The AMA Supercross Championship is busting at the seams as five riders continue to claw at the 2011 crown.
It must be a horrible feeling to come so close to winning a title only to miss out at the last second. A few examples come to mind, like Christophe Pourcel’s debilitating crash in the final round of the 2010 AMA Motocross Championship, or Grant Langston’s rear wheel collapsing in the final moto and killing his chances at taking the 2001 outdoor title. As the 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship enters its final three rounds, the top-five riders all have chances at taking the crown. However, one slip-up now could spell ruin. Few people in the series know this fact better than Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, who suffered a broken leg last year in his quest for the 2010 title. With two rounds to go before the 2011 finale in Las Vegas, Villopoto maintains a slim five-point lead in the series ahead of Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey. RV knows his point gap is never strong enough and will be in search of his sixth win of the season at his home race in Seattle.
Meanwhile, Dungey is out to prove that his title-winning season last year as a rookie was not a fluke. The defending champ has dealt naysayers a backhand by staying in the championship battle via consistent podium finishes. Running beneath the radar in relation to the multiple race wins of Villopoto, San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart and Honda’s Trey Canard, Dungey may be the most likely candidate for the crown if you look at his ability to stay on the bike and score points. And at this point folks, points are what matter.
Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto only has five points to spare as the series enters his home race in Seattle.
“We’re heading to Seattle next week and I’m looking forward to that one,” said Dungey after the St. Louis round. “I really enjoy going there. The dirt is a little different in Seattle; a little more sandy and usually will rut up and deteriorate a bit. I look forward to getting there next week and putting in another solid ride.”
The sleeping giant that was Stewart awoke last week in St. Louis – just in time to stay in the epic five-way battle. Still behind Villopoto in the standings by 16 points, Stewart faces some extremely tense last few rounds. The ’09 champ doesn’t have the most flattering record when it comes to pressure-filled moments, but what he lacks in nerve he makes up with sheer speed. His performance in St. Louis was a testament to this as he led the field with laps nearly two seconds faster.
As if the field wasn’t stacked enough, TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed is only eight points behind Villopoto. The two-time champ would have been much closer if it weren’t for the last two rounds which bumped Reed off the podium. Especially disappointing was the Aussie’s result in St. Louis. While in the top-three and pressuring Dungey, Reed landed on a tuff block that wedged itself in his rear wheel. It took only a few seconds to get untangled, but it was enough for Villopoto to snake his way ahead for third. Still within
Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey has flown under the radar for most of the season. However, now is the time for him to shine.
striking distance, Reed has to surface with a dominant showing in Seattle if he’s going to take it this year.
The final rider vying for the championship this season is Canard. While he still stands a chance at the title sitting 20 points behind, it remains a stretch for the rookie with all the big dogs in the mix. But crazier things have happened, and it’s unfair to completely toss him out. After all, Canard has posted three wins this season and another two podiums. He also showed his true grit by toughing it out in St. Louis after a bad start, passing from 13th all the way up to fifth. Don’t count this rookie out just yet – you’ll definitely be seeing more of him in the future.
One of the other major plots unfolding in Seattle is the return of the West Coast Lites Championship. The last place they left off was in San Diego where Geico Powersports Honda’s Eli Tomac became the fourth different race winner of the series. The point difference there is also tight with just 12 points separating the top-three riders. Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Josh Hansen and his teammate, Broc Tickle, have yet to finish outside the top-six with Hansen scoring three wins so far. The time off has especially beneficial for Hansen, who suffered a broken finger during practice at Anaheim 2.
Josh Hansen (above) and the West Coast Lites Championship returns in Seattle with Hansen leading by just three points ahead of teammate, Broc Tickle.
Tickle is just three points behind Hansen. With regular podium finishes and a win to his name in Oakland, Tickle has three more rounds to stick it to his teammate and come up with the championship win. Either way you cut it, it’s a great position for Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit team to be in as they have two riders in contention.
Tomac represents the best hope for Honda after winning in San Diego. In muddy conditions he secured the holeshot and ran a clean race ahead of Kawasaki’s Tyla Rattray and Tickle. Despite having a slow start to his season, Tomac has earned podium finishes in the last four rounds. His consistency coupled with his first SX win could be the confidence boost that the 18-year-old needs to push the series into overdrive.