The ’12 AMA Supercross series embarks for St. Louis where Ryan Dungey (above) hopes to edge closer to Ryan Villopoto.
With momentum beginning to shift in his direction, Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey and the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship head north this week for St. Louis’ Edward Jones Dome. The 2010 SX champ still trails defending champ Ryan Villopoto by 10 points in the series, but last week’s upset in Atlanta has given a major boost to Dungey’s campaign. Looking to build off his second victory of the season, RD is at a crucial point in his bid for the title as the championship draws to the halfway point.
“The whole team has been working hard and things haven’t gone our way with testing and stuff, but we’re coming around to it and I think things are progressively getting better,” said Dungey.
In looking at the track layout for the upcoming round, there are two long whoop sections placed back-to-back that could spell trouble for Dungey. In San Diego, RD really struggled with whoops on his KTM 450 SX-F, so proper setup for this section of track will be important.
The spotlight may be on the two Ryans in the upcoming race, but JGR Yamaha’s James Stewart could be a sleeping giant for Round 9. With TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed out, Stewart is the only rider who has a chance at staying in touch with the leaders, so don’t count him out just yet. Last year the two-time champ pulled off a major win in St. Louis – a victory that he claimed was “the most emotional win [he’d] ever had.” More importantly, Stewart’s win at the Edward Jones Dome came during a lengthy dry spell in which he’d gone eight rounds without victory. With JS7 winless streak currently up to four, now would be a good time to reassert his presence in the series as he remains 44 points behind Villopoto.
Even with Villopoto’s four wins to date, however, the defending champ is still finding pressure in every round. Since Reed officially ended his 2012 season with a major crash in Dallas, Dungey has emerged as the new rival to RV in the series – something reminiscent of the 2010 season. And with the next race taking place at a stadium that radically altered the course of both riders’ seasons in 2010, many will be looking for another war between the two in the upcoming round.
Following an extremely successful debut in the 450 class with Muscle Milk Honda, rookie Cole Seely is returning for another round in the premier class this week. In Atlanta Seely got the holeshot and led for the first seven laps while holding off Dungey. Although it will be only his second race on a 450 bike, his recent performance proves that a top-five finish and maybe even a podium aren’t too far-fetched. Another possible contender for a podium finish this weekend will be Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer. Currently fifth overall in the series, Weimer has shown he has the speed necessary to run inside the top-three, but the Team Green rider is still working out the kinks in his program. In Atlanta Weimer got a good start and showed speed in the first half, but lappers prevented him from improving on his seventh-place finish.
Carrying just as much intensity as the premier class, the Eastern Regional Lites Class will be back at it again in St. Louis. Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia may be running away with the series, but that hasn’t stopped things from being interesting in the past two rounds. Looking to put a stop to Bam Bam’s early advances in St. Louis will be KTM’s Ken
Roczen, who got hung up on the gate in Atlanta before making a charge through the field to finish sixth. Look for the German to post a strong ride this weekend to keep him in the title hunt as he needs to make up a 15-point deficit on Barcia.
“I am looking forward to St. Louis,” said Roczen. “Hopefully I can get my first win of the season there.”
Roczen is just one of many who could potentially surface with the win in St. Louis. Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett is another strong contender after finishing second in Atlanta, the 20-year-old reclaiming his ‘El Chupacabra’ nickname by posting the second-fastest lap time of the evening to finish runner-up. Rockstar Suzuki’s Blake Wharton has also opened the 2012 season showing some impressive speed and starts to finish just off the podium in fourth in both rounds. Crashes have been the Achilles Heel of Wharton, however.
“I like St. Louis,” said Wharton. “I won there in 2009. That sure would be nice; to go there and throw down and take the win.”
KTM’s Ken Roczen had a tough night in Atlanta. Look for him to go all out against Barcia in the upcoming round.
Rookie Justin Bogle is falling into the SX routine quickly and it’s only a matter of time before he clenches his first professional win. The Geico Honda rider landed a podium result in only his second race, but his starts have been holding him back from battling with Barcia. We’ll have to wait and see, but Honda may have an in-house battle on their hands if Bogle can settle down and dial in his skills at the gate.
SPEED will continue its live broadcast of the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship in St. Louis this Saturday with coverage beginning 9:30 p.m. ET.