Mike Alessi (800) led early but Ryan Villopoto (2) took the lead and eventual victory.
The angst, anger and aggression of the past 16 rounds culminated in a 20-lap showdown in Sam Boyd Stadium. All roads lead to Las Vegas in the world of Monster AMA Supercross and the final event of the long 2009 season was packed with tension and drama.
San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart entered the race with a six-point advantage over Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Chad Reed. From the Suzuki rider’s perspective, he needed to win plain and simple. If that were the case, JS needed to finish no worse than third to claim the championship.
Mike Alessi pulled the holeshot with Stewart second and Reed back in around ninth. JS immediately took the lead through first set of whoops while Reed pounded his way through the pack and was into fourth by the end of the first long lap. After getting around his teammate, Alessi re-passed Reed which drew a massive roar from the crowd, but quickly signaled the reigning champ to get back in front as they pulled even over a triple.
Stewart screwed up in a particular rhythm section when he tried a crazy combination in true Bubba style. The bobble allowed Monster Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto to pass for lead on Lap 3. That section of hard desert soil would plague Stewart for the entire evening as he made several other minor mistakes as the laps ticked off. At the halfway point, Reed was closing fast and looked ready to pounce but lost a little momentum as they got caught up in lapped traffic. Stewart looked ready to allow the Suzuki rider to pass at one point, but Reed failed to take advantage and was forced to follow for awhile longer.
Reed put a hard move on Stewart that was a major cause for concern from the Yamaha camp.
Stewart finally took a wide line around the entire outside of the left-hand sweeper which allowed Reed the opportunity for a clean move to the inside. Reed, perhaps still feeling the sting of last week’s incident in Salt Lake, instead moved over and shoved Stewart off the track for no legitimate reason. JS, with both feet off the pegs, managed to keep his Yamaha on two wheels and set off to complete the remaining laps.
“What could I do? I needed to win and he needed to finish fourth but that wasn’t very likely to happen,” admitted a dejected Reed. “I just had to sit on him and hope he would make a mistake.”
Knowing he was in a position for the title, James cruised to the checkers while Reed tried in vain to track down the leader. Villopoto took his second career Supercross victory and Stewart claimed his second AMA Supercross title with a hard-earned, well-deserved third place. It was the second consecutive title for Larry Brooks and the San Manuel Yamaha squad.
James Stewart looked to be a ball of nerves, but the San Manuel Yamaha rider was well aware of what he needed to do for the title.
“I personally think he just rode a smart race for himself,” said RV2. “James is a great rider and a smart one.”
Stewart displayed tears of joy and ecstatic shouts as he received the $100,000 championship bonus and the FIM and AMA awards, closing his season with the promise, “I will be back next season with the Number 1 plate!”
1. Ryan Villopoto, Kaw
2. Chad Reed, Suz
3. James Stewart, Yam
4. Kevin Windham, Hon
5. Ivan Tedesco, Hon
6. Mike Alessi, Suz
7. Josh Grant, Yam
8. Andrew Short, Hon
9. Nate Ramsey, Yam
10. Davi Millsaps, Hon
Supercross Overall Standings (Final):
1. Stewart, 377
2. Reed, 373
3. Short, 270
4. Grant, 237
5. Windham, 236
East/West Supercross Lites Shootout
Ryan Dungey was a heavy favorite coming into the East/West Shootout.
The 250F riders convened for another outing, but this time the points are nonexistent and the only payoff is bragging rights until Anaheim 1, 2010. The big money was already settled with Ryan Dungey taking the West Coast title and Christophe Pourcel claiming the title on the Atlantic side. Both riders transferred directly to the Shootout main with Dungey winning his heat on the Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z250. Pourcel rode the ragged edge trying to catch the leader in his heat race, but managed a direct slot.
Blake Wharton holeshot the 15-lap main event with Geico Powersports Honda teammate Trey Canard in second. Pourcel quickly sliced into third while Dungey suffered back in ninth. On Lap 2, Wharton slipped and then allowed Pourcel by entering the long sweeper. Dungey was able to watch the battle in front of him as he closed to fifth.
Jake Moss put an aggressive pass on Wharton as the Geico rider continued to slide. Dungey muscles past Wharton for fourth on Lap 4 and was immediately on Moss’ rear fender, quickly dispatching the Honda rider. Wharton went down in the whoops and dropped to an eventual 11th on the night.
Pourcel already had his title in the bag, but now he can say he's the best 250F rider in America, regardless of which coast they race on.
With three laps to go, the top three were closed up. Former East Coast Lites champion, Canard, was trying to run and hide, but when his rear end swapped exiting a corner his drive for the following rhythm section was lost along with a chance for Shootout victory. Both Number 1 plates went by to dice it out as the white flag came out. Dungey was the fastest man on the track and closing fast on his eastern counterpart. The two champions held the throttles pinned around the massive sweeping left-hander but Pourcel ultimately held on by a single bike length to take the checkered flag.
Canard managed a disappointing third and said, “Man, I felt great out there but just didn’t get it done.” Unfortunately for the CRF250R rider, Dungey and the rest of the SX Lites field, to the victor go the spoils and the Frenchman claimed a new, white Toyota Tundra and a cool $5000 for a tidy bonus package.
Supercross Lites Results:
1. Christophe Pourcel, Kaw
2. Ryan Dungey, Suz
3. Trey Canard, Hon
4. Jake Weimer, Kaw
5. Austin Stroupe, Kaw
6. Ryan Morais, Kaw
7. Justin Brayton, KTM
8. Jake Moss, Hon
9. Wil Hahn, KTM
10. Broc Tickle, Yam