After a rare week off the Supercross boys get back to work this weekend in Houston. 450 points leader Ryan Villopoto looks to extend his advantage in the premier class against his familiar foes, including a resurgent Davi Millsaps. Meanwhile the 250 East ranks feature a tightening title fight between Honda’s Wil Hahn and KTM’s Marvin Musquin.
The premier stage showcases Villopoto’s quest for his third consecutive Supercross title. RV claimed his second 450 title at Houston last season, but is facing a more resilient opposition in 2013. After some miscues in the early rounds, the Monster Energy Kawasaki ace is back in familiar form and arrives at Houston with four consecutive wins to his credit – seven wins total for the season.
"We're in a good spot heading into Houston," said Villopoto in a Supercross series PR. "After the Easter weekend break, I'm excited to get back to racing. It was refreshing to have a weekend off, but now it's back to business. There are still lots of races left, so we need to stay focused and take it race by race."
But Davi Millsaps has made things interesting this year. The biggest surprise of 2013 and early championship points leader for the first half of the season, the Rockstar Suzuki pilot fell back to more typical results in recent rounds before a resurgent performance at Toronto – leading much of the race and netting an eventual second-place finish.
"It was definitely good to get a solid weekend under my belt, it's been about six weeks for me,” said Millsaps of Toronto. “I had a weekend off, so I’ve had a lot of time to practice and get back to where I was. Toronto was a great race for sure and Villopoto rode awesome. I just made a few mistakes here and there and he capitalized on it. He was obviously going faster than me. All in all from the past couple weekends to this weekend, I'm going in the right direction. It's crazy how three days of riding a bike helps so much.”
Villopoto will also have to watch for that other Ryan, Ryan Dungey, who is 22 points down, but just one DNF away. Dungey is Mr. Consistency, an M.O. that has earned him past titles. The KTM rider figures to fight for the steps once again at Houston, extending his three-race podium streak.
One familiar face that won’t be fighting at Houston is Chad Reed. Mr. 22 is confirmed out with injury, citing incomplete recovery from ACL surgery.
“I am excited to be getting the surgery so I can get back to being 100% healthy,” said Reed. "My knee surgery that I had last year unfortunately has not healed completely and I was hoping to make it all the way through supercross and motocross to get it fixed in the off-season. I think it is best that I get it fixed as soon as possible and then get back on the bike ASAP as well. I am looking forward to getting back out there, representing my sponsors and my team, and having fun with the fans."
Reed is out for Honda, but his absence is offset by the return of Trey Canard. The Oklahoma rider was absent at Toronto as he recovered from a concussion incurred at Indianapolis. A reliable podium candidate and race-winning threat, Canard will lead the Red Rider charge alongside Justin Barcia. Bam-Bam’s rookie 450 campaign has seen him develop into a consistent top-five rider and constant podium wild card.
The ultimate Supercross Wild Card, however, is Mr. James Stewart. The Yoshimura Suzuki racer’s 2013 effort has proven erratic, as he hunts for that unbeatable form of past campaigns. Houston’s Reliant Stadium will be another opportunity for the Stewart of old to reassert himself.
“The Heat Race in Toronto went pretty well,” said Stewart of his seventh-place result in the preceding round. “In the Main Event I got an okay start. I kind of slid out on the first jump and almost went down. But, I made my way up to fifth and just stayed there. I couldn’t get around those guys in front of me [because] they were battling pretty hard. I’m very disappointed in myself, no excuses; I just didn’t get it done. It was a bummer, for sure. The Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 was awesome. We made a change after the Heat Race and the bike was just phenomenal. [These results are] frustrating for me, we’ve been working so hard. But, I’m still fighting and we kept working during the break and come back strong for Houston.”
The 250 Supercross ranks feature Round 7 of the East series, with two rounds remaining before the Las Vegas finale. As it stands, the East crown is Wil Hahn’s to lose. The GEICO Honda ripper has two wins to his credit and finished on the rostrum for all six rounds.
"It's crazy to say this, but second place doesn't feel that great," said Hahn. "I need wins. I can't have starts like I did [in Toronto] and expect to win the championship. From how it is looking now, the championship battle is definitely going to come down to the wire in Vegas. I was looking forward to the weekend off so I could get some things figured out and remember how I earned the red plate in the first place.”
Hahn definitely needs to keep sight of Marvin Musquin at Houston. Musquin carries a three-race winning streak into Texas, and the KTM pilot trails Hahn by a mere six points. So the KTM ace still controls his own fate in the series, provided his keeps winning.
The third East 250 contender, Rockstar Energy’s Blake Wharton, was tussling for the win at Toronto before dropping to third – his third trip to the podium this season. The Suzuki rider trails by 26 points to the leader, making the Texan a dark horse to shine on his home soil this weekend.