At the sold out Georgia Dome in Atlanta (Georgia) more than 70,000 fans watched Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto race to a second-place finish Saturday night at Monster Energy AMA Supercross.
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett bounced back from a 15th place finish last week, to take second in the supercross lites class. Baggett’s teammate Darryn Durham started near the front and ended the night in fifth place. Back in the supercross class, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer was up front throughout qualifying and would ride most of the main event by himself to finish seventh. Another rider who qualified well was Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle who had a great heat race, but trouble on the first lap of the main event forced him to a 16th place finish.
With four wins this season, Villopoto has secured himself as the dominant force in the championship hunt. He looked to be on his way to continue his win streak by setting the fastest time in qualifying practice aboard his KX450F. In the heat race, Villopoto didn’t get the greatest start and had to fight his way to the front. Once in second, the leader tipped over and handed the win to Villopoto. In the main event, he was pinched off on the start and had to make his way through the top ten.
“I didn’t get the start that I wanted in the main,” said Villopoto after a second place finish. “I was forced to play catch-up and was making headway until I had a small tip over. I caught back up, but just couldn’t close the gap to the leader. I felt like I was faster in some sections, but the track was tough and the ruts got really deep.”
Known for never revealing his true potential in practice, Baggett came out and won an exciting heat race that saw three leaders fall victim to the difficult track conditions. Feeling confident after his heat race, Baggett got off to a second place start in the main and tried to go for the win. With the championship run just two races old, Baggett was excited to move up in the standings, as he currently sits in fifth place.
“I started feeling it in the heat race and getting that win was a great boost of confidence,” said Baggett. “In the main, I got a good start and stayed close to the leader, but couldn’t quite get within striking distance. I felt like the leader and I were equal in speed. We made some major suspensions changes this week and it made all the difference.”
Getting in a Rhythm
Durham arrived in Atlanta coming off his first career podium and was ready to get back on the box. His times were competitive all day, but he took his time to dial in some of the most challenging rhythm lanes yet this season. Still figuring out the track, Durham went out in the heat race and finished third. By the time the main event arrived, he was ready to battle. His KX™250F got him off to a third-place start, but Durham would get shuffled back to fifth within the opening laps, where he remained until the finish.
“The night went alright,” said Durham. “I rode well, but I’m not pumped on my finish. The leaders sprinted on the first five laps and I tightened up and let them get away. The bike was awesome so I just have to work on getting my intensity up and sprinting for the first couple laps.”
Week after week Weimer continues to demonstrate the speed to contend for a podium finish. He expected to be on the podium again, but the stacked field made it no easy task. Weimer finished 5th in his heat race and transferred to the main looking to finish up front. In the main event, he got a decent start, but had to make some quick moves to stay up front. He made his way into seventh and each lap was gaining time on sixth place, but ran out of laps.
“I had a hard time making passes early,” said Weimer. “The track was tricky and I started to get frustrated, which didn’t help. I was stuck behind a lapper for a while and tightened up a little bit. I just need to work on being faster for all 20 laps”
Making the Next Step
Tickle has yet to have a result that truly reflects his determination and speed. Saturday night was looking to be a turning point for him as he was fast in practice and got a great start in his heat race. Tickle fought for his position in the heat and finished a comfortable fifth. In the main event, Tickle rocketed his KX450F out of the very inside gate for what looked to be the holeshot, but would get pinched off before the line. Moments later a rock wedged its way into his rear brake, making it useless for the rest of the race. Tickle tried to adapt to racing with no rear brake and pushed through to finish 16th.
“I felt a lot better on the bike tonight, so what I’m taking away from tonight is not my result,” said Tickle. “Based on how I rode before the mishap and how comfortable I was feeling on the bike, my confidence is high especially with the team working so hard. I want a good finish so bad; a good result could turn things around for me, so I hope to get a good start and ride like myself next week. This week I’m going to take a day and have some fun on the bike, loosen up, and assure I’m feeling good and fresh for next weekend.”
Away from the Grind
Now that the season has made its way to the East coast, Villopoto and Weimer have headed to their Florida training grounds. Training and riding during the week in Florida allows both riders to practice and test on similar soft, rutted east coast dirt and track conditions. After spending the last few months in California, Florida is a nice change of pace to keep the riders fresh throughout the grueling 17-rounds of supercross.
Wild, Wild East
Next week Monster Energy AMA Supercross heads to Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Mo., where Villopoto looks to extend his points lead and the rest of the Monster Energy Kawasaki riders look to climb up the leaderboard.
Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series – Round 8
Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Ga.
February 25, 2012
Supercross Class Results
1. Ryan Dungey, Belle Paine, Minn., KTM
2. RYAN VILLOPOTO, POULSBO, WASH., MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
3. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha
4. Davi Milsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha
5. Justin Brayton, Murrieta, Calif., Honda
6. Cole Seely, Murrieta, Calif., Honda
7. JAKE WEIMER, RUPERT, IDAHO, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
8. Kevin Windham, Centreville, Miss., Honda
9. Brett Metcalfe, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Suzuki
10. NICHOLAS WEY, MURRIETA, CALIF., KAWASAKI
11. KYLE CHISHOLM, VALRICO, FLA., JWR KAWASAKI
12. Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Fla., Suzuki
13. Matt Georke, Lake Helen, Fla., Suzuki
14. Bobby Kiniry, Holland Patent, N.Y., Yamaha
15. JOSH HANSEN, ELBERT, COLO., DODGE/HART & HUNTINGTON KAWASAKI
16. BROC TICKLE, HOLLY, MICH., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI
Supercross Class Points Standings
1. RYAN VILLOPOTO, POULSBO, WASH., MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 180
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 170
3. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha, 136
4. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Honda, 128
5. JAKE WEIMER, RUPERT, IDAHO, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 106
6. Kevin Windham, Centreville, Miss., Honda, 105
7. Brett Metcalfe, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Suzuki, 100
8. Justin Brayton, Murrieta, Calif., Honda, 96
9. David Milsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha, 94
10. Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Fla., Suzuki, 90
11. JOSH HANSEN, ELBERT, COLO., DODGE/HART & HUNTINGTON KAWASAKI, 86
12. KYLE CHISHOLM, VALRICO, FLA., JWR KAWASAKI, 77
13. Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM, 59
14. BROC TICKLE, HOLLY, MICH., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI, 59
15. NICHOLAS WEY, MURRIETA, CALIF., KAWASAKI, 55
Supercross Lites Eastern Region Results
1. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda
2. BLAKE BAGGETT, GRAND TERRACE, CALIF., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI
3. Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda
4. Blake Wharton, Beaumont, Texas, Suzuki
5. DARRYN DURHAM, BUTLER, PA., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI
6. Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
7. Kyle Cunningham, Aledo, Texas, Yamaha
8. Hunter Hewitt, Pilot Point, Texas, Suzuki
9. Jake Canada, Sun City, Calif., Suzuki
10. Shane Sewell, Westville, Ind. KTM
Supercross Lites Eastern Region Points
1. Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda, 50
2. DARRYN DURHAM, BUTLER, PA., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI, 38
3. Blake Wharton, Beaumont, Texas, Suzuki, 36
4. Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 35
5. BLAKE BAGGETT, GRAND TERRACE, CALIF., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI, 28
6. Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda, 27
7. Jake Canada, Sun City, Calif., Suzuki, 26
8. Hunter Hewitt, Pilot Point, Texas, Suzuki, 22
9. PJ Larsen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 22
10. Lance Vincent, Youngsville, La., 21