by Jon Row
The best Supercross season in everybody’s memory came right down to the end. The last round of seventeen, knock down, drag-out events was fought on the slick forged adobe they call dirt in Sam Boyd stadium.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto came to Vegas with a not-so-comfortable nine point lead.
Only three riders at Sin City’s climactic event had the ability to derail Ryan Villopoto’s Championship. Two-Two Racings “privateer” owner/rider Chad Reed had the best shot. To snatch the title, Reed needed the win with Villopoto finishing no higher than sixth. Reed got considerable Honda factory support as three-time winner Trey Canard’s broken femur took American Honda out of the fray. The top five riders were so close all season that Canard managed to retain fifth in the Championship even after missing the last three events.
RockStar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey with a 3rd place standing was a long shot, but Vegas is the type of track Dungey likes and could win on.
San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart was in fourth place and virtually out of contention. His crash-fest season nearly finished by another unwarranted crash and 10th place at the penultimate Salt Lake City round. Besides his recent arrest for his off-track shenanigans, Stewart’s “soil sampling” forays this year should have Yamaha considering him for a transfer to their tiller division. Regardless, Stewart wanted nothing more than to remind the Vegas fans and himself he’s still the fastest man on earth.
Villopoto nearly terminated his own season at Jacksonville, crashing out of the heat and LCQ and missing the main event. Fortunately, each of his competitors had one DNF or “throw away” finish allowing RV to ride only 16 mains and still come to Vegas with the points lead.
Stadium staff were heard grumbling about unusual and unprecedented security changes at the event. Overzealous security tried to prevent SPEED TV crews from getting their gear in. The Pepsi-sponsored stadium rudely relieved fans of any Monster Energy containers they had with them on entry. Obviously the stadium doesn’t care who sponsors the series—“Hey, it was a sell out!”. The mini fiascos didn’t deter the crowd from enjoying the Season’s biggest, most creative “Party in the Pits” to date.
SX Heat #1
Stewart put in a preview of his main event intentions besting the field by a whopping 14 seconds and scrubbing the jump faces with wild show-off whips.
SX Heat #2
Fast qualifier Windham got the holeshot but was squeezed off track in the first turn. Villopoto played his cards patiently carefully working his way up from a mediocre start to win the heat by less than 3 seconds over an also cautious riding Dungey.
SX Main Event
The epic battle started with Windham getting the holeshot. Stewart worked past him by lap two but K-Dub was on his game never letting up on Stewart. On lap five KW challenged back hard. Villopoto was a close third with Dungey in fourth.
On lap seven the race imploded and the crowd exploded. With KW on his tail, Stewart endo’d spectatcularly, exiting the whoops and giving Windham nowhere to go but into him and over him. Both were down hard and DNF’d to the disappointment of the cheering crowd.
RV found himself in the lead with Reed stalking him. RV wanted the race win but with an estimated two million dollars in championship money on the line he wisely stopped dicing with Reed on lap eleven and let Dungey get by on lap twelve, chasing Reed to the flag.
Reed did what he had to do, taking the checkers 1.4 seconds ahead of Dungey. Accompanied by wife and child on the podium, Chad continued his season’s transformation to the new humble and appreciative Reed. It was RV’s night but it wasn’t an easy race for anybody. Eight riders didn’t make it to the checkers.
For Stewart, Reed and Dungey, 2011 was bittersweet. For Villopoto, it was just plain sweet. RV had a hard road back from the heart-and-femur-breaking end of his 2010 run. Jacksonville aside, his six event wins proved he had what it took to be last man standing.
One final factor: Stewart and legendary personal trainer/motivator Aldon Baker parted company before season start this year.
Baker’s 2011 SX client? Ryan Villopoto.
Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Bagget capped a great year with the his second main event win, making a last lap pass on second overall Shred Stix Yamaha’s Ryan Sipes. Geico Honda’s Justin Barcia fell while leading but recovered to finish 3rd overall and secure a Rookie year Lites Championship from a very talented field.
KTM wunderkid Ken Roczen smoked the field and finally bagged his first main event win. Roczen’s runaway did not overshadow the epic battle of Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle and Geico Honda’s Eli Tomac. Tickle needed to finish ahead to prevent two-time winner Tomac from getting the title with a points tie. The two riders used Troy Lee Honda’s Cole Seely as block bait in their rip-roaring dogfight. Tickle trailed Tomac for thirteen loops then put in the best two laps of his life going from fourth to second and bumping Tomac to third. Tomac and Tickle turned their fastest laps on the final loop but it was Tickle taking home the West Lites Championship.
East-West Lites Shootout
Sipes, Seely and Roczen avenged themselves in the Dave Coombs Sr. Memorial East-West Shootout proving their worth to their teams and potential 2012 sponsors. Sporting a half hour old and historically “heavy’ number one plate, Barcia grabbed the holeshot and was styling, but threw it away on the second lap and again on the fourth handing Sipes the lead and ultimately the win. Seely’s second place finish and Roczen’s third promises more to come from these young lions. Freshly crowned Lites East champ Tickle also felt the “plate weight” ending up tenth with Barcia finishing sixteenth.