AMA SX arrives in detroit; take a lap around the track

With his third win of the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, season, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto extended his 450SX Class points lead to more than one race and currently has control of his own destiny in search of a fourth consecutive title. This weekend, the world’s best riders make their anticipated return to the Motor City of Detroit, with the 11th race of the championship returning to Ford Field for the first time since the 2008 season.

Prior to moving to Ford Field in 2006, Monster Energy Supercross’ annual visit to the Detroit area took place inside the legendary Pontiac Silverdome for 29 years, hosting doubleheaders for the bulk of that tenure. The Silverdome ultimately became an iconic piece of Monster Energy Supercross history when racing into the stands was introduced as part of the track layout. The innovate design was a common practice at another former stop of the championship, at the Los Angeles Coliseum, and has most recently been brought back to the forefront with the Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas. With a five-year absence from the Motor City now coming to an end tomorrow night, Feld Motor Sports® and the Dirt Wurx crew are bringing the element back to Detroit in celebration of that race’s illustrious history and in honor of the 40th Anniversary of Monster Energy Supercross this season.

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Last weekend, Villopoto raced to his fourth career win at Daytona and became the winningest rider in the 450SX Class this season with three victories. While he has been the most consistent rider this season and is the only race winner in 2014 without a DNF this season, Villopoto knows that with seven races remaining, his 28-point lead isn’t as comfortable as it might appear. Villopoto has never raced in Detroit in the 450SX Class, which will present a new challenge, but he is a former 250SX Class winner there.

“I’m looking forward to return to Ford Field,” said Villopoto. “Last time I was there I won in the 250SX Class so now I need a win in the 450SX Class. We’re coming off a win last weekend and I really feel like I rode my best of the season so far. We hope to keep the ball rolling and continue to extend the point’s gap.”

450SX Class Daytona Main Event winner and 450SX series point leader, Ryan Villopoto - Photo Credit: Hoppenworld
450SX Class Daytona Main Event winner and 450SX series point leader, Ryan Villopoto – Photo Credit: Hoppenworld

The Red Bull KTM duo of Ken Roczen and Ryan Dungey joined Villopoto on the Daytona podium in second and third, respectively. Roczen’s runner-up effort was a nice rebound from his worst result of the season the week prior in Indianapolis where he recorded a DNF. He also moved to within one point of Dungey for second in the championship standings.

For Dungey, the third-place effort in Daytona gave the former champion his sixth podium finish of the season and served as a nice complement to his winning ride at Indy the previous week. Currently second in the championship, Dungey as considerable momentum heading into Detroit thanks to a four consecutive podium finishes. He has established himself as the most consistent rider in the championship over the last month and will look to recall his past success inside Ford Field where he won in the 250SX Class during the 2007 season.

Second in points for 450SX Class Series, Ryan Dungey - Photo Credit: Hoppenworld
Second in points for 450SX Class Series, Ryan Dungey – Photo Credit: Hoppenworld

Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s James Stewart had high hopes in Daytona, which has been one of his best tracks throughout his career. Unfortunately for Stewart, the header pipe of his Suzuki was ripped off as he avoided a downed rider in the first corner of the Main Event, ending any hopes of victory. Stewart was able to finish the race in 18th and fell to 52 points behind Villopoto. However, he enters Ford Field as the most recent winner at the venue, which Stewart hopes will work to his advantage.

“Daytona was not good, as far as results go,” said Stewart. “I came around the first corner and a rider was down. I swerved out of the way but his handlebar caught my header pipe. I didn’t know what the problem was so I rode about a lap. I thought my bike was blowing up so I pulled into the pits and my Yoshimura Suzuki guys saw the header pipe was smashed in. They fixed it and I got back on and I rode really, really good. Fitness-wise, I felt unbelievable. This might be the best ride I’ve had all year but I finished 18th. There was just nothing I could do, these things happen. But overall I feel good and I feel confident. All we can do at this point is win some races and make some things happen. Now I’m looking forward to Detroit and getting back to winning.”

