Ryan Villopoto returns to the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis where his 2010 title hopes ended with a broken leg.
The situation in the 2011 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is becoming dire with just four rounds remaining and 21 points separating the top-five riders. Despite retaking the lead in the series during the last round in Dallas, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto has been met with a lot of resistance in the past few weeks and now faces a track which brought catastrophic ruin to his chances at the crown last season. It was at St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome that RV suffered a badly broken leg. The 22-year-old must be getting anxious about the upcoming round as he has only a six-point cushion from TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed.
The season has witnessed five different race winners so far in what has become a dead sprint to the finish in Las Vegas. Factory Honda’s Trey Canard is currently ranked fourth in the championship and is heading to St. Louis off a momentous third win. There’s no question that the Oklahoma native has the heart to become a champion after posting 20 consistent laps for the wire-to-wire win in Dallas. One of Canard’s strongest assets has been his realistic approach to the season. As a premier class rookie Canard has defied many racing pundits who deemed him too inexperienced in the 450s to hold a real shot at the title. Thirteen rounds later and with 16 points between him and the leader, Canard has proven a formidable obstacle in the championship picture. But Canard has remained cautious of his chances while looking ahead toward the season finale in Vegas.
“We’ll see (about the championship),” said Canard. “I’m just going to keep doing the best I can. That’s all I can control.”
Despite having a strong start to his 2011 season San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart has hit a brick wall. With the longest winless streak of his career ongoing, JS7 is at the lowest point he’s been at all season long after his recent arrest and clash with Reed in Dallas. However, Stewart hasn’t let the media and rubbing elbows with Reed get to him. His fourth-place finish in Texas could be a sign that the ’09 champ is returning, but will it happen quick enough?
“I feel like I’ve been riding well, but things just aren’t quite clicking,” said Stewart. “I’m going to work on it this week, get some good training in and hope to get it together in St. Louis.”
James Stewart is currently in the longest winless streak of his career after going eight rounds without a victory.
Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey is currently benefitting from his consistency in the series. With 13 rounds in the books, Dungey has managed podium finishes in all but three events. The results of his regularity are clearly reflected in the standings, which has the defending champ in third only eight points behind Villopoto. In 2010 Dungey and RV had a great battle together in St. Louis before Villopoto’s crash. However, the current predicament that the two riders find themselves is nearly the complete opposite of what it was a year ago when Dungey had control over the points. If there’s any time for Dungey to strike, it’s definitely now.
“I’m looking forward to St. Louis,” said Dungey. “It’s always a tough track; tacky and technical. We got a win there last year so it would be good to go back there and get another win.”
Standing in between Villopoto and Dungey is Reed. A mere six-point difference from Villopoto heading into the final four rounds, Reed was pretty much non-existent in the 2010 season but has had a dramatic comeback in the 2011 SX Championship. With seven podiums and a win to his name so far, Reed has positioned himself in the thick of it for the fight to the finish. But the two-time champ’s success this season will hinge upon his ability to recover from last weekend’s disaster with Stewart. Reed earned his worst finish of the season so far in Dallas, so he’ll definitely be looking for a confidence boost in St. Louis.
St. Louis is the penultimate round in the East Coast Lites series before it takes a quick break and then heads to the season finale in Las Vegas. Last weekend Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson earned his third win of 2011 and his second win in a row ahead of Geico Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia. The major story in the series has been Barcia’s remarkable consistency, going seven rounds and finishing no lower than second. The Wild Child appears fairly comfortable about his 13-point lead over Wilson in the series. The 19-year-old also comes to St. Louis after winning there last year, adding even more confidence in Barcia’s corner.
“Two rounds left,” Barcia said. “If we keep it on the (podium) box at both of those races we should be good.”
As can be seen from the premier class, however, anything can happen in a single round. Barcia will need to stay on his toes with Wilson clawing at his rear wheel. DNA Shred Stix Yamaha’s Ryan Sipes has also had some strong results this season, but he’s also taken some hard hits recently at Dallas and Toronto. He remains more than 40 points adrift of Barcia, taking him well out of top contention.