The 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship reached a major milestone at Houston’s Reliant Stadium over the weekend. Up until recently only two riders, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan VIllopoto and San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart, have reached the top step of the podium. But that all changed in front of nearly 46,000 fans as American Honda’s Trey Canard had a breakthrough performance in Houston for his first-ever win in the premier class.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Canard. It was an awesome race. I just tried to hang in there, because it was a tricky track. I made a mistake and (Ryan) Dungey gained a lot of time on me and from there I was just riding defensive. We had a bit of a rough week this week, but this makes it all better.”
The contest was undoubtedly one of the fiercest events in 2011 and offered fans a rollercoaster experience as top riders were subjected to both falls and overtakes. The start itself promised a thriller as both Stewart and TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed became caught in a tangled web of fallen riders. Reed collected himself following the pile-up
and made up a lot of ground to finish sixth. However, Stewart’s fate was much worse as the Floridian suffered another incident later in the race by running into the back of Jason Thomas and damaging his front brake caliper in the process. Fighting a locking front brake, the ’09 champ struggled on to finish a full lap behind Canard in 15th. The bad luck cost him the series lead and JS now trails RV by nine points. It was a race fans couldn’t afford to miss and marked a major turning point in what has essentially become a war between two rivals.
The first eastern round also witnessed the rise of veteran Kevin Windham. The Geico Honda rider has been a regular top-10 finisher so far this season and after taking runner-up at Houston in 2010, it was a blast to see the 32-year-old up front and rooted on by so much fan support. After leading the first 10 laps of the race, however, Windham was tripped-up over a rhythm section and took a nosedive to the dirt, which he was slow to recover from. The Louisiana native was later diagnosed with a minor concussion, but suffered no broken bones from the incident.
Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey applied tremendous pressure to Trey Canard in the final laps, eventually finishing second.
The accident by Windham worked out well for Canard, who was trailing the leader by more than four seconds before he was handed the lead. Canard did have to put in work for the win, though, as Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey provided nail-biting pressure throughout the final laps. The defending champion’s second-place finish significantly boosted morale in Suzuki’s camp following Dungey’s DNF in last week’s Anaheim 2 race.
“Overall, we had a real solid day,” said Dungey. “The bike felt great all day. I really owe a lot to Team Rockstar Makita Suzuki because they worked hard. We need to keep pushing and start winning these races. I’m really thankful for the day – coming off of last weekend was a real tough one for the whole team and myself, but this is a step in the right direction and we’ll keep building from here. It will be good to get a good solid week in and show up in San Diego with my RM-Z450 ready to go. (The championship) isn’t over till it’s over. There’s still a lot of racing left. We came up a little bit shy and I just have to look forward to next weekend.”
Continuing to live up to his hype for 2011, Villopoto managed a magnificent performance despite starting the race in 12th during the opening lap. The 22-year-old was consistent over Houston’s slippery surface and racked-up his fifth
Ryan Villopoto: “I definitely want to win, but I also have to be smart and know that there are 11 races left in the season.”
podium finish of the season, retaking the championship lead in the process.
“That was a tricky (first) turn,” said Villopoto. “It was super tight but I got through there. There were definitely some close moments in that race. The name of the game when you’re at the top (of the standings) is to be consistent. I couldn’t seem to get a good start tonight and I had to come from the back in both my heat race and main event. I knew I didn’t want to do anything that could cost me. It’s hard to come through the pack when the track doesn’t have much room for passing. I always wish I could be collecting wins, but at this point, I’m happy to get the points lead back.”
Villopoto also added: “I definitely want to win, but I also have to be smart and know that there are 11 races left in the season. I am happy to leave here healthy. That is going to be very important this year since everyone is riding so well.”
While Yamaha’s top rider suffered a miserable night, JGR Yamaha picked up the slack with Davi Millsaps posting fourth. “I’ve felt fast for quite a few rounds but it just hasn’t been coming together,” Millsaps said. “Luckily, the series is heading east soon, and that’s my kind of dirt, so I’m hoping for even better rides than this coming up.”
The pits were a little fuller for Red Bull KTM which was sporting a third rider in the premier class. Ken Roczen took advantage of the West Coast break and hopped on a KTM 350 SX-F to join Andrew Short and Mike Alessi. Team Manager, Roger DeCoster, was a happy man as all three riders had season-best outings with Short landing in the top-five, Roczen seventh in his debut and Alessi 10th after a great week of testing. Houston was a good week to choose the Red Bull KTM squad as the team selection in Fantasy SX 2011.
Roczen re-injured his heel in a heat race incident with Ivan Tedesco, but the 16-year-old German shook off the pain to line up for the 20-lap final. Here’s what he had to say about the surprisingly positive outcome:
“When I hit Tedesco (In Heat 2) I jammed my foot hard and it hurt the same heel I had injured earlier in the season. It was hard to ride but I knew I needed to keep going to qualify to the main. I was not thinking very positive before the main event because my heel was still hurting me from the heat. But it was not bad in the main and I forgot about the pain when I was riding. I am so excited to finish inside the top-10. I was more nervous than I had ever been going into this race. The guys in the SX class have been my heroes for a
Malcolm Stewart (#139) had a solid holeshot during his first pro race but crashed and finished 18th.
long time and it was pretty cool to get to race with them. I am very happy to have raced this event and hope to do a few more.”
East Coast Lites riders got first round jitters out of their system with Geico Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson going head-to-head. The feud was as tense as they come with Barcia claiming the first victory of the season after one of the more aggressive battles we’ve seen thus far.
“That’s racing right there,” said Barcia. “If we didn’t put on a show, then I don’t know what will. We had a great race out there. I’m just so thankful for my whole team. Going that fast, that hard and that intense for 15 laps was crazy, but that’s what I’ve been training for.”
Afterward, Wilson vowed to get tougher on the track and was quoted as saying: “right now I’m pretty much Barcia’s bitch.” These two will be worth keeping an eye on once the Eastern series resumes.
Justin Barcia: “Going that fast, that hard and that intense for 15 laps was crazy, but that’s what I’ve been training for.”
Meanwhile, James Stewart’s younger brother, Malcolm Stewart, made his highly-anticipated debut in professional Supercross. In his first pro race he showed great speed aboard his Suzuki City RM-Z250, but the youth still has much to learn after crashing and finishing 14th.
Meanwhile the leader of the West Coast Lites division, Josh Hansen, had the chance for some brief relaxation as the series turned to the east.
“I’m glad I got a week off to help my hand heal up,” said Hansen. “It looks like it might be a bit of a mud race, but I’ll be ready to get as many points as I can before we get our two month break.”