Courtesy of NPG
James Stewart doesn't want a mud race like Unadilla. Stew would much rather perfer to finish his perfect season under blue skies at Steel City Raceway.
The 2008 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF comes to a close this weekend as the American Motocross Festival from Steel City Raceway celebrates Labor Day weekend. With the championships decided, all eyes will be on the 2008 title holders from Kawasaki as they chase their own historic achievements.
For Monster Energy Kawasaki's James Stewart, the culmination of an entire season of dominance takes place at the Monster Energy/Kawasaki Steel City National. A perfect 22-0 in motos this year, the first-time premier class champion looks to join Ricky Carmichael as the only other rider to accomplish a perfect season. Additionally, if Stewart can achieve his 12th overall victory, he will join Carmichael as winner of the Monster Energy/Kawasaki Triple Crown of Motocross.
"I know they changed the track at Steel City and I'm looking forward to seeing it," stated Stewart. "Having a perfect season will be a great way to wrap up my first championship and I'm just going to take it one moto at a time. I just hope it doesn't rain. I don't want to race a mud race this week."
A solid performance last weekend in Southwick helped teammate Tim Ferry return to the overall podium and solidify his runner-up position in the standings entering the final round. He holds an eight-point advantage over third.
"It is really important to me to finish second in the championship," said Ferry. "I've had a pretty good season and that would be the perfect way to end it. I've heard they made some changes to the track at Steel City and I'm excited. They also made changes at Mt. Morris this year and they were really good, so I expect the same for Steel City."
In AMA Motocross Lites, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto can also make history with an overall victory. Like Stewart, three-time champion Villopoto is in position to wrap up the Monster Energy/Kawasaki Triple Crown of Motocross, an achievement that has never been reached in the AMA Motocross Lites Class.
If everything goes according to plan, Ryan Villopoto will win the Monster Energy Kawasaki Triple Crown of Motocross, a three-race sweep that will net $50K for the Lites rider.
"Steel City is a good track," explained Villopoto. "With the championship locked up I just want to get overall wins. I need to have two good motos and I think I can do it. It will be cool to finish my lites career with an overall win."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki teammate Brett Metcalfe hopes to earn his first career victory at Steel City. After another podium finish at Southwick, he appears to be closer to reaching that goal every week. Solidly holding on to third in the standings, he can put it all on the line this weekend.
"I really want to get a win," said Metcalfe. "I know it's going to be tough, but I like racing at Steel City and I ride well there. Hopefully I can put it all together and come out with a really good result."
Privateer rider Cody Cooper, of Suzuki City Biloxi, MS/OTSFF Suzuki, has turned a lot of heads in his first full season of AMA Toyota Motocross competition. The New Zealand rider has posted two overall podium finishes, including a career-best second place last weekend in Southwick. He currently sits fifth in the standings.
"I'll get ready for Steel City the same as this week," said Cooper. "I'm just going to go in and focus on the ground in front of me. I have a 20-point lead in front of sixth place and I want to just focus on the other guys in front of me so I don't lose the objective of getting fifth overall. I'll also focus on getting good starts; I've seen the track so I kind of know what it's about but I've never raced it."
Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Michael Byrne struggled a little at Southwick this past weekend, posting an eighth-place finish. He sits securely at fourth place in the standings, just in front of Cooper, and hopes to end 2008 on a high note.
"This weekend is the last race of the season and Steel City is one of my favorite tracks," explained Byrne. "Also, this week, the race weekend is on Friday and Saturday, so that gives us one day less to prepare. So my plan is to go home and rest up -- maybe ride my Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z450 once this week -- and stay fresh and get recovered from this weekend."
In AMA Motocross Lites, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Ryan Dungey saw his two-race winning streak come to an end at Motocross 338. Despite that, he still brought home a strong runner-up finish and with a lock on second in the standings, hopes to edge out his rival at Kawasaki.
"We plan to make a few changes to the Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z250 this week," said Dungey. "I'm excited about that. Also, we'll be racing on Saturday instead of Sunday and that will be cool and different and fun. We have just a short week so I'm trying to get a good couple days of riding in and then head off to Steel City and push it to the limit this weekend."
Teammate Nico Izzi has had a solid second half of the 2008 season and sits fifth in the standings in his first AMA Motocross Lites season. With one round to go, he is gunning for a return to the podium.
"I'm looking forward to Steel City," stated Izzi. "I want to go there and get another podium before the season is over. Another podium would be nice, and I know I could do it. I like Steel City a lot, and I know if I get a good start on my Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z250 I can do it. I've pretty much got fifth overall in the championship wrapped up and that was my goal to get a top five so now I just want to get one more podium before the season is over and wrap it up strong."
At Red Bull Honda, Andrew Short will make one last all-out effort to grab second in the season standings this weekend in Steel City. Hard luck forced Short out of an overall podium finish at Southwick, but his display of determination after an early crash in the final moto showed how hungry he is to catch rival Ferry.
Despite having to sit out from his factory debut for the last two weeks, Jimmy Albertson will finally get his chance to show his talent this weekend. The opportunity of a lifetime for the young rider, he will undoubtedly give it his all in his Red Bull Honda debut.
Blake Wharton was impressive once again in only his second race for the GEICO Powersports Honda AMA Motocross Lites team. After grabbing his first career holeshot in the first moto, the rookie rider proceeded to open a gap on the field and lead four laps. The confidence he has gained the last two weeks will serve him well this weekend.
Jake Weimer is on track to record his best career points finish this weekend at Steel City. The Idaho rider has been consistent all season and will continue that form to secure fourth place in the standings.
After posting the fastest lap time in practice, a hard crash early Sunday morning forced Josh Grant out of the Southwick event. Undoubtedly disappointed by what occurred, he will look to bounce back with an all-out performance at Steel City.
Dan Reardon will race at Steel City for the first time this weekend. Since coming back from injury, he has put together solid performances giving him a lot of confidence heading into the season finale.