Millsaps leads overall through the first four rounds of 2013, but will he be able to hold the front after Anaheim 3?
It’s likely that there aren’t many who would have put money on Davi Millsaps to be the points leader through the first four rounds of the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season, but that’s precisely where we’re at and it’s been quite a ride for the Rockstar Suzuki ace so far. He’s taken a win and two podiums and marks a fourth-place result at Anaheim 2 as his worst showing yet. Unfortunately for Millsaps, his grip on the lead is tenuous and the riders closing in are hungry for the top-step. Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Trey Canard sits just seven points adrift of Millsaps while reigning Supercross champion Ryan Villopoto of Monster Energy Kawasaki is only eight points back. Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey has a bit more ground to cover, lagging by 17 points off the lead, and is followed by Two Two Motorsports’ Chad Reed in fifth overall, an even 20 behind DM. The drama will only intensify as the Supercross elite arrive for the third showdown this year at Angel Stadium on Saturday February 2nd. Needless to say, we’re chomping at the bit for the gate to drop.
In 2012, the final round at Anaheim saw Villopoto grab his second win of the year and begin a streak that lasted for three races. He’s already in better shape than he was last year, despite taking 16th in the first round, thanks to a second-place finish in Phoenix and two consecutive wins after that. Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart took second behind Villopoto in the 2012 race, followed by Reed in third. Considering Stewart’s string of absolute misfortune so far this year, we’re predicting he won’t be repeating the 2012 finish at A3 on Saturday, but anything can happen once the race is underway.
This year a number of riders, in addition to Stewart, will be looking for redemption at Anaheim 3, coming off a round at Oakland that can only be described as disastrous thanks to a pile-up in the second turn that slowed plenty of top competitors. The tight right-hander came directly after a set of whoops and Reed lost control enough to miss the turn entirely, cutting into JGRMX rider Josh Grant’s line and barreling straight into the pack of riders at the apex. Stewart and Canard’s teammate, Justin Barcia, were two of the worst hit, with JS7 aggravating his already present knee injury and busting the RM-Z450’s throttle. Barcia didn’t suffer any long term injuries to speak of, but got the wind knocked out of him enough to make it impossible to jump back on the bike in time to remain in competition. Grant lost ample time thanks to the incident, finishing 16th, as did Reed, who was able to battle up to 12th before the finish.
“I got a bad start in the main but made some great passes in the first turn and whoop section,” said Stewart. “Then in that second corner, a rider got out of control and cut another guy off and they pile-drove me pretty good and I hurt my knee again. Eventually I got up and went to jump the triple and landed, and my throttle was stuck. It was one of those races.”
Barcia was also disappointed, counting Oakland one more example of the tough luck he’s had so far this year. Things started off well for Bam Bam as he claimed a respectable seventh at Anaheim 1 and then took his first premier-class victory in Phoenix. At Anaheim 2, though, he cased a jump and hit his face on the cross-bar, forcing him to retire and now with the trouble in Oakland, he’ll be looking to just make it to the finish at Anaheim 3.
“I’m feeling pretty banged up and sore and mad that this happened another weekend but overall I am okay,” said Barcia after Oakland.
Ryan Villopoto continues to break records but has yet to assume the overall points lead after four rounds.
Staying just ahead of the commotion, Villopoto quickly assumed the lead and started to extend a gap on the field that allowed him to remain essentially unchallenged for the 20-lap contest. He continues his assault on the record books, now sitting at the top of Kawasaki’s all-time 450 SX class win list thanks to his victory in Oakland. He’s creeping closer to Bob Hannah’s 27 career wins, which would put RV in sixth on the all-time win list, regardless of manufacturer, a mark he’ll achieve if he triumphs at Anaheim 3. He’s also the first repeat race winner of 2013 and, statistically speaking, the first rider to earn repeat wins in a Supercross championship has gone on to win the title in 25 out of 39 seasons.
