What Really Happened
Anaheim One Supercross Class
Photos by Shan Moore
The 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series is officially underway, and if the first round is any indication of things to come then it’s going to be one hell of a season. At this point, you’ve likely already seen the results of the hotly contested Supercross Lites class, or you heard about Ryan Villopoto’s utterly dominant showing in the Supercross class. But the real story from Anaheim One is much deeper than a pair of lucky winners. Here’s the scoop on what really happened this past Saturday night at Angel Stadium:
Going into the race, there were nine different riders in the Supercross class who had previously won main events: Trey Canard, Ryan Dungey, Chad Reed, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto, Josh Grant, Josh Hill, Davi Millsaps and Kevin Windham. Add several near winners like Mike Alessi, Josh Hansen and Ivan Tedesco to that mix—as well as Supercross class and 2011 AMA Supercross Lites Western Region Champion Broc Tickle, plus Honda’s Justin Brayton and Andrew Short, along with the ever talented Jake Weimer—and you’re looking at around 15-riders in a 20-rider field who have a legitimate shot at being on the podium. That, my friends, is what we call a stacked season!
Anaheim One is always a question mark, mostly because leading up to the race there is little indication of who has been doing their homework and who is still dialing in their setup for the new season. Yet after Ryan Villopoto’s dominant victory over the rest of the Supercross field, there’s no question that the young Kawasaki rider is going to be the man to beat in 2012. The official results have Villopoto crossing the checkers over 12 seconds ahead of Chad Reed, but watching the racing in person it seemed like the green bike was a mile ahead. At one point the floor announcer was saying that Villopoto was 18 seconds ahead (pretty impressive for a 1:03 average lap), but it didn’t take a stopwatch to tell that Ryan was simply attacking the course. His corner speed was unmatched, and he rode with such a relaxed, focused style that you got the impression he was having a blast sticking it to the competition.
Behind the leader, TwoTwo Motorsports/ Bel-Ray/ Honda’s Chad Reed wasn’t finding the speed he needed to make a charge at the top spot, but that’s certainly not to say that he was off the pace. Reed was hauling ass, and you have to remember that if it weren’t for Villopoto it would have been Chad’s race to win, and at a 13+ second margin over Dungey at that. Reed had one small mishap where he went down for just a few seconds in the main event, but the bobble did not cost him too much time in the overall order. Things seem to be clicking for Reed, who not only now has the talented Mike Gosselaar in his camp, but also an army of red-pant-wearing minions. Seriously, you could see these guys from a mile away…. they looked like Super(cross) Mario Bros!
Props have to be given to Ryan Dungey, who scored Red Bull/ KTM’ first podium finish in the Supercross class, and who looked good and comfortable aboard his new bike. Dungey seemed to be getting pulled just a bit certain spots—he wasn’t hitting the flat turn across the start straight as hard as some of the other riders—but overall his speed was impressive and his fitness appears as solid as ever.
In the pits, Ryan’s brother Jade Dungey was on hand to help the orange crew keep everything running smoothly, and we guarantee that this family connection will only help Ryan’s confidence as he continues to settle in aboard his new bike. Jade can usually be spotted on the EnduroCross circuit turning wrenches for Mike Brown, so he’s no stranger to the mechanical side of the racing scene.
And then there’s Bubba. Wherever James Stewart goes excitement is sure to follow, and Anaheim One was no exception. Stewart’s first big race riding for Joe Gibbs Racing was not the win that Stewart or his squad were hoping for, though Bubba showed a lot of maturity and came out of the race more or less as healthy as he went into it. For the first half of the main, it looked like Stewart was trying to find his rhythm, then on lap 12 he just switched on and started charging. Shortly thereafter he clipped a hay bail with his front wheel and went down, eventually finishing in sixth place. After the race, Stewart’s Yamaha sat undisturbed under the Joe Gibbs tent with both radiator shrouds ripped off, giving fans a good view of the hand-built radiator that looks to be providing a slimmer ergonomic feel.
As far as trainers go, Stewart is going solo during the week. He feels he has learned enough from Johnny O’Mara and Aldon Baker over the years that he knows now what to do to stay competitive physically. However, it’s clear that O’Mara and Bubba are still friends, and the two could be seen chatting a few times throughout the day.
Also interesting to note was the fact that Stewart—a notoriously picky rider when it comes to tires—was running Pirelli rubber on his race bike. Word is that Bubba tested both the Pirelli and Dunlop tires on back-to-back weeks and gave Dunlop an honest try, but eventually went with Pirelli.
Aside from the excitement concerning the big names, a number of other highlights helped the Supercross class live up to the pre-race hype. Team Honda/ Muscle Milk’s Justin Brayton impressed all with a fourth overall finish aboard his Honda CRF450R, which clearly was working great on the tight confines inside Angel Stadium. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer also put in a great ride for fifth overall, though he was assisted by Stewart’s late-race crash. Honda’s Andrew Short also showed impressive speed considering that he’s just recently recovered from a pair of broken elbows.
There were few disappointments at Anaheim, yet several surprises. The crowd was noticeably bummed that fan-favorite and eventual eighth-place finisher Kevin Windham didn’t do better (the #14 rider was later overheard saying that he just got tired mid-way through the race), and it was also expected that Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle would have been a bit further up in the final standings. Jeff Ward Racing’s Josh Grant was also missing from the top 18, though not all was lost for the team that night as Wardy was presented with the Mickey Thompson Award of Excellence for his contributions to the sport.
All of the riders were vocal about the fact that they did not like the Anaheim One track, stating that it was too simple, one-lined and not at all what they’ve come to expect in AMA Supercross. On television, the tight course seemed to be set up to promote racing but was lacking in big combination jumps and impressive airtime, and the whoops burned in with one obviously easier line late in the race. Going in to next week’s race in Phoenix, the riders have their fingers crossed for something with more of a technical, longer feel.
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