Justin Brayton may not have been in the running for title runner-up a month ago, but is now just 11 points away from Ryan Dungey.
Since Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto clinched the 2012 Supercross title at Houston’s Reliant Stadium last round, attention now turns to the fight for second between JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha’s Davi Millsaps and Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Brayton. DM is only one point behind KTM’s Ryan Dungey, who currently holds 191 points but remains sidelined due to injuries sustained earlier in the season. Brayton is in fourth place with 181 points. Both riders have had commendable seasons, with the Yamaha YZ450F grabbing three podiums and the Honda CRF450R scoring seven top-five finishes.
The Supercross field has opened wide for these contenders owing to attrition. JGR Yamaha’s James Stewart, Dungey, Two Two Motorsports’ Chad Reed and Geico Honda’s Kevin Windham are all out with injuries. Less than a month ago going into Indianapolis, Millsaps was holding sixth place overall and Brayton was all the way down in ninth. Strong showings in Toronto and Houston propelled the two up the list past Villopoto’s teammate, Jake Weimer, who with Factory Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe and MotoConcepts Suzuki’s Mike Alessi remain the only active other riders in the top ten.
The most recent high-profile rider to fall out of the lineup is Windham. While battling against James Stewart, Windham came off his bike and dislocated his right shoulder, damaged his left wrist, left thumb and right hip trying to qualify for the Main Event in Houston.
Kevin Windham (14) sustained a dislocated shoulder, damaged wrist, left thumb and right hip as a result of a high speed crash while battling against James Stewart (7) in Houston. Stewart took a spill in the Main Event and called it quits after six laps.
“I’ve definitely got a dislocated shoulder so that ends my season right there,” Windham said. The veteran had maintained top-five standing all year and scored two podium finishes. He started his 200th career SX Class race in Atlanta, joining Mike LaRocco as the only other rider to reach that mark. The last time Windham missed a Main Event was Daytona in 2006.
With so many dominant riders out, others have the chance to move up the ranks. Metcalfe and Alessi haven’t missed a Main Event all season and the MotoConcept Suzuki rider finished fourth in Houston, tying his season best. Weimer is also holding strong, just 11 points behind Brayton in the overall standings and taking third in Houston. Rock River Yamaha’s Robby Kiniry finished the last round with a career high sixth place followed by Kawasaki rider Broc Tickle in seventh.
It remains to be seen whether avoiding injury will influence how aggressive Villopoto is in the remaining races. He is decimating record books taking the earliest championship win in 39 years, grabbing the first back-to-back titles since Ricky Carmichael in 2005 and 2006 and now sits seventh on the all-time wins list.
Justin Barcia suffered a frustrating finish in Houston when a lapper ran into him on the last lap. He’s been on the podium for every race of the season and looks to score another win at the Superdome this weekend.
Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia has had a stellar 2012 season and will go to New Orleans the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites point leader at 167. He is followed by Rockstar Energy Racing’s Blake Wharton who holds 135 points and Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen at 127. The dominating Barcia has earned five Nuclear Cowboyz® Holeshot Awards, the most of any rider this season, and has led for 75 laps. His 32 point lead is imposing, and the Honda ace will soon close out his consecutive Lites championships with some smart racing. If the Georgia native keeps his season pace (five first place finishes, one second and one third), he will easily take the championship.
In Houston, Barcia started off strong, followed closely by Roczen and Wharton in second and third. Roczen put the pressure on the Honda ace, passing him on the opening lap with Barcia re-passing one lap later for the lead. In the final lap of the race Barcia collided with another rider and crashed. He was able to re-enter and finish second behind his KTM adversary, but the accident cost him the sixth win of the season.
“This is not how I want to win a race. Justin rode a great race and was really fast tonight, so it is unfortunate that he crashed,” said Roczen. This win is only the second for KR in his career, but marks the first time that KTM has won a SX and SX Lite Main Event in the same season. Pro-Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett took third place behind JB marking his third podium of the season.
CBS will broadcast the SX class race at 12:00pm EST on Sunday April 15, 2012.