The beginning of the 2008 AMA/Toyota Motocross National Championship was a bit odd, as the man who won the Supercross title - Chad Reed - was in attendance, although not racing, and James Stewart, who sat out nearly the entire supercross championship, was racing. It was as if we swapped superstars to start the new series at Glen Helen.
Under cloudy, somewhat windy and threatening skies, the Nationals got under way at Glen Helen
, and although the overcast skies made for uncharacteristically cool temperatures, the weather held out and the rain stayed away.
The first Lites moto got going with Lites Western Region SX champ Jason Lawrence
(338) grabbing the holeshot.
Lawrence checked out in the first moto, grabbing his first-ever AMA National moto victory over Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki's Austin Stroupe
, his teammate Brett Metcalfe
, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Ryan Dungey
and defending champ Ryan Villopoto
, who started outside the top 10.
The second moto saw Dungey (28) with the holeshot.
Dungey (28) led early over Stroupe (51) and Villopoto (1).
Stroupe grabbed the lead from Dungey, then fell, which put him back to fourth in the moto behind Villopoto (first), Dungey (second) and Metcalfe (third).
Villopoto checked out to win the second moto, but his 1-5 score was only good enough for second overall.
Dungey finished second in the second moto, and his 4-2 was only good enough for fourth overall.
Metcalfe went 3-4 for fifth overall - an amazing finish considering his moto placings. But that's how the day was in the Lites class.
Geico Powersports Honda's Jake Weimer
(30) was sixth overall with a 7-7.Austin Stroupe
's late-race pass on Metcalfe in the second moto landed him with a 2-3 score, which gave him the overall victory - his first ever.
Stroupe (center), Villopoto (left) and Lawrence (right) rounded out the top three, with Lawrence going 1-5 for third. The top four in points heading into round two are separated by two points, while fifth place is only two points further back.
Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Mike Alessi
(800) got his customary holeshot to start the first moto, with Stewart (7), his Monster Energy Kawasaki teammate Timmy Ferry
(15), Honda Red Bull Racing's Ben Townley (101) and the rest of the pack giving chase.
However, Stewart was quickly by Alessi (in the second turn, actually) and checked out.
Alessi (800) tried to repeat with another holeshot in the second moto, but Stewart (7) cut underneath him in the "Talladega" first turn and stole the holeshot, and the moto lead. Stewart checked out again.
Alessi gave chase valiantly in both motos, and handily beat everyone else in the field, but Stewart was in a class of his own and went 1-1 to Alessi's 2-2.
Honda Red Bull Racing's Davi Millsaps
came from behind in both motos to go 3-3 for third overall.Timmy Ferry
(15) was a consistent 4-4 for fourth overall.
Millsaps' teammate Ivan Tedesco
overcame problems in the opening moto to end up with a 7-5 for fifth overall.
In his first race back since last year, Alessi's teammate Michael Byrne
went 9-7 for sixth overall.
In his first race back on U.S. soil, Sean Hamblin was impressive, going 8-8 for seventh overall. In the first moto, Hamblin started and finished in around the same spot, but in moto two, Hamblin came from well back and finished strong, passing quite a few riders in the late laps. He was also the top Yamaha on the day.
Ultimately, though, the day belonged to Stewart. With the dominance he showed at Glen Helen
, it's hard to imagine anyone beating him this year. However, as they say, there's a reason why they run all the races.
Stewart (center), Alessi (left) and Millsaps (right) celebrate on the podium.