What an incredible, drama filled and unexpected night at Anaheim Stadium – that’s why we love supercross!
It’s hard to know where to start after so many interesting storylines developed over the evening, so let’s start with the winner, Davi Millsaps.
What a ride by Millsaps! Davi has won three main events before but his last one came in 2010 and he was not even on the radar as a potential winner on Saturday night – except for Travis Pastrana!
Millsaps had made the move to Suzuki in the off season -the manufacturer who he spent his schoolboy and early professional career. Only this time he wasn’t a full factory rider, he was on the privateer Rockstar Suzuki team.
Davi looked good from timed practice when he got on the board early, he then looked great in his heat race going from third to first, he was confident and happy on the podium and super aggressive on the track. But could he do it when the pressure was on in the main event, especially since he had never previously finished inside the top ten at the first round?
The answer was a resounding yes! Davi took the holeshot and led for the next fifteen laps despite pressure from Canard, Barcia and Dungey. He held strong until Canard forced his way past and then pulled a small gap. Then, with two laps to go, Millsaps reeled Canard back in and passed the Honda rider on the last lap to take a fantastic victory.
Millsaps wiped away tears on the podium as he stood with his team, wife and son. This was a big win, in fact, this was the biggest win of Millsaps’ career.
Davi showed the mental strength , the fitness and the desire to win in the those last two laps that many had questioned him about his whole career. It was the rider many had envisaged when he first went pro at 16 on a 125 Suzuki. With the help of his trainer/coach Ezra Lusk, a full winters preparation and according to Davi, “dedication, dedication, dedication” Millsaps seems to finally have all the pieces of the puzzle, let’s hope he can remain injury free because Millsaps is in the form of his life and it is great to see!
As good as Davi’s ride was, Trey Canard maybe even edges Millsaps as the ride of the night. It was just a remarkable performance from the Oklahoma rider.
Almost a year after breaking his back and considering hanging up his boots, Canard was within half a lap of winning his comeback race on the biggest stage possible.
The self belief and determination of Canard just wasn’t going to allow him to ride around for a safe opening race. He almost won his qualifier and stalked Millsaps the entire main even before making his move. Although Millsaps cameback on the last lap, second place is still quite unbelievable when you think of where Canard was just 11 months ago – it is the comeback story of the season.
The stylish Canard is back, somehow better than ever, and he and Millsaps may just have added themselves to the list of championship contenders!
The shock of the night was Ryan Villopoto, the defending championship was fast but suffered a terrible start and proceeded to self destruct in a manner that no-one has witnessed in a long time.
RV went off the track as he came up on Josh Grant and Stewart, crashed like James Stewart as he passed James Stewart, before hitting the deck again and being forced to ride without a glove and goggles for the rest of the main. Villo would finished 16th and has put himself in a bit of a hole that he will be determined to get out of in Phoenix!
Chad Reed was off the pace all night and still finished fourth. That shows just how brilliant Chad Reed is – his bad nights are just never as bad as they should be! While craziness happened all around him, Reed rode a solid but lonely race to put himself right in championship contention and ahead of Villopoto and Stewart in the points chase.
Ryan Dungey was right in the hunt for the win when he made an uncharacteristic slip off to lose touch with the leaders right as it was getting to crunch time. Dungey though still took third and was the one of the ‘big five’ that got on the podium. He was also running an air shock on his KTM and seemed very comfortable on it. Dungey is right where he needs to be for the championship.
Justin Barcia finished seventh, but his confidence will have received a huge boost after round one. Barcia held off a charging Ryan Villopoto in his heat to take the victory and was right behind Trey Canard and David Millsaps in the fight for the lead in the closing laps before he went down. Barcia will know now that he has every right to fight for this championship and even though he crashed it hasn’t cost him too many points.
Poor James Stewart, he didn’t even make it to the night show without getting injured and this time, he didn’t even crash!
Stewart threw down the fastest lap in practice and everything was looking great for James on the Suzuki. He was fast and comfortable but everything went wrong on the last lap of practice when, on a hot lap, he put his foot out round a corner and tweaked his knee.
Stewart bravely rode to 8th place in the main in a very un-Stewart like ride – smart and conservative. If his knee isn’t too bad that ride in pain could be the one that James looks back on that won him the title. Stewart proved his toughness last night and how badly he wants to win this championship, but with rumours out there that he has torn his ACL, that could be the last time we see Stewart on the line this Supercross season. I hope it isn’t because Stewart, like him or not, always brings excitement and drama to a race when he lines up at the gate.
In the 250 class Eli Tomac won as expected and Roczen was the best of the rest. If anyone can beat Tomac it will be the ultra talented 18 year old German. I think a knock-down- drag-out battle between the two will be on the cards soon as Roczen needs to take away the momentum of the series from Tomac – he can’t let Eli get too much confidence this early!
All in all the first round of the Supercross series was fantastic but Phoenix may be even better now that we have even more riders believing they can win and a very angry defending champion!
Article by Jonathan McCready
Image courtesy of Simon Cudby/KTM Images