SX arrives in Indy
Following his second career 450SX Class victory in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen became the fourth different rider to record multiple wins during the 2014 season. As the championship prepares to reach its halfway point this weekend inside Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium, Roczen along with fellow two-time winners Ryan Villopoto and James Stewart will be in search for momentum in the title hunt for the final two months of competition.
Roczen and his training companion Villopoto shared time up front in Atlanta one week ago, but when Villopoto lost traction out of a corner on Lap 14, that allowed the German rookie to assume control of the race and hold on for victory. In his first full season of 450SX Class competition, Roczen has recorded two wins and five podium finishes in eight races, and has finished no worse than sixth. He moved to within nine points of Villopoto in the 450SX Class standings and will look to grab his first career win inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
Villopoto led nine laps and looked to be the class of the field before his bobble dropped him to second. However, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider continued his pursuit of the lead through to the finish. Had he not lost traction, Villopoto could have secured what would be a championship-leading third victory. Nevertheless, he gave up just three points to Roczen in the standings, earned his sixth podium finish of the 2014 season, and now visits arguably his most successful venue in the championship. Since it opened in 2009, Lucas Oil Stadium has only had two 450SX Class winners, with Chad Reed winning the first year and Villopoto reigning supreme in the four years since. He’ll be in search of an unprecedented fifth consecutive victory on Saturday night, which would extend his championship lead.
“We’ve been making a lot of changes and are looking forward to this weekend,” said Villopoto. “We have had a good run at Lucas Oil Stadium and hope to keep it rolling. We came into Indianapolis early to ride for the local media and the dirt looks like it’s going to be really good. It’s soft and should be challenging.”
Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey followed Roczen and Villopoto across the line in third at Atlanta to post his fourth podium result of the season. Since recording a DNF at the fifth race of the season, Dungey has rebounded with finishes of fourth, second, and third and has climbed from sixth to fourth in the 450SX Class standings. Dungey won at Indy in the 250SX Class back in 2009 and will look to capture his first win of the 2014 season.
Team Yoshimura Suzuki’s Stewart was seeking his third consecutive win in Atlanta, but a tip over on the opening lap while making a charge for the lead forced the former champion to the tail end of the field. Stewart reentered the race and was able to make a charge through the field to ultimately finish 11th, but lost valuable ground in the championship. Stewart last won in Indy inside the old RCA Dome in 2007 but is in search of a comeback performance on Saturday night.
“I came across the start straight and lost the front end going into the corner,” said Stewart. “I’m bummed. I was riding good all day and felt great going into the Main Event, but you can’t win when you’re on the ground. I did my best to come back but the track was super-slippery, so the harder I rode the slower I went. I was just happy to get back up and salvage as many points as I could. I’m still confident and feeling good about my riding and I have to thank the Yoshimura Suzuki team for working so hard. We’re all disappointed but we’ll go back and get ready to come back strong for Indy.”
Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia was hoping his first podium result of the season two weeks ago would be the surge he needed to become a consistent threat at the front of the field, but the sophomore rider suffered a pair of crashes during practice in Atlanta, which ultimately forced him to miss the action late that night. Barcia had hoped to return to action in Indianapolis, but will sit out for another week.
“This was not how I wanted things to go,” stated Barcia. “Atlanta was like my home race and I have a lot of friends and family here, so I am definitely disappointed. I crashed pretty hard in the whoops and tweaked my knee in the last practice. I decided to take the night off to try and race next weekend in Indianapolis, but it looks like we’ll be back in Daytona.”
In the absence of both Barcia and fellow Team Honda Muscle Milk rider Trey Canard, who has yet to race this season as a result of an injury, current Western Regional 250SX Class title contender Cole Seely will fill in for the factory squad. Seely is no stranger to serving a substitute role with Team Honda Muscle Milk and will simply look to gain experience and maintain top form until the Western Regional Championship returns to action at Houston in April.
“Cole has proven multiple times that he has what it takes to run in the 450SX Class, so we are looking forward to having him join our team while the West 250SX Class is on their mid-season break,” said Team Honda Muscle Milk manager Dan Betley. “His focus and determination makes him a good fit for the team. I want to thank everyone at the Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda team and all their sponsors for allowing Cole another opportunity to race a factory Honda in the premier class.”
GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn posted a career-best fourth-place finish in Atlanta to cap off what was without a doubt the strongest weekend of his rookie season thus far. Confidence is riding high for Hahn who will look to continue his impressive run inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
“My practice, my Heat Race, and the Main Event all went well for me; just a great day all the way around,” Hahn said. “I am so happy with how everything went. There’s something about the vibes [in Atlanta]. I’m not sure if it’s the win here last year, but every time I come here I have a great race. There must be something in the air here. I love this city.”
Another rider that will begin his substitute role this weekend is Discount Tire Racing/TwoTwo Motorsports’ Dean Wilson. The full-time Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki rider was named as a replacement rider for an injured Reed while he sits idle from Western Regional 250SX Class competition. Wilson has never raced in the 450SX Class in Monster Energy Supercross and comes into Indy simply looking to gain experience and have some fun without any pressure.
“I’m really excited to make my 450SX debut this weekend,” said Wilson. “I had a lot of momentum when the West went on break so I want to keep that ball rolling. I feel really comfortable on the KX450F and I’m grateful for the opportunity. I just can’t wait for Saturday.”
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Ivan Tedesco battled his way to a 14th-place finish in Atlanta, but is continuing to make progress aboard his KTM 350 SX-F. Tedesco put another solid week of practice under his belt and is ready to go in Indy.
“Rough night for me in the [Atlanta] Main Event,” said Tedesco. “I got a bad start and was on the outside. I got arm pump like the fifth lap in and I was honestly struggling just to finish the race. I don’t know what happened, I just got tight. That’s about it, I finished 14th, pretty bad. Just going to move onto the next one which is all we can do.”
The Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki squad will look to continue its undefeated start to the Eastern Regional 250SX Class season inside Lucas Oil Stadium. Through two rounds, the team has welcomed a pair of first-time winners in Adam Cianciarulo and Martin Davalos, while veteran Blake Baggett is on the cusp of securing a victory of his own.
Cianciarulo enters Indy as the current points leader, and hopes to put together another solid outing and potentially maintain his championship position.
“We want to continue the momentum,” said Cianciarulo. “Last week we made some mistakes, but I learned from them and want to continue learning and progressing each week.”
After nearly a decade of trying, Davalos finally broke through for his first career win in Atlanta and now confidence is higher than ever for the Ecuador native. Davalos has been consistently fast through the first two weeks of competition and wants to keep the momentum going with another podium result.
“Last week was incredible,” said Davalos. “I feel like a weight has been lifted, but I’m focused on this weekend and nothing changes. I’m still taking this season race-by-race and hope to keep my Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki on the podium.”
While Baggett’s fifth-place finish wasn’t quite what he was hopping for, the former winner showed impressive resiliency in his climb through the field after starting the Main Event in dead last. Baggett would like nothing more than to join his teammates in the win column and will be pulling out all the stops on Saturday night.
“Last week we did our best to recover from the start,” said Baggett. “We’re still sitting in a good position in the points and I know I have the speed to run with my teammates.”
GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle enjoyed the first podium finish of his season in Atlanta, which helped him officially move past the injuries he suffered at the start of the season. Bogle rode a solid Main Event inside the Georgia Dome and is optimistic about continuing that trend inside Lucas Oil Stadium.
“[Atlanta] turned out to be a great day,” Bogle said. “It feels so great to finish on the podium when I wasn’t even sure I would race this season. I didn’t have the best start in the Main Event, so I had to fight through and make some passes to get up front. Basically, I capitalized on some mistakes other guys were making and made it through the carnage. I raced a pretty smart race. I’m happy but not satisfied. I’m hungry for more and ready to move over on the podium towards that middle spot.”
Bogle’s GEICO Honda teammates Blake Wharton and Matt Bisceglia finished in fourth and 22nd, respectively.
Rockstar Energy Racing’s Cole Thompson enjoyed another top-10 effort in Atlanta thanks to an eighth-place finish. The Canada native is continuing to dial in his KTM 250 SX-F and will look to get back up towards the front in Indy.
“Not my best night of riding, I finished 8th,” said Thompson. “Got a bad start and wasn’t really aggressive the first few laps. The track was tricky and I just didn’t make things happen quick enough.”