Number Nine Is Nice For Villopoto
NEW ORLEANS — A crowd of 33,392 filled the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Saturday night, as Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, hosted its 14th race of the 2012 season in a return to New Orleans.
One race after capturing back-to-back Supercross Class Championships, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, of Poulsbo, Wash., won his ninth win of the season with a convincing effort.
In the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class, GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia, of Ochlocknee, Ga., secured his second-consecutive title with a fourth-place finish, while Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Darryn Durham, of Butler, Pa., raced to the first victory of his career.
Villopoto was the first rider out of the gate in the 20-lap Supercross Class Main Event, grabbing the Nuclear Cowboyz® Holeshot Award with Foremost Insurance/Motosport.com Kawasaki’s Nick Wey, of Dewitt, Mich., and Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer, of Rupert, Idaho, close behind. It didn’t take long for Villopoto to open a gap on the field, ultimately taking a wire-to-wire win.
“The track was tough, so the bike was a big key,” said Villopoto, who is in the midst of a four-race winning streak. “The track was breaking down and it had a lot of ruts, so it was easy to get caught off guard. You had to stay on toes and try to log consistent laps. I’m looking forward to returning home next week (in Seattle).”
All eyes were on the battle for the remaining spots on the podium, as both Jeff Ward Racing Kawasaki’s Josh Grant, of Corona, Calif., and MotoConcepts Suzuki’s Mike Alessi, of Hilliard, Fla., were both in search of their first top-three efforts of the season. Grant set a strong pace in second after a good start, keeping a consistent gap over third. Alessi, however, wasn’t as fortunate, making contact with a lapped rider while running third on Lap 16, falling to the ground. That allowed Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Brayton, of Murrieta, Calif., to grab the final spot on the podium.
Grant’s runner-up effort was his best finish since winning the opening race of the 2009 Monster Energy Supercross season and also signified the inaugural podium finish for the first-year Jeff Ward Racing team.
As the gates dropped on the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class Main Event, Eleven10 Mods Honda’s Alex Martin, of Millville, Minn., captured the Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot Award, with Barcia and Durham in tow. Prior to the conclusion of the opening lap, Durham made his way into second and proceeded to make what would be the winning pass on Lap 2 over Martin.
JDR/J-Star KTM’s Malcolm Stewart, of Haines City, Fla., worked his way into second following a strong start and set his sights on Durham. Behind him, Barcia took advantage of his healthy points lead and settled into podium position, needing only to finish fourth or better.
On Lap 6, Stewart crashed out of second, allowing a three-way battle for the position to ensue between Barcia, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen, of Murrieta, Calif., and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett, of Grand Terrace, Calif. Baggett prevailed in this battle and after Durham bobbled heading into a triple jump on Lap 9, it became a duel between the teammates.
Baggett moved inside Durham several times in an attempt to make a pass during the closing laps but wasn’t able to secure the position and settled for second. It marked the first win of the season for Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki in the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class, capped off by a 1-2 effort.
“This is at the top of the list (of accomplishments),” said Durham. “I’m speechless. It was a great race and I couldn’t have done it without my team. I’m super excited, but just don’t know what to say. I had a rough practice and heat race, but got great start. I think I led all the laps, but I don’t even know.”
Barcia settled into fourth, his first finish off the podium this season, to guarantee back-to-back championships, while his teammate Justin Bogle, of Cushing, Okla., made a late charge to the front to tie his career-best finish in third.
“Tonight is mind blowing,” said Barcia, who has compiled a 1.4 finishing average in eight races this season. “To win two championships feels amazing. It was a tough season at times, but it took a lot of hard work and dedication to get here. I couldn’t have done it without everyone on my team. This is an awesome feeling.”BREAKING NEWS: SPEED SPORT is back in print with a new monthly format! Subscribe for just $24.95. Special offer for former subscribers.