Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto leads the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship to Ricky Carmichael's Signature Design Daytona course this weekend.
With Daytona Bike Week almost upon us, it’s time for the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross
series to celebrate one of its most famed venues on the Supercross circuit – the Ricky Carmichael
Signature Design course. Conjured up by the GOAT himself, Carmichael’s fifth Daytona Supercross event will feature a heavy motocross layout that provides a dramatic change of pace from previous tracks. Favoring riders with outdoor skill, this year’s Daytona will contain some familiar obstacles while introducing a few new ones. Rider fitness will be crucial as lap times are expected to be more than two minutes long – nearly double that of typical SX tracks.
No one appears in better condition to handle the rigors of Daytona than Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto
. Recording four wins in the past five rounds, RV’s latest victory in St. Louis reestablished the defending champ’s dominance heading into the second half of the season. The champ also boasts a formidable record at Daytona’s infield, winning the past two years.
“I’m looking forward to Daytona, it’s always been good to me,” said Villopoto. “I’ve won there the last two years so hopefully I can make it a three-peat.”
As the series enters Round 10 of the championship Red Bull
KTM’s Ryan Dungey
has emerged as the only rider capable of standing in the way of RV’s title defense. Last week inside the Edward Jones Dome, Dungey posted his seventh podium finish of the season to keep Villopoto within arm’s reach. RD5’s consistency has positioned him in prime territory for another championship feud with Villopoto, but if the former champ can’t land more race wins Villopoto will almost certainly run away with the title.
Now more than 50 points down on Villopoto, JGR Yamaha
’s James Stewart
has dug himself into a hole and is likely not to recover. The two-time champ is two full races behind RV and would need a miracle to get back in the championship fight. What has particularly hurt JS7 this year have been his starts and crashes, which have allowed him just one win and three podiums thus far.
James Stewart: "The further back I start back
the more things that can possibly go wrong.
That’s what's happening at the moment."
“The further back I start back the more things that can possibly go wrong,” Stewart said. “That’s what happening at the moment. We go to Daytona now and it should be good. The track will be a bit longer and you gotta be in shape to ride that one.”
Muscle Milk Honda
riders will also be eyeing a victory at Daytona. Justin Brayton
is coming off his first top-three finish of the season in St. Louis, and fill-in rider Cole Seely is eagerly looking for a top result after making waves with his debut appearance on a 450 machine. Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe
may also be in contention for a top result as the Aussie brings strong outdoor skills and a boost in confidence after having a major breakthrough in the past round.
“I was in a good flow and in race mode, more so than I've been all year,” Metcalfe said. “We only got an eighth and we're working on improving those results, but I think the [past] weekend was a turning point for my season. Daytona is always tough, both physically and mentally. It's more of an outdoor track, but still with some gnarly Supercross obstacles. It's going to be tough, but I'm just really stoked with where the Suzuki's at right now and the feeling I have with the RM-Z450.”
Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey is perhaps the only rider left in the series who has a real chance at overthrowing Villopoto.
After posting some strong results toward the end of the 2011 AMA Pro Motocross
Championship last year, Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer
is preparing for his first-ever race at Daytona. Weimer has a good background with both indoor and outdoor tracks, so definitely look for him to run near the front.
“I know I have the speed to be up there on the podium, I just need to put it together,” said Weimer. “I’m looking forward to Daytona. I’ve never raced there, but it should be fun.”
So far the 2012 Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class has been a one-man show. Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia
has won every main event so far this season, winning the last two contests with flag-to-flag performances. Bam Bam has also proven to be a skilled motocross rider, making things even more difficult on his rivals in the upcoming round. In preparation for Daytona, Barcia is running tests with Geico Honda in the hopes of accomplishing his fourth straight win of the season.
Barcia’s biggest rival in the series, KTM
’s Ken Roczen, is also no stranger to motocross. In 2011 the German rider was crowned the FIM MX2 world champion, and ever since his debut in AMA Supercross he’s garnered major attention. Currently trailing Barcia by 18 points, Roczen needs a good start and consistent laps without incident if he wants to
Justin Barcia is aiming for his fourth consecutive victory of the season in Daytona. He currently leads the series by 18 points.
close the gap in this short series.
“I’m really looking forward to next weekend in Daytona when my dad, sister and little niece all come over to join me at the race,” said Roczen.
Pro Circuit Kawasaki
’s Darryn Durham has been struggling with his starts this year, but that hasn’t kept him from finishing within the top-five in every round so far. This week Durham will pay special attention to Daytona’s motocross elements while training as he aims to be the first Team Green rider on top of the box in the East Coast series.
“I am going to do a little riding outdoors this week to prep for Daytona,” Durham said. “It’s more like an outdoor race, you have to be able to handle the bumps and hit the jumps. I really love my Kawasaki, I just need to twist that throttle a little faster off the line next week.”
Ken Roczen is hoping his outdoor skills will be enough to end Barcia's winning streak.
Daytona will also be pivotal for Durham as he is currently dead-locked with Rockstar Suzuki
’s Blake Wharton
in the championship. In nearly every race so far Wharton has earned terrific starts, but his consistency throughout 15-lap mains has been hurting him. Last week in St. Louis the 20-year-old was on the verge of taking his third consecutive fourth-place finish before Justin Bogle crashed out and gifted him the final podium spot. Look for Wharton to aim for his best finish so far this season as he tries to capitalize on his strong starts.
“I'd like to be on the podium more consistently, and that's going to take better starts and good riding,” said Wharton. “Now we go to Daytona and that's a tough track. But I got fourth there last year and I'm looking to improve on that."