PICKERINGTON, Ohio (November 20, 2007) – AMA Motocross and Supercross racer Ryan Villopoto walked away with the most prestigious award Sunday night at the 33rd Annual AMA Pro Racing Championship Awards Banquet held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Villopoto, the 19-year-old Monster Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider from Poulsbo, Wash., earned the 2007 AMA Pro Racing SPEED Athlete of the Year Award.
Villopoto’s naming as Athlete of the Year was the highlight of the annual awards banquet, which also featured the honoring of several other prominent award winners and champions from each of the AMA’s professional motorcycle racing disciplines.
The Award of Mechanical Excellence was awarded to Mitch Payton, team owner of Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Under Payton’s leadership Pro Circuit has become the most successful satellite team in the history of AMA Motocross and Supercross. Just this year alone, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki riders won the AMA Supercross West and East Lites Series titles as well as the AMA Motocross Lites Championship. The team swept the Lites podium in both Supercross and Motocross events this season.
Longtime AMA racing hero Doug Henry was awarded Sportsman of the Year. Henry has shown tremendous courage and perseverance in recovering from a devastating back injury suffered earlier this year. The accident left Henry partially paralyzed, but a photo of him standing and watching an AMA Supermoto race from the grandstands in Stafford Springs, Conn., was one of the most inspirational images of the year. Yamaha’s Keith McCarty accepted the award on behalf of Henry in one of the evening’s most poignant moments.
The 2007 Monster Energy AMA Motocross of Nations team was also honored at the banquet. The American team won the Red Bull FIM Motocross of Nations held on its home soil at Budds Creek, Md., on Sept. 23, in front of over 75,000 fans in attendance and a live television audience in Europe. Ricky Carmichael, Ryan Villopoto and Tim Ferry put together one of the most dominant performances in Motocross of Nations history to win Team USA's 18th Chamberlain Trophy. Villopoto lead the charge by winning both of his motos.
The banquet also featured a tribute to Ricky Carmichael, the winningest AMA Motocross racer in history, who retired from full-time competition in 2007. The racing legend ended his motocross career on a high note by winning the final race in Team USA’s victory in the Motocross of Nations. Carmichael also reached an amazing milestone this summer by earning his 150th national victory in AMA Motocross and Supercross competition.
Villopoto became the youngest rider ever to win the AMA Pro Racing SPEED Athlete of the Year Award.
In only his second full season as a pro, Villopoto had one of the most successful racing campaigns in AMA racing history. In February he clinched the 2007 AMA Supercross Lites West title. He then faced the biggest test of his young career in a season-long one-on-one battle with Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Ben Townley in AMA Toyota Motocross Lites this summer. Villopoto went on to become the first to win the Motocross Lites class back-to-back since Ricky Carmichael did it in 1998. Villopoto closed 2007 by turning in a stunning performance at the Motocross of Nations.
“This year was really a great and one I’ll always remember,” Villopoto said. “Winning the Motocross Lites Championship in a season-long battle with my teammate was awesome, but doing so well in the Motocross des Nations was just unbelievable. Being named Athlete of the Year is the icing on the cake.”