Kevin Windham has the distinction of racing Phoenix more than anyone else in the series. The 35-year-old is getting back into full race-mode after having a crash-filled year in 2012.
This weekend the Monster Energy Supercross show visits Phoenix, Arizona’s Chase Field for the second race of the 2013 season. And after a surprising result in California six days ago, the guy who will hoist this weekend’s trophy is for anyone to guess.
Geico Honda’s Kevin Windham has the distinction as the person who’s raced in Phoenix more than anyone else. At 35-years-old, the Honda 450 rider from Mississippi is still plenty fast.
“I’m not sure how many times I’ve been here,” says Windham. “I was thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 [laughs]. Obviously I’ve had a few injuries along the way. Really, it’s been a town that’s been good to me. “
Even with all that experience under his belt, Windham says that he still gets nervous—especially considering how many times he hit the dirt last season. Still his focus is on getting back racing with some of the younger competitors.
“I got to be honest I went into this season pessimistic and really just focused on the bad,” reveals Windham. “I crashed a lot in 2012. I crashed out of my last few races and it was weighing on me. I went into A1 just wanting to survive it and get 20 laps under my belt to build some confidence. Because at my age, I’m kind of at the point I don’t want to crash anymore. But in this sport it’s kind of inevitable.“
After soldiering to an eight-place finish last weekend because of a tweaked knee that he suffered during the final practice session in Anaheim, James Stewart says he’s ready to race.
“The knee is a bit banged up, but we’re going to Phoenix and hopefully get things rolling from there,” says the Yoshimura Suzuki rider. “The points are wide open right now, the competition finished all over the board, so even though we had an off night, we’re right there in points.”
Although he hasn’t been making much noise lately, Moto Concepts, Mike Alessi will be looking to improve upon last weekend’s championship-killing DNF result.
“I hit a tuff block that was kind of kicked out in the middle of the track,” tells Alessi in reference to his DNF. “I tried to avoid it but I wasn’t able to. It kicked my bike completely sideways. The bike did a huge flip and the handlebar was completely bent down where it was un-rideable. We got to re-group and get better on the starts; because right now that’s where the race is won and lost. “
Chad Reed says that he’s missing something in terms of bike set-up. He and his team did some testing earlier in the week and hope they’ve found some more speed come Saturday.
Series rookie, Justin Barcia was another main event casualty after his bike mis-shifted into neutral off of a jump. Luckily his machine was still in running order and he managed to hold on and finish seventh. Barcia will be another rider to keep an eye on especially if he can get a good start and stay out of trouble.
The factory Kawasaki team of Ryan Villopoto and Jake Weimer are always frontrunners, especially in Phoenix. Last year, Weimer recorded his best-ever 450 class finish (third-place) and will be aiming to improve upon that result.
“We’re just looking to improve on last week’s fifth place,” shares Weimer. “I feel that the podium is achievable and we were up there last year in Phoenix, so we plan to be there again this weekend.”
Even though Villopoto has a room full of trophies he’s never gotten one from Phoenix. And after recording a dismal 16th place finish last weekend the reigning champ is hungry for a win.
“We had a really good week of testing heading into Chase Field,” explains Villopoto. “Last week was not what we were looking for, but we’ll come into Phoenix fresh and ready to finish where we belong. I’ve never won a 450SX main in Phoenix, so we plan to change that on Saturday.”
As usual, Chad Reed will be another rider to keep tabs on. After rehabilitating from a season-ending knee injury last year, Reed says he’s slowly getting back into the swing of things with his self-run team, TwoTwo Motorsports.
“It was a pretty quiet, lonely fourth place—the only positive is that I beat some of my main competitors,” comments Reed when asked about his A1 result. “When you’ve been doing this for eleven years sometimes you know how you need to feel going into the first race. Physically I felt really good but from the bike side I felt like something was missing. We worked hard this week and will try and turn it around Saturday night.”
“It’s been a tough racetrack for me.,” continues Reed. “I’ve had a lot of great battles, been on the podium all but twice in 11 years. It hasn’t been horrible to me but I haven’t gotten that main victory that I’ve always wanted.”
One year ago, Ryan Dungey made history by recording KTM’s first-ever premier class victory inside Chase Field. A solid third-place finish last weekend followed by a busy week of testing and training could pay dividends Saturday night for the Minnesota rider.
Ryan Dungey etched his name in the record books last year handing KTM its first-ever 450-class victory. Can he do it again this year?
Similar to both Reed and Villopoto, Trey Canard is another rider returning to fitness after suffering a near-life altering neck injury last year. Canard stunned fans with a second-place finish six days ago. Will this be the weekend Canard makes his return to the top step of the podium?
Last weekend’s surprise winner, Davi Millsaps proved naysayers wrong and demonstrated that he has the pace to run at the front and vie for race wins. Still, Millsaps claims nothing has changed and that he’ll be continuing to do what he does best: ride his dirt bike.
“Nothing has changed except the color of my number plates,” says Millsaps. “I just have to keep my head down and keep pushing forward one step at a time.”
In the 250SX class, Geico Honda’s Eli Tomac had a great race with KTM’s Ken Roczen at Anahiem. The Colorado rider ended up taking the win allowing him to keep the red plate this weekend.
“Got to keep the red plate,” says a smiling Tomac. “Heading to Phoenix with the points lead is as good as it gets. Definitely looking forward to this race. It is one of the closer races from my home base in Colorado. So I have a lot of family and friends that come out to watch.”
Tomac, who finished in fourth-place last year says it’s possible to nab the win especially if he can get a good start: “When you start in the back of the pack and there is that many fast guys its hard to move to the front unless someone makes a mistake. So as long as I get a top-five start, I have a really good shot at the podium.”
This weekend marks the first-time Malcolm Stewart will race in Arizona after competing in the East Coast series last season. Thankfully his older brother, James gave him some tips coming into the weekend:
“The track gets really, really slick at night,” conveys Malcolm of his older brother’s advice. “And it changes two, three times during the course of the night. Just be careful, the front end is going to wash out a lot on you. Be smart don’t push it and let the race come to you.”
Zach Osborne claims he has the speed to vie for a race win this weekend in Phoenix as long as he gets a good start.
Geico Honda’s Zach Osborne will also look to improve upon last weekend’s finish. A first-turn crash created more work for the former MX2 competitor resulting in a seventh-place finish. Osborne claims he has what it takes to race at the front as long as he can nail the start.
“I think if I can off the start up front I will be on the podium pretty easily. Last weekend my speed was there and everything was there for me to be in contention for a win. But I kind of messed that up. This weekend I just need to be there from the very get-go. It’s pretty much all about the start.”
Speed TV will be airing the race live on Saturday, January 12 beginning at 6:30 pacific time. For more up-to-the-minute racing news make sure to follow us on Twitter (@MotoUSA).