Story and photos by Shan Moore.
James Stewart won the opening round of Monster Energy AMA Supercross at Anaheim, California.
For 17 laps it looked like Ryan Dungey might have James Stewart covered as the Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider kicked off his first full season in the 450 class by bolting into the lead at the start of last night’s main event, putting four seconds on the defending series champ by the eighth lap of the race. And after the nightmare he experienced in last year’s series opener, who would blame Stewart if he settled for second? But Stewart caught a second wind and with the help of a Dungey bobble put his San Manuel Yamaha at the front, eventually holding Dungey at bay to win the opening round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series at Anaheim, California’s Angel Stadium.
For Stewart, his 37th career win was a big relief, especially after the kind of fall he’s had – missing out on winning the King of Bercy title after he became ill just before the final race of the weekend. After consulting a doctor, Stewart cancelled trips to race in Australia and Italy.
“For me, this is my first race in a while, and my first race on the new bike, and this is a lot better than last year’s outcome,” Stewart said, referring to the DNF he suffered at Anaheim 1 last year. “I didn’t really know where my health was, coming in, but I think I proved it’s good. I DNF’ed last year and still came back and won, so this is a lot better start to the year.”
Dungey got the best jump at the start of the main event and had the better line in the first turn, exiting with the lead – just ahead of Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto and Stewart. Chad Reed’s day ended in the first 30 yards of the race, when Suzuki’s Austin Stroupe got squirrelly off the start and clipped the wheel of Reed’s Kawasaki, breaking enough spokes to force a DNF.
Ryan Dungey led Stewart late in the race, but the 450 rookie wasn't able to hang on.
“I was at the wrong place at the wrong time,” said Reed. “The pace is really high right now, and there was nothing that I could do. I was trying to pass another rider and our lines came together.”
Stewart got around Villopoto in short order, but Dungey had already taken advantage of the clear track and had pulled a good gap. The gap got bigger when Stewart botched his line on subsequent laps.
“I kind of struggled in the beginning part of the race,” admitted Stewart. “I messed that rhythm section up three or four laps in a row. But I knew my conditioning was good so I wasn’t worried. I just put in a few hard laps and I was able to close up on him and make the pass. I just went on the inside of him right before the whoops section – I dove down and got a better run than him at the whoops.”
Dungey certainly didn’t back down after Stewart took the lead on the 17th lap. He stuck tight to Stewart’s rear wheel, and even jumped ahead of Stewart for a few feet, but Stewart retaliated and took the checkers with a good gap over Dungey.
“I got a little lazy and messed up in the whoops,” said Stewart. “Ryan got me but I got him right back. It’s not over ‘til it’s over, and I just stepped up my game and took the win.”
Despite the close loss, Dungey was happy about his performance and the prospects of the coming season.
Kevin Windham came quietly into Anaheim and surprised the field with a strong third place.
“This was a big step for me,” said Dungey. “The 450 class is stacked this year, but I feel I belong here, and I’m thankful to finish second.”
“I was able to put down some clean laps at the beginning of the race, but I got out of my flow towards the end of the race,” added Dungey. “You really had to hit your lines good and if you didn’t you couldn’t hit the timing sections, and that was pretty important. I think he might have messed up at the first of the race, which allowed me to gap him. But then I messed up, which allowed him to get back around me. I tried to make a little effort there at the end, but I just couldn’t get it done.”
Finishing a surprise third was GEICO Powersports Honda’s Kevin Windham, who passed Red Bull Honda’s Andrew Short and Villopoto late in the race to take the final podium spot.
"For the first time in my career I wasn’t nervous before a race,” said Windham. “I guess 16 years of experience is starting to pay off. We have another year under our belt on the Honda and I just felt really comfortable. But I had my work cut out for me, it wasn’t one of those races where you got a good start and ran out front. I had to really fight for it.”
Chad Reed's new teammate, Ryan Villopoto, is back in the saddle of the big KX450F. Villopoto was out of commission for part of the 2009 racing season due to a knee injury.
Short ran in third during the early going but eventually settled for fourth, ahead of Villopoto and Valli Motorsport Yamaha’s Ivan Tedesco.
Anaheim 1 SX Results:
1. James Stewart (Yamaha)
2. Ryan Dungey (Suzuki)
3. Kevin Windham (Honda)
4. Andrew Short (Honda)
5. Ryan Villopoto (Kawasaki)
6. Josh Hill (Yamaha)
7. Ivan Tedesco (Yamaha)
8. Justin Brayton (Yamaha)
9. Davi Millsaps (Honda)
10. Grant Langston (Yamaha)
11. Thomas Hahn (Suzuki)
12. Nick Wey (Kawasaki)
13. Greg Aranda (Kawasaki)
14.F. Izoird (Kawasaki)
15.J Keeney (Kawasaki)
In the Lites division, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer grabbed the holeshot and never looked back to win the opening round of the Western Regional AMA Supercross Lites series. Weimer’s teammate, Josh Hansen, ran in second until sliding out on Lap 2. Hansen’s mistake allowed Rockstar Energy/Suzuki/Canidae’s Ryan Morais to move into second place, however, Morais eventually gave way to GEICO Powersports Honda’s Trey Canard. Canard closed slightly on Weimer, but at the finish the order was Weimer, Canard and Morias. The win was the fifth AMA Supercross Lites class win of Weimer’s career.
Jake Weimer took the checkered flag during the SX Lites main event. The Kawasaki pilot won the season opener last year at Anaheim 1.
“It feels good to have the first one done now,” said Weimer. “I rode smooth, and I did not make any mistakes. For right now, it is weekend to weekend, and the goal is to win races.”
Anaheim 1 250 SX Results:
1. Jake Weimer (Kawasaki)
2. Trey Canard (Honda)
3. Ryan Morais (Suzuki)
4. Blake Wharton (Honda)
5. Wil Hahn (Honda)
6. Broc Tickle (Yamaha)
7. Tommy Searle (KTM)
8. Josh Hansen (Kawasaki)
9. Max Anstie (Yamaha)
10.Jeff Alessi (Yamaha)