Justin Brayton (Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX) finished in ninth this week, but is now only three points out of fourth spot overall for the series. Photo Credit: Hoppenworld
Justin Brayton (Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX) finished in ninth this week, but is now only three points out of fourth spot overall for the series. Photo Credit: Hoppenworld

After battling through a stomach virus in Indy, Toyota/Yamaha/N-Fab/JGRMX rider Justin Brayton was back at full health in Daytona. After a start outside the top 10, Brayton had his work cut out for him and soldiered his way through all 20 laps of the Main Event to finish 9th and maintain his hold on fifth in the championship. He sits just two points behind Stewart for fourth.

Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia returned to action in Daytona, but after a hard crash in practice was almost in line to miss a third straight race. Nevertheless, Barcia overcame the effects of his misfortune to line up on the gate that night and get back into the championship. After a strong Heat Race, Barcia was looking for a good result in the Main Event but went down while making a pass for position at the halfway point. He remounted and was able to finish the race with a 12th-place effort.

“It ended up not being a very good night of racing for me,” stated Barcia. “I struggled a little in practice but felt awesome in my Heat Race; I got a good start and was riding great. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a good start in the Main Event and had worked my way up into sixth when I went down with [Malcolm] Stewart. I’m looking forward to Detroit next weekend, and hopefully we can get on the podium.”

Cole Seely made his second start for the Team Honda Muscle Milk squad in Daytona, coming off a career-best third-place performance at Indy the week before. Seely started outside the top 10 in the Main Event and had to work his way forward, ultimately finishing one spot ahead of his teammate in 11th.

“The whole day was really tough. Practice was especially soft and they really had to keep up with the track to make it safe for us,” Seely explained. “I rode really well in the Heat Race and almost made it into the last transfer spot, but unfortunately had to go into the Semi, where I got second. In the Main Event I rode pretty tight for the first five laps—the track was changing each lap and it was tough for me to adapt. I finally got into a good flow and was able to put my head down and start clicking away some good lap times. I got pretty tired towards the end but was able to work my way up to 11th.”

GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn was able to put together an impressive ride at Daytona despite a poor start that relegated him to 17th out of the gate. Hahn has shown consistent improvement in recent weeks and he managed to fight his way into the top 10 with a hard-fought sixth-place performance.

“I feel like I should have gotten better than sixth, but when you start that far back it’s what you have to settle for,” explained Hahn. “I felt like I rode really good and could’ve gotten up to fourth or fifth, but wasted too much time at the beginning. I was able to stay calm though and keep my head down while coming through the field.”

Just one week after capturing the best finish of his career in second, fellow GEICO Honda rider Eli Tomac endured heartbreak in Daytona after a hard crash in practice took him out of action for the rest of the day. Tomac apparently reinjured the shoulder that forced him to miss several races earlier this season. His status for Detroit has yet to be announced by the team.

In his second career 450SX Class start, Dean Wilson put the Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports machine into a familiar position at the front of the field. Wilson posted the fastest lap of practice in the 450SX Class and went on to capture his first career Heat Race win. In the Main Event, Wilson grabbed the holeshot and settled into second for 15 laps before eventually taking the checkered flag in seventh.

“Last weekend I showed what I’m capable of in the 450SX Class,” said Wilson. “Each week I feel more and more comfortable on the bike and stronger through the 20 laps [in the Main Event]. I’m excited to go to Detroit and see how I size up.”

Rockstar Energy Racing’s Ivan Tedesco was another rider who had a tough day in Daytona, crashing in practice and being forced to miss the night show. While his status for Detroit is still undetermined, Tedesco is hopeful.

“Rough Weekend for me,” said Tedesco. “Went down in the final practice and hit my head and smashed my finger. Decided not to race because I was feeling a little foggy. I hope to rebound next week in Detroit.”

