JGR Yamaha’s James Stewart (#7) and Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto (#1) are the only SX champs remaining in a series that has been especially hit hard with injuries.
Still drying from last week’s mudfest at Daytona, the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is swinging through the Midwest again where it will line the gates at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. Even after recording his worst finish of the season in Round 10, Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto maintains a 29-point lead in the series, and his advantage has grown even greater with the news that Ryan Dungey will be out of the series indefinitely. With another title quickly sliding into RV’s back pocket, the series is in need of a rider who can rise to the challenge and dethrone the defending champ. But in a season that has racked up a long list of injured riders the question is, who can accomplish this?
JGR Yamaha’s James Stewart is the obvious candidate. After notching his second victory in the series at Daytona, JS7 reinvigorated his campaign following a string of lackluster performances. The two-time champ remains one of the few riders in the championship who can go toe-to-toe with Villopoto in terms of speed, but consistency has been an on-going problem for J-Stew. The question also remains if Stewart is mentally focused on winning a championship as he’s stated multiple times that his top priority is winning races, not titles. Currently, Stewart has 44 Supercross class wins.
Villopoto has one of the strongest records at Lucas Oil Stadium with two wins in the past two years. His win at last year’s event was taken in stunning fashion after getting up front and leading all 20 laps – something which he’s already done multiple times this season. With only two finishes off the podium throughout the first 10 rounds, RV looks to be in the middle of another title-winning schedule. But now is not the time for him to back off as Stewart is a proven competitor capable of going on a win streak.
Further back in the championship, Geico Honda’s Kevin Windham may be in contention for a top-three finish in the series depending on Dungey’s return. K-Dub’s recent podium at Daytona was the veteran rider’s first of the season. If he can keep it up, Windham could secure his fifth career top-three finish in Supercross.
“I have been working really hard to get up on the podium this season and I am excited to finally be here at such a special race,” said Windham at Daytona. “The track was tough but I was in my element so I just made sure to stay consistent and
K-Dub is coming off his first podium of the season and is currently in the fight for a top-three finish in the series.
not make any mistakes. The GEICO Honda was running awesome so I am ready to keep this momentum going into the rest of the season.”
Windham isn’t alone in his hunt for a top-three finish, however. Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer is only nine points behind and has also shown potential with two podiums so far. Stewart’s teammate, Davi Millsaps, is also in the running – especially after managing his best finish at Daytona in second. All this is to say that the fight is still very much alive inside the championship.
In the Lites class the fight for the title is even more polarized as Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia has been untouchable, winning every round so far. The defending champ was mentally prepared to have his undefeated status blown out of the water in Daytona due to the conditions, but Bam Bam got another strong start and stayed consistent to keep his win streak alive. Currently 24 points ahead of Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Darryn Durham, Barcia remains focused on his goal of clenching the East title for the second consecutive year. At this point it seems more of a question as to whether Barcia can do it by remaining undefeated in every round.
Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett came so close to disrupting Barcia’s win streak in Daytona. El Chupacabra was clearly faster than Bam Bam through most sections of the track, and even a small tip over couldn’t keep Baggett from pressuring for the win.
Bam Bam has a clear shot at defending his Lites title after winning four straight motos. But will he go undefeated?
“Once I fell I had to do something because I knew I was faster,” said Baggett. “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.”
But Baggett has yet to show he has the maturity and patience of a seasoned rider to consistently stay on top, and until he does the season appears wide open for the defending champ.
Currently second in the championship, Durham has been having an impressive first season with Mitch Payton’s Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad. In what is already being dubbed the most difficult race of the 2012 season, Durham snagged his second podium finish of the year at Daytona after working his way through the field. Before 2012, Durham was rarely inside the top-five, but elite sponsorship has provided the young up-and-comer a platform on which to showcase his skills. With half the series over, Durham remains just one point ahead of KTM’s Ken Roczen in the battle for runner-up.