A little over 24 hours remain until the gate drops on the final race of the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, season. Earlier this afternoon, several of this championship’s most impressive riders were on hand to speak with the local and industry media with an exclusive pre-race press conference to preview Saturday night’s season finale.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto became just the fifth rider in history to win back-to-back Supercross Class titles in 2012, while also making history by securing the championship earlier than any rider before him in 38 years of competition. Unfortunately, Villopoto’s celebratory end to the season was cut short due to a season-ending injury suffered at his home race in Seattle two weeks ago. However, he joined his counterparts at Friday’s press conference to share his thoughts.
Ryan Villopoto - 2012 AMA Supercross Round 1 at Anaheim.
“The season started off really well. Coming into Anaheim Race 1, we were really happy with the way things were going, especially coming off such strong seasons in outdoors and the prior supercross season. We had some great finishes this season and with all the injuries this year, it really turned into survival of the fittest. Injuries are part of the game, so you need to just keep moving forward.”
Despite four races remaining on the schedule once Villopoto clinched the championship, the on-track competition has remained exceptional. Although he has yet to break through for a win this season, Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX’s Davi Millsaps has been the best rider in the championship throughout the second half of the season. Millsaps has made an incredible climb from 11th to second in the Supercross Class standings and would like nothing more than to take a win tomorrow night and give Joe Gibbs Racing the coveted distinction of being the only team in Monster Energy Supercross to have both its riders take victories this season.
“To me last weekend was a big step,” said Millsaps. “It was a good race and a close battle. To lose the top spot to Dungey on lap 18 wasn’t as tough to swallow, but it was definitely unfortunate to give it up. Tomorrow night there are a lot of us going for that second place spot. The team has been working hard each race, so hopefully I can clinch second.”
Team Honda Muscle Milk's Justin Brayton early in the 2012 season at Anaheim.
Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Brayton is another rider in search of his first win in Las Vegas. However, unlike Millsaps, Brayton has never stood at the top of the podium in Monster Energy Supercross competition, in either class. In the absence of Trey Canard, Brayton has assumed the role of lead rider for American Honda in 2012, responding with the best championship effort of his career. Brayton has thrust himself into the upper echelon of the sport’s elite thanks to strong performances throughout the season and heading into Las Vegas, he needs only seven points to surpass Millsaps for second in the standings.
“After being on the podium so many times this season, it’s hard to not be there every week,” said Brayton. “I’m determined to get a win before the season is out. With one more race remaining, I hope I can make it count and put it all together to take the win in Vegas.”
For Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey, the 2012 Monster Energy Supercross season has to be considered a tremendous success. While the 2010 champion was one of many riders to suffer from injuries this year, which resulted in five missed races for Dungey, he has still managed to capture three wins and remains within striking distance of a runner-up finish in the championship. Moreover, he’s made 2012 a historic season for KTM, giving the brand its first win in the Supercross Class and what looks to be its best finish in the final season standings. Coming off an impressive performance to take his third victory a week ago, Dungey will look to cap the season off on a high note.
Ryan Dungey catching some air in Oakland, California.
“It was great to be back on top last weekend in Salt Lake City,” said Dungey. “It felt good to get the win at only my second race since returning from injury. Despite getting injured mid-season, it’s been a good first year for the team and me. We’ve achieved a lot together in a short period of time, including three Supercross wins on the brand new KTM 450 SX-F. I’d love to cap the season off by putting KTM on top in Las Vegas this weekend.”
With all the championships in the 2012 Monster Energy Supercross season decided coming into Sam Boyd Stadium, the spotlight on Saturday night shifts to the annual Supercross Lites East/West Shootout – the one and only opportunity for riders from each respective regional championship to go head-to-head. With so much talent in each region this season, the opportunity to take the coveted win is wide open.
In total, seven different riders have captured victories in the Supercross Lites Class this season. The Western Regional Championship featured a trio of riders atop the podium, while the Easter Regional season welcomed four winners. Standing above the rest was the GEICO Honda duo of Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac, who claimed the respective championships and helped their team sweep the Supercross Lites Class titles for the first time.
Barcia kicked off his title defense in the Eastern Regional Championship by winning the first four races of the season. While he experienced some ups and downs over the second half of the championship, Barcia was never challenged in the standings. In fact, the back-to-back Eastern Regional Champion finished on the podium in all but one race, posting a worse finish of fourth coming into Las Vegas. He’ll wear the number one tomorrow night, looking for his first shootout victory.
"It's going to be a great race and I'm going there to win," said Barcia. "I'm going to put my full effort into it, especially since there's no pressure with this race."
Eli Tomac - 2012 AMA Supercross at Anaheim.
One year ago, Tomac had the Western Regional Championship in his grasp in Las Vegas. However, he lost valuable positions and points over the closing laps of the final main event of the season, ultimately falling short of the title. In 2012, he’s attacked the season and has been the most consistent rider in the Western Region. His three-race winning streak in the middle of the season was key in vaulting him to the top of the standings and despite a DNF in San Diego earlier this season, Tomac has shown an impressive resiliency. Following misfortune by his closest championship rivals last weekend in Salt Lake City, Tomac took his fourth win in 2012 and ended up wrapping up his first career championship in the process. He enters Las Vegas with no pressure, wearing a number one plate alongside his teammate tomorrow night.
"Vegas is going to be a lot of fun," said Tomac. "We'll have two GEICO Honda guys running with number one plates, so it's going to be a blast."
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson has endured a lot in 2012, but despite that, he was in the thick of the battle for the Western Regional Supercross Lites Class Championship all year long. Wilson was in control of the points lead heading into Seattle two weeks ago, but suffered a shoulder injury in a fall that resulted from a heated battle with Tomac. Last weekend, Wilson shrugged off any ill effects to run up front in Salt Lake City. However, a crash in the main event resulted in a DNF and sealed Wilson’s fate for the 2012 title. He enters Las Vegas wanting nothing more than to take a win in the Lites Shootout and turn the heartbreaking end to his season into a positive memory.
“I’d love to get a win in Vegas,” said Wilson. “The best I’ve done here is fourth, so I’d like to improve on that. It’d be cool to go out and win both the West Main Event and the Shootout and set an example, but it’s a lot of racing so we’ll see how I’m feeling. I’ve taken a bit of a beating these last two weeks from crashes, so we’ll see.”