Grant’s teammate Justin Brayton, as well as Millsaps, were both able to stay ahead of the fracas in Oakland as well, settling into the second and third-placed spots respectively. Millsaps quickly made the move past Brayton for the runner-up spot and held to the checkers. Compared to 2012, Millsaps is already having a stellar year. He didn’t catch steam until the third round last year and didn’t get to the podium until the 10th round at Daytona. His fourth-place finish this year at Anaheim 2 came as a result of a late race slide which opened a line for Reed to pass, otherwise he was on pace throughout the contest to finish in third. His starts have been spot-on this season and will help him remain in contention for the title if he can keep them consistent.
“It was a good ending to a day that started off not that great and I’m pretty excited about it. Pretty cool ride,” said Millsaps after his ride in Oakland. “First practice and second practice were not that great. Third practice was better but I was still uncomfortable and not feeling it. Even in the Heat Race I was struggling. To come out on the podium, I definitely got my confidence back up [to where it needs to be]. Next week is next week. I’m going to take this one step at a time.”
Brayton, on the other hand, hasn’t had much luck compared to Millsaps. The Yamaha rider was in podium position through the first half of the contest in Oakland, but lost significant ground when he got passed by Dungey. The Red Bull KTM rider sliced across Brayton’s line through a turn and took out his front tire, causing JB to go down. He has yet to find his stride this season, and earned eighth and ninth place finishes at Angel Stadium in the first two stops there earlier this year.
Dungey, though he rode through the early debacle without going down, had to battle through the pack at Oakland to earn his third-place finish. While he hasn’t yet had the opportunity to battle for the front, a strong start could spell trouble for other riders considering the speed Dungey showed in Oakland.
Others, such as Canard, MotoConcepts’ Mike Alessi and Honda rider Andrew Short pushed up through the ranks for the entire contest at Oakland, earning respectable finishes in fourth through sixth respectively. Short’s performance was just a touch short of miraculous considering he’d just lost his L&MC team support days earlier and was running a nearly stock CRF450 with only a few alterations made before the race. Look for Canard, though, pushing for the front at Anaheim 3, especially if he can get a good start, considering he took the runner-up position in the first two contests at Angel Stadium this year. Even going down twice during the race, the Honda rider was still able to cling to fourth-place in Oakland.
In the 250 SX ranks, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen took his first race win of the season and moved to the top of the Western Regional points tally. The German rider’s success was bolstered, in part, by Geico Honda’s Eli Tomac having his worst round yet. Tomac, who came to Oakland with three consecutive race wins to his credit, crashed big in the main event and was forced to take DNF for the round.
“I bruised my knee a little too but it’s really not bothered me at all this week,” said Tomac. “I actually had a really good test session on Tuesday and I think we’re getting my bike better. We worked on chassis and suspension to get me more comfortable so I can get it working better on the track.
“The only thing now is that I’m the hunter instead of the hunted. It’s fine; there’s a ways to go.”
Tomac also lost ground to Troy Lee Design’s Cole Seely, who moved to second overall on the leaderboard thanks to his second-place finish in Oakland. Rockstar Suzuki’s Jason Anderson overcame illness to earn his first trip to the podium this year and he sits fifth overall heading into Anaheim 3.
“This weekend was good,” said Anderson after Oakland. “I came into the race a little sick and was just trying to salvage the day, but it ended up being my best weekend so far. I’m happy with that, so just ready to build on that heading into next weekend.”
Geico Honda’s Zach Osborne struggled in Oakland after posting notable results through the first three rounds of competition. He remains fourth in points, but lost some ground after taking 10th in the Bay Area. Yamaha rider Kyle Cunningham, Monster Pro Circuit’s Martin Davalos and Seely’s teammate Christian Craig are poised to make a jump in the season rankings with a strong finish at Anaheim 3 as well.
Anaheim 3 marks the 60th time a gate will drop for the Supercross premier-class, the 52nd time it will go down for the 250s. The action gets underway Saturday February 2, 2013 in Angel Stadium with practices set for the day and the main action slated for the evening. Stay tuned to Motorcycle USA for full coverage.