Martin Davalos (Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki) led for a lap, but it was clear that Blake Baggett was on the move after he'd charged from deep in the pack at the start to second.  Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Martin Davalos and Blake Baggett battling for first place - Photo Credit: Hoppenworld
Martin Davalos (Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki) led for a lap, but it was clear that Blake Baggett was on the move after he’d charged from deep in the pack at the start to second. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Martin Davalos and Blake Baggett battling for first place – Photo Credit: Hoppenworld

The 250SX Class has been a showcase for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki squad as its three-rider lineup of Adam Cianciarulo, Martin Davalos, and Blake Baggett has established an undefeated record in both Heat Races and Main Events. In Daytona, that dominance continued as Baggett was able to emerge with his first win of the season, leading the way for a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium. It was the second time this season the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki trio swept the podium and as a result they also moved into the top three positions in the 250SX Class standings.

“I’m really confident coming into Detroit,” said Baggett, who moved into third in the championship. “The past two weeks I’ve been really concentrating on my starts, which paid off last weekend at the track where I’m really comfortable. I’m planning on carrying over the success into Ford Field this weekend and make up some ground on my teammates.”

“I’m looking at each race one-by-one and it has been paying off,” said the current championship leader Cianciarulo, who finished second in Daytona and has yet to finish worse than that in four starts. “We’ve extended our points lead the past two weeks and look to continue to try and build a gap. My teammates are making it tough, but I like it like that. I like the pressure and plan to keep fighting.”

“The key for me is to not over think anything out there,” said Davalos, who kept his podium streak in tact in third and has led at least one lap in every Main Event this season. “I’ve raced at Ford Field in the past, but not for a number of years. We plan on coming in with a clean slate and do what we’ve done and put the Kawasaki on top all day long.”

GEICO Honda’s Blake Wharton showed his impressive speed in Daytona, keeping the pressure on the Pro Circuit trio out front for the majority of the 15-lap Main Event. Wharton duplicated his best finish of the season in fourth and has some confidence and momentum coming into Detroit.

“I’m just trying to make some steps in the right direction,” Wharton said. “It can be a bit frustrating at times when you’re not where you want to be, of course, but progress is good. I feel good on the bike, and the GEICO Honda team has been great. I’m thankful for the opportunity they’ve given me.”

Justin Bogle followed his GEICO Honda teammate across the line in fifth and while he may have lost a spot in the championship standings, Bogle has established an impressive string of consistency this season with results of 5-3-3-5 through the first four races.

“Nice and consistent, but it’s not going to get me in the fight for the championship,” stated Bogle. “I’m pretty disappointed in my night; it didn’t really go that well at all. Bad starts all night, and I was riding around with the wrong pack of riders. I really need to get up there and start battling for the win.”

The third GEICO Honda member, Matt Bisceglia, learned a lot in his first experience at Daytona and while the tough track tested his physical limits, he still brought home a solid seventh-place finish and continues to show improvement each week.

“It was an up and down night for sure. I got a terrible start and worked my way up as much as I could, but the track was tough and I got pretty tired by lap 10,” said Bisceglia. “I can’t complain though. I’m out of here safe, and I had a pretty solid ride.”

Rockstar Energy Racing’s Cole Thompson had his work cut out for him in Daytona, starting the 250SX Class Main Event dead last, in 22nd place. The Canadian rider put on a charge throughout the 15-lap Main Event on a tough track and was able to salvage a 13th-place finish. While it wasn’t the result Thompson was hoping for, it still showed his resiliency.

“Daytona was an up and down night for me,” said Thompson. “I felt good in my Heat Race and finished third. The Main Event I crashed in the first turn and had to work my way back up from last to finish 13th. I caught up to a pack of riders at the end but ran short on laps. Definitely not where I want to be finishing, I just need to keep working hard during the week and make it all come together next weekend.”