Ryan Dungey took the overall with a 1-1 day in Colorado and walked away with the championship points lead.
Long ruts and ominous skies greeted riders at Round 3 of the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship in Lakewood, Colorado. James Stewart came into the race with a four-moto streak under his belt and the competitors were all looking to break the norm. Riders competed against the power-robbing altitude, soft, challenging track conditions and unexpected idiocy which resulted in a major upheaval of the championship standings.
Tommy Hahn ripped the holeshot in Moto 1, yarding his borrowed Muscle Milk Honda CRF450R up the 260-foot straight to the front of the pack with a great launch from the outside. Jake Weimer slotted into second on his Monster Energy Kawasaki with Colorado favorite Andrew Short (Chaparral Honda) in third. Ryan Dungey got off the gate clean as well with MotoConcepts Suzuki’s Mike Alessi in front and points leader Stewart close behind. Bubba slipped his Yoshimura Suzuki past Dungey within a few turns as Alessi moved around Short for a podium position. It wouldn’t last, however, as Stewart notched Alessi before the end of the first lap and began assaulting the leaders.
Stewart made quick work of Weimer and Hahn and Dungey recognized the need to keep the Suzuki rider in sight. He moved his Red Bull KTM into second and then was gifted the lead when JS7 stacked up his #7 RM-Z450 in a high-speed section following a downhill double while trying to avoid a person crossing the track. Stewart moved off-line to avoid the mid-track jackass and cross-rutted, slamming his right side into the moist soil. He was able to get the bike up and running, but he inched around the track momentarily before pulling off, showing signs of an injured right hand. The crash came as a surprise as the championship leader looked completely in control up to that point, seemingly riding with ease. He would not return for the second moto, giving up a potential 50 points and perhaps the 2012 title courtesy of a bonehead move outside his control.
“I had about a two-second lead and I was finding some rhythm,” Stewart explained afterward. “Then, as I came off a jump, there was a guy running across the track toward the inside of the turn where my line was. It blew my concentration; I took my eyes off the landing and then it was too late to do anything. Now, I’m just going to train this week and see how my wrist feels, but I want to make sure we’re 100 percent for Mt. Morris.”
Brett Metcalfe earned third in the opening moto while his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate, James Stewart, crashed out.
Weimer passed Short at the halfway point. Broc Tickle’s poor luck continued as his Pro Circuit Kawasaki crapped out with a mechanical. Alessi and Brett Metcalfe had a spirited battle for third place – a position the MotoConcepts rider has become accustomed to holding down. Metcalfe used the power of his Yoshimura Suzuki to launch over the privateer RM-Z450 on a big double and immediately put a gap on the #800. He was unable to catch the factory Kawasaki, however, and settled for third. Dungey ran uncontested out front and waxed the competition by a big margin, over 20 seconds. Ryan Sipes finished an encouraging sixth-place.
A bit of moisture came down between the 450 motos, causing the track to develop deeper ruts, but not enough to make it a mud race. Dungey pulled the holeshot to start Moto 2 and that was all she wrote. With Stewart out of the picture (along with Chad Reed, Ryan Villopoto and Trey Canard) Dungey had a clear track with nobody in his rearview mirror. Depending on the severity of Stewart’s injury, this season might shape up to be a repeat of Dungey’s 2010 championship run.
Short and Weimer were again running in podium spots. Their lines came together at the bottom of a rough downhill, but the contact was minimal and Short squeaked into the runner-up position. Tickle circulated in fourth with Kyle Regal behind him, but the JGRMX Yamaha rider crashed out right away, injuring his shoulder in the process. That put Nico Izzi into the position and he would hold it through the checkers, going 5-5-4 on the day, his best result of the season.
Billy Laninovich raced his way to eighth aboard his borrowed TLD Honda, and he notched ninth overall on the day. Lano was engaged in a great battle early on with Matt Lemoine. Short held off Weimer for the final laps and Tickle slipped past the factory rider to claim the final podium position. It was a nice break for the PC rider who has been underwhelming for the 2012 SX season and the opening rounds of the Nationals.
Dungey picked up 50 points on the day, taking over the championship lead with 136 total points. Weimer scored second overall with Short combining 7-2 finishes for third. Weimer also took advantage of Stewart’s misfortune by moving into second overall with 101 points. JS and Alessi both have 100 points to their credit with Short in fifth at 97.
“I hate to win like that,” said Dungey, who has won three consecutive races at Thunder Valley. “James and I have pushed each other to new levels and although he won the first four motos (this season), it’s been good. Hopefully he heals up and comes back (next week). My game plan is always the same, to take it one race at a time. You can’t focus on the end result and we saw that today. I just do my own thing, put my best foot forward, and never underestimate anyone.”
2012 Thunder Valley 450 Motocross Results:
1. Ryan Dungey (KTM) 1-1
2. Jake Weimer (Kawasaki) 2-4
3. Andrew Short (Honda) 7-2
4. Nico Izzi (Yamaha) 5-5
5. Brett Metcalfe (Suzuki) 3-10
6. Mike Alessi (Suzuki) 4-9
7. Justin Brayton (Honda) 9-6
8. Michael Byrne (Suzuki) 12-7
9. Billy Laninovich (Honda) 11-8
10. Kyle Chisholm (Kawasaki) 10-11
11. Broc Tickle (Kawasaki) 35-3
12. Matt Lemoine (Kawasaki) 13-12
13. Shane Sewell (KTM) 14-13
14. Josh Grant (Kawasaki) 8-19
15. Ryan Sipes (Yamaha) 6-26
2012 AMA Motocross 450 Championship Points:
1. Ryan Dungey, 136
2. Jake Weimer, 101
3. James Stewart, 100
4. Mike Alessi, 100
5. Andrew Short, 97
6. Brett Metcalfe, 84
7. Josh Grant, 73
8. Nico Izzi, 71
9. Broc Tickle, 63
10. Kyle Chisholm, 50