After suffering a highlight-reel crash last year at Daytona, JGR Yamaha’s James Stewart shook off the memory by snagging his second career victory at the famous Daytona International Speedway. Stewart picked up just his second win in the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship at a mud-filled Daytona track Saturday night. It was Stewart’s first victory since Oakland in what has so far been an anti-climactic season for the two-time champ. In addition to Stewart returning to the top of the podium, Daytona also saw JS7’s teammate, Davi Millsaps, pull off one of his best rides to give the Joe Gibb’s Racing Team its best result to date.
“It means a lot for us to get a win and to go 1-2 as a race team,” said Stewart. “We had a lot of…I wouldn’t say bad luck, but we had some struggles with starts – at least I have – and then some weird things happening. I’ve been saying if I got a start I felt like I could win one of these things. So tonight it was definitely good enough for me. So, I’m stoked.”
In addition to keeping him in the title hunt, Stewart’s latest victory helped fill the void left by KTM’s Ryan Dungey as the former champ recovers from an operation to repair his collarbone. In a championship that has become gift-wrapped for Ryan Villopoto through his rivals’ injuries and a 53-point cushion, Stewart’s latest call to arms has given a much-needed spark to the series as it enters its final seven rounds.
The Daytona track featured several unique obstacles due to weather, including this pond in the middle of a roller section.
What took Ricky Carmichael many weeks to design only took Mother Nature a few hours to tear apart. Daytona offered riders and fans the first mud race of the season, with heavy rains flooding several sections and creating ruts normally reserved for nightmares. Most riders were quick in pointing to the long roller section as the most difficult to navigate, as pools of water had to be hopped in order to prevent getting bogged down. As weather and track conditions continued to worsen throughout the evening, AMA officials decided to shorten the Lites and Supercross main to 12 and 16 laps, respectively, as heats were already dragging well beyond their typical allotment.
“Daytona was interesting,” said Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe, who finished 10th in the main after crashing out of a top-five position. “The weather really challenged us. The first practice was pretty good and in dry conditions. Then the rain came in and really changed the whole dynamics. We had a pretty tough track; it was muddy and very rutty. We were still able to do the jumps, but it was a tough little track.”
Ryan Villopoto: “I was really hoping to get out front early and not get roosted, but ended up in last place two corners in.”
As difficult as conditions were, the start proved even more important than usual. Villopoto, normally a holeshot ace, was at the losing end of a very wet and wild launch out of the gates, and quickly crashed just two corners in.
“I was really hoping to get out front early and not get roosted, but ended up in last place two corners in,” said Villopoto. “They made some track changes due to the conditions which was a positive, but unfortunately for me the shortened moto cut back on my time to get to the front.”
But even with conditions working against him RV was able to collect himself and surge back to a fifth-place finish, a result which leaves him 44 points ahead of Stewart.
To no one’s surprise, Geico Honda’s Kevin Windham was comfortable and in his element at Daytona. Not only did the fan-favorite win his first heat race of the year, but the Louisiana native also pulled off his first podium result of the season just a few rounds after celebrating his 200th Supercross start. Making few errors and keeping it on two wheels, Windham used his experience to stay in the top-three for the entire contest.
Round 10 also saw the return of Kyle Regal, who’s missed the first half of the season due to a dislocated hip and broken femur. Despite his time away from the track and having to pit out of his own van, Regal had a strong performance considering the environment he was racing in. In the future look for his results to improve as he acclimates to the racing scene. Meanwhile Frenchman Marvin Musquin successfully rose to the challenge while riding KTM’s 350 SX-F. Finishing just shy of the podium in fourth, Musquin put his motocross background to good use while navigating the tricky conditions.
“The conditions were tough but it was so fun,” said Musquin. “I am really disappointed my teammate, Ryan Dungey, couldn’t be here and I tried to do well for him tonight. It would have been nice to be on the podium but I am really happy to get this close.”
El Chupacabra (above) could have ended Barcia’s win streak if it weren’t for a crash halfway into the main. Instead, Bam Bam remains undefeated with four consecutive victories.
Even with their reduced laps, both classes featured longer mains than typical. Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett used this to his advantage in the Lites main as he reeled in the defending champ during the latter stages of the contest. Though the night would end with Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia scoring his fourth consecutive win, it put into perspective how hard it’s going to be for Bam Bam to go undefeated in 2012. If it weren’t for Baggett’s small crash on Lap 6, we reckon El Chupacabra would have ended the champ’s win streak right then and there.
“Once I fell I had to do something because I knew I was faster,” Baggett said. “So I just hung it out, over-jumping jumps, getting out of control and I came really close to getting him. It’s a step in the right direction and I hope to ride this momentum for the rest of the series.”
After being completely bumped off the podium in the last round at St. Louis, Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit riders redeemed themselves with Darryn Durham taking third nearly a minute behind his teammate. Durham, who has yet to finish outside the top-five this season, got a mediocre start and was running seventh on the opening lap. By keeping a level head and picking off riders who tired, Durham eventually finished on the box for the second time this season.
“There were so many ruts, you just had to be smart and be on your toes the whole time,” said Durham. “I’ve ridden a lot of mud races, so I knew guys would be dropping like flies out there. I was just patient and took my time to move my way up.”