in San Diego where he finished seventh after a bad start and a crash.
Villopoto salvaged his result and holds the championship lead by three points over James Stewart.

“I‘ve put so much work into this team to make it the best it can be,” said Reed. “To win with your name on your chest makes everything so much better. This one is emotional.”

While it was a great performance by the Aussie it still leaves him more than 16 points adrift of Villopoto in the series, which gathers new intensity by heading east. The past two races have proven especially rough on RV as he’s been forced to recover from difficult starts. In San Diego Villopoto not only suffered a poor start but also crashed during the opening lap. He once again proved his racing skills by making up time and taking the checkers in seventh. However, Villopoto’s poor result in the previous round has allowed Stewart to catch up in the standings, which now boils down to just three points heading into Atlanta.

Hondas Trey Canard left speechless after his first win in the premier class.
Rockstar Makita Suzukis Ryan Dungey overcame a DNF in the last round by finishing second at Houston behind Trey Canard.
Canard (top) wants another win. Dungey (above) is still looking for his first of 2011.

Meanwhile, Stewart was seen fighting his own demons in San Diego as the ’09 champ was uncharacteristically off his normal pace. JS7 also stalled his bike late in the race, causing him to lose precious ground on the frontrunners. While it may not have been his best showing this season, Stewart fared well with the help of Villopoto’s struggles.

“I wasn’t riding well all day,” said Stewart. “It wasn’t my kind of track, and I just tried to do my best. It was a good night and a good recovery from last week, so I just want to keep it rolling.”

Canard’s performance in San Diego was significantly hindered by mistakes. Eager to rekindle his magic from Round 6, Canard jeopardized the race with a front-end washout on Lap 6 that gave the lead to Reed. The 20-year-old again hit the dirt later in the race to hand over even more positions, and finish fourth at the finish-line jump. Despite having an eight-point lead over Reed coming into San Diego, Canard is now tied with him as the series approaches the halfway point.

With another podium finish added to his 2011 statistics, Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey heads to Atlanta on solid footing. Last year Dungey claimed a momentous win in Atlanta ahead of Trey Canard, which should give the defending champ some confidence as he still searches for his first win of 2011.

Dean Wilson and Justin Barcia  #17  - Houston Supercross
SX Lites fans can look forward to more battles like the one from Justin Barcia and Dean Wilson in Houston.

“To finish off with a second was good – a great step in the right direction and one step closer to that win,” said Dungey. “I’m looking forward to Atlanta. We have press day there so we’ll get a chance to check out the track a bit. Atlanta has been really good to me – I really enjoy going back there. The fans are great and it’s always one of the biggest crowds.”

Following Eli Tomac’s wire-to-wire victory at San Diego in the West Coast Lites division, the series now focuses on East riders to resume their hotly-contested battle. In Houston Geico Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson tussled together for Barcia’s first win of the season. But the war for the 2011 title extends beyond just Barcia and Wilson, as Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett and Honda’s Blake Wharton were also seen laying down impressive lap times.

The return to the east also marks the return of Malcolm Stewart, who finished 14th during his professional debut after taking the holeshot and crashing during the opening lap. Despite his poor start to the season, Stewart will remain a worthy competitor for wins throughout the season as he builds his experience.

Don’t forget to catch CBS Sports’ Legends of Supercross special on Sunday February, 27th at 1:00 p.m. eastern. The show will provide fans with an inside look at some of the greatest races with commentary from legendary riders like Rick Carmichael, Jeremy McGrath, Jeff Stanton, Mike Larocco, Jeff Emig and more. Watch a sneak peak of the special by clicking here.

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