racing stormed inside Minneapolis’ Metrodome Saturday night, rewarding nearly 49,000 Minnesota fans with the best racing action we’ve witnessed this season within the premier 450SX class.
Minnesota’s own Ryan Dungey had the entire stadium on their feet screaming with excitement as the 23-year-old chased, battled and finally passed Ryan Villopoto in the final laps to take the win, his second this season.
“Even when I was two seconds back in second place the crowd was on their feet screaming,” said Dungey. “It’s really special. I had a lot of friends and family here tonight. It’s cool to have that backing.”
It was a decisive victory for the KTM
rider as he was able to reel in the reigning champ on his terms without the need for agro race tactics that mark this highly competitive motorsport. More than once The Dunge had the opportunity to knock down Villopoto’s Kawasaki, but instead relied on momentum and superior line selection to outgun his chief rival.
“We’ve been working a lot on bike set-up lately,” reveals the No. 5 rider. “Since Indianapolis the speed was getting there. The bike set-up was getting better; we did testing after Toronto. We’ve been there [close to the front] but we haven’t been able to capitalize on it and take the win. One of the main factors—especially with Ryan Villopoto, who gets out front and sets a good pace; it was important to be right there at the start, and I haven’t been. He was riding a good pace and I just wanted to stay right there and if I could capitalize on a mistake then I was right there to do that.”
His home soil win put an end to Villopoto’s win streak at five. More importantly, it proved that not only does he have the sprint speed of Villopoto (Dungey had the fastest outright lap of the race) but is a true gentleman of the sport and able to make well-executed plays when the pressure is on.
“It was tough. I was leading there and I was feeling the pressure from him,” tells Villopoto. “I really didn’t know where he was quicker. I was just trying to stick to my lines. I made a few little mistakes and he was able to really get on me.”
Although Villopoto finished in the runner-up spot, the Washington rider still leads the championship by a margin of 22 points. And with the series returning west to Seattle it’s now Villopoto’s turn to shine in front of his hometown crowd.
“It’s coming down to the end. Obviously winning would be great. But finishing on the podium will get the job done. But for sure I want to win,” surmised Villopoto.
Davi Millsaps returned to the podium in Minnesota. It was a relatively uneventful race for the Rockstar Suzuki rider as he was able to move past Josh Hill early in the 20-lap contest, maintaining the position to the checkered flag. Despite earning his ninth podium of the season, Millsaps slips down one position in championship points, one point behind Dungey and 23 behind Villopoto. Although he still has a mathematical shot at the championship it’s clear that he is going to have to win the remaining three races and hope his rivals encounter some late season bad luck.
“They definitely checked out,” explains Millsaps of the top two finishers. “They were on a different level all day. I was trying to get a flow down and ride smooth. I was pumped to get a good start and ride hard as long as I could. I couldn’t keep up this time. It was a weird track. But everyone has to ride. I’m definitely pumped to be back on the podium. I’ve never podiumed this much let alone been in the front as much as I have.”
After suffering life-altering injuries a few years back, Josh Hill is returning to his old form having won his heat race and running in fourth place for the initial laps of the main. Although he slipped back a few spots, the ‘08 Minneapolis race winner finished between Trey Canard and Justin Brayton in eighth.
“It’s been a long road,” says Hill, who still walks with a noticeable limp from multiple injuries over the years. “I’m getting closer to where I want to be, happy about the stepping stone the last few weeks. I still have years of work to do to get to where I want to be. A few good weekends, for sure. I’m going in the right direction. I’ve worked so hard to get to this point and it would be stupid to give up now.”
The Oregon rider showed flashes of brilliance early in the race and was able to steal positions via well-executed passes, however as the lap count increased, his pace fell off and shows that he still has work to do if he wants to be a true threat in the class.
It was another up and down night for James Stewart with the series veteran putting in fast laps during practice and heat race before crashing out spectacularly over a double jump. Stewart managed to transfer into the main via an LCQ win and had the pace for a top-five finish but his race ended prematurely when he pulled off due to a tweaked wrist he suffered in his earlier get off.
“My wrist was sore, but I was making it [the best of],” said. Stewart. “Then I cased the triple when I was making a pass and jarred the wrist. I’m optimistic that everything is fine. I have to admit, it’s been a rough couple of weekends, but I’m not giving up.”
The East Coast 250SX classes proved to be just as intense as the big boys with Marvin Musquin notching another victory to close the championship points gap to five from leader Wil Hahn. The French KTM rider put in a dominant performance in Minnesota, finishing eight seconds ahead of the runner-up.
“This weekend I felt really good,” tells the Frenchman. “I didn’t make any mistakes. I just rode smooth. I really enjoyed riding here, the track was really, really nice. I was fastest in practice, I won my heat race, and I won the main event with the holeshot. It was a perfect day and a great feeling. I just try to win and don’t worry about what happens.”
Despite finishing in the runner-up spot Hahn claims he’s happy and looking forward to the final 15-lap showdown in Las Vegas next month.
“There’s nothing to be bummed about,” smiles Hahn. “I’m getting a little tired of finishing second but fortunately we’ve had such a great season that we’re still in control over the title chase. It’s right here in front of us now, and I am going all-in in Vegas. It’s going to come down to the wire, but being this close is really exciting. It’s something I’ve wanted [a championship] since I was three-years-old and I’m going to make it happen.”
Hoping to get in the way of the top two riders is Blake Wharton. Wharton stole the final podium position after a run-in with three-time Arenacross champ Tyler Bowers, sending the fill-in Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider to the dirt. Bowers would rejoin the race and ended the night in fifth. The Rockstar Suzuki rider now trails Hahn by a race win (25 points) which means that he and Musquin would have to encounter some type of disastrous result for him to have any chance of taking the title.
The Monster Energy Supercross series now returns to the West Coast inside Seattle, Washington’s CenturyLink Field for the 15th round of the season.