Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, will host its final race of the 2014 season on Saturday night in front of what is expected to be a sold out crowd inside Las Vegas’ Sam Boyd Stadium. Today, the top riders in both the 450SX Class and each region of the 250SX Class spoke to the media at the annual pre-race press conference inside Sam Boyd Stadium’s press box.
Newly crowned four-time 450SX Class Champion Ryan Villopoto, who rides for Monster Energy Kawasaki, was joined by Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey on the stage at the press conference to discuss Saturday night’s race. Villopoto’s historic victory inside East Rutherford, New Jersey’s MetLife Stadium made him the first-ever winner inside the state-of-the-art facility, secured his record-tying fourth straight championship, and helped him become the first rider in history to win a championship inside the same venue his hometown NFL team won the Super Bowl, with the Seattle Seahawks winning their first title in February.
In addition to being the sport’s newly crowned champion, Villopoto also carries a three-race winning streak into Las Vegas. In fact, Villopoto has grabbed the holeshot in two of the last three Main Events and has led the last 60 laps of racing. Even with the championship locked up, Villopoto still comes into Vegas with his sights set on victory to end the season emphatically.
“It’s business as usual for us tomorrow night,” said Villopoto. “It’s definitely a relief to have everything wrapped up and come here with no pressure, but it doesn’t necessarily change the game plan. We’re here to win and we’re going to do all we can to end things on top.”
Dungey and James Stewart come into Las Vegas with unfinished business. While the championship may be no longer an option, the two former title holders are engaged in a heated battle for the runner-up spot in the standings. Following a scary incident last weekend in which he appeared to injure his knee, Stewart gave up considerable points to Dungey and dropped from second to third. Eleven points separate the duo with Dungey also looking for a rebound effort after a sixth-place finish in East Rutherford.
“We had kind of a tough go of it last weekend, but we made some changes this week and are confident we’ll be better and ready to challenge for a win tomorrow night,” said Dungey, who has finished inside the top three in the championship every season he’s raced. “Everyone comes in here looking to end the season on a high note and I’d like nothing more than to grab another win for the team this year. They’ve worked really hard and deserve it. It’d also be nice to finish the championship in second. We’ve been third for the last three years, so it’d be a great accomplishment.”
“We got lucky there [in East Rutherford]. I thought it was really bad based on how it felt, but I got it checked out and it ended up just being twisted,” said Stewart. “Not to say that isn’t still something to be cautious of, but we’re in a much better position than we initially thought and I’m ready to go out there and try to wrap up win number 51. A win is what its going to take if we’re going to have any chance on catching Ryan [Dungey] for second in the championship.”
Dungey’s Red Bull KTM teammate Ken Roczen is also in the hunt for the runner-up spot in the standings. The rookie has two wins to his credit this season and has been one of the fastest riders on the track the past few weeks, even if his results haven’t necessarily shown that. Roczen sits 17 points behind Dungey, fourth in the 450SX Class standings.
The top riders in both the Eastern and Western Regional 250SX Class Championships also joined the top two riders in the 450SX Class at the press conference. In the Eastern Regional Championship, GEICO Honda’s Justin Bogle all but locked up his first career title by taking his second career win at MetLife Stadium. Entering last weekend’s race, Bogle faced an eight-point deficit to Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Martin Davalos, but a crash in preparation for East Rutherford left Davalos with a broken ankle and a premature end to his hopes of a first career title. Bogle took full advantage of his rival’s misfortune to take over the top spot with the win and essentially the championship with it considering Davalos will not be in action in Las Vegas and is the only rider within 25 points of Bogle.
“This past week just goes to show you how crazy this sport can be. It’s never over until it’s over,” said Bogle, whose own status for 2014 was uncertain after he broke his back while testing last December. “I’m proof that you never give up and while I hate to not have the chance to battle with Martin [Davalos] tomorrow, it’s not something I can control. I’m just going to go out there and ride smart. Hopefully I can make it official with another win.”
With the Eastern Regional Championship essentially wrapped up, the focus turns to the Western Regional Championship, which is still up for grabs between Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson and Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Cole Seely. Anderson has enjoyed a breakout season with four wins, six podiums, and a worst result of fifth. He’s been exceptionally consistent and it’s the main reason why he enters Las Vegas with an eight-point cushion.
“I’ve never been in this position before, but I’m really excited about it,” said Anderson. “Obviously we’re here to try and win a championship, but we’re not approaching tomorrow night any differently. We’ve gotten to where we are by being aggressive and going for wins and there’s no reason to change that up now. We do have a little wiggle room in the points, but I’m honestly going out there to win and nothing less.”
Just like his fellow championship rival, Seely has never been in a position like this before either. Seely has been a consistent threat to win for the last couple seasons, but he stepped up his consistency in 2014 and now sits within striking distance of his first career title. With two wins, five podiums, and a worst result of fourth, he’s kept pace with Anderson every step of the way, but will need another win on Saturday night in order to give himself the best chance possible at overcome the deficit in the points.
“I’m actually happy to be in this position coming into tomorrow night,” said Seely. “I like the idea of being the chaser because I think it puts some less pressure on us and allows us to really go out there and lay it all on the line. You never know how many chances you’ll have like this in your career so I’m going to make sure I do all I can to make the most of it. We’re going out there to win and we’ll see how it all plays out from there.”
Following the final races of both 250SX Class Regional Championships, Bogle, Anderson, Seely, and the rest of the division will converge in the one and only head-to-head battles between each region this season in the East/West Shootout. Bragging rights are on the line in this coveted showdown to determine which 250SX Class is the fastest in the country. The chance to win this race is something every up-and-coming rider looks to fulfill in hopes of grabbing the attention of the factory teams in the 450SX Class.
“I can’t wait for the shootout, there’s just so much energy surrounding that race,” said Bogle. “If you can win that race you become part of a pretty prestigious group of people, so it’d be awesome to put my name alongside guys like [James] Stewart and [Ricky] Carmichael.
“I definitely want to win the shootout because it just proves that all the hard work we’ve put in truly was all worth it,” said Anderson. “If you’re able to go out there a beat everyone straight up that says a lot about how well you’re riding and it draws a lot of positive attention to yourself and your team.”