A tense battle between Ryan Dungey (#5) and Ryan Villopoto (#1) ended in a great moment of sportsmanship inside Atlanta’s Georgia Dome.
After claiming a historical win for Red Bull KTM seven weeks ago in Phoenix, Ryan Dungey proved he means business by notching his second victory in the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship in Atlanta. The former champ’s champagne celebration afterward was made all the more special with the realization that he’d gone head-to-head with Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and won. For the first time this season Dungey faced extreme pressure from the 2012 title favorite in the final laps, forcing him to dig deep aboard his KTM 450 SX-F.
“To get that first win right off the bat (for KTM) in Phoenix was nice, but it took a while after that,” said Dungey. “But, to back it up here in Atlanta, it was a great night. We’ve been looking for that one for a while.”
Atlanta, typically known for its tacky red clay, proved especially slick and technical this year. Dungey took to the conditions naturally, however, setting the third-fastest time in practice while dialing in his game plan for the main. But perhaps the greatest boost to Dungey’s program was the fact that he was able to train at home over the week for the first time since the start of the season.
“After seven weeks I finally got to return to the east coast and train at home,” said Dungey. “It was great to just have some time to myself and my normal training routine. I came into this race feeling confident and refreshed and it all paid off.”
For someone who regularly works themselves to the point of exhaustion, Dungey’s bit of R&R definitely seemed to give the ’10 champ an edge. When the gates dropped on the main Villopoto had his work cut out for him after getting pinched out of the first turn. A small crash on the opening lap didn’t help RV either as the defending champ faced both lappers and quickly deteriorating track conditions.
James Stewart: “I was catching those guys up front and then I slowly had to roll the triple and that ended the race right there.”
“I was forced to play catch-up and was making headway until I had a small tip over,” Villopoto said. “I caught back up, but just couldn’t close the gap to the leader. I felt like I was faster in some sections, but the track was tough and the ruts got really deep.”
“I didn’t feel comfortable in practice and it was a tough track for me,” Metcalfe said. “That was a bummer because it was a technical track and normally that’s good for me.”
Meanwhile JGR Yamaha’s James Stewart also got off to a rocky start after he rounded the first turn mid-pack. While the two-time champ made major ground in the early half of the race, an incident with a warning light forced him to roll a triple instead of jump it. The situation sealed his fate for the evening as he went on to record his fourth podium finish of the season in third.
Cole Seely pulled off an amazing debut on his temporary 450 ride by taking the holeshot and leading for six laps.
“I felt good tonight but that start stopped me from going for the win,” Stewart said. “I had a decent day in practice and was fast and should have had the best lap-time. The heat race was good but the bad start in the main event…well that’s been the story for me this season. I made some good passes and some aggressive ones to get up through the pack. I was catching those guys up front and then I slowly had to roll the triple at one point and that ended the race right there. I did my best and the team was awesome. We definitely had the chance to do it tonight but the start killed us.”
In his first ride aboard a 450 Cole Seely went straight to work by snagging the holeshot. The West Coast Lites rider did Team Honda proud Saturday night as he filled in for Trey Canard, posting sixth in his first premier class race. But even more impressive was Seely’s great start and lead throughout the first seven laps. The young ace was able to hold off Dungey and many other experienced 450 riders throughout the early half – an achievement that will no doubt leave him in the spotlight for the next round.
“It was kind of confusing,” said Seely. “No one was putting a wheel in on me for the first three laps, and then I kinda thought I could win the thing. But once Dungey passed me, I kind of lost my composure a little bit. I just got a little tight. Just leading that long, and having Dungey slow me up like that, it kind of made everything come back to me.”
Justin Barcia: “I got the holeshot, and just rode hard from there. The track was super tough. It was very slick and there were a lot of places where the bike was sliding around.”
The East Coast Lites riders had some crazy heat races to start the evening. Nowhere was the track more visibly treacherous for riders than in the first race, which saw Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia, Rockstar Suzuki’s Blake Wharton and JDR/JStar KTM’s Malcolm Stewart all crash out of the lead throughout the six-lap contest. The only rider who kept it on two wheels while up front was PC Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett, who scored his first heat win on the way to finishing runner-up in the main.
“That win was a great boost of confidence,” said Baggett. “In the main, I got a good start and stayed close to the leader, but couldn’t quite get within striking distance. I felt like the leader and I were equal in speed. We made some major suspensions changes this week and it made all the difference.”
But the man on top of the box for the second week in a row was Barcia. The defending champ led every lap after pulling the holeshot without a single rider threatening his lead.
“I wanted a good start,” said Barcia. “I got the holeshot, and just rode hard from there. The track was super tough. It was very slick and there were a lot of places where the bike was sliding around. I was trying not to make any mistakes.”
Ken Roczen: “Everybody thinks I counted and ran into the gate. NOPE. I’ve never even ran into a gate in my life unless there was a problem.”
Meanwhile Barcia’s teammate, Justin Bogle, rebounded from his disappointing rookie performance in Dallas by landing a podium spot. Making a pass on Wharton on Lap 9, Bogle helped make it a very good night for Geico Honda by putting a second red bike inside the top-three.
The award for the biggest setback of the night goes to KTM’s Ken Roczen. The 17-year-old German rider got hung up at the starting line when his front tire became stuck underneath the gate. While many believe he jumped the gate, Roczen denied any blame in the matter afterward through twitter:
“Everybody thinks I counted and ran into the gate. NOPE. I’ve never even ran into a gate in my life unless there was a problem.”
Whether it was rider error or a clutch problem, the situation put Roczen in dead last at the start. Eventually climbing back up to sixth, the result dropped Roczen down to fourth in the championship and 15 points behind Barcia. Given that the season is shorter than the premier class, this could prove costly for Roczen’s title hopes.
The other bit of drama that played out in the Lites class included a meltdown from Malcolm Stewart. Following a nasty-looking crash in his heat race, Stewart was unable to make the main after his bike failed to start while lined up for the LCQ. In a moment of frustration, he was seen throwing off his goggles and storming back to the pits.