Thunder Valley Race Report

Round 5 of the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF

LAKEWOOD, Colo. (July 1, 2008) – There was no lack of excitement this past weekend as the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF presented the first night racing program in its history. A great crowd and high-energy atmosphere welcomed the world’s best riders as Monster Energy Kawasaki’s James Stewart and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto both extended their points lead with overall victories.

Some of the crowd at Thunder Valley MX Park

photo: Carl Stone

Villopoto started the evening off right, grabbing the Holeshot Award in the first moto and promptly separating himself from the field in AMA Motocross Lites. Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Nico Izzi and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Austin Stroupe followed in second and third. In his return from a concussion, Geico Powersports Honda’s Trey Canard came out of the gates in about 15th. Making his return to the series from the European Grand Prix circuit was former AMA Motocross Lites champion Mike Brown, riding for the Boost Mobile/Yamaha of Troy team. After running in the top-10 throughout the moto, he would bring the bike home in 12th. Also making his return to action was Geico Powersports Honda’s Josh Grant, holding down the fourth position for most of the moto.

As Villopoto pulled away, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey began moving through the field after a mid-pack start. Stroupe would fall on the top section of the track and his bike was landed on by many riders, forcing a DNF. Canard began working his way around riders at a rapid pace, passing teammate Dan Reardon in the mechanics area on lap 11. Dungey was slowly cutting into Izzi’s advantage and with only two laps left in the moto began working various lines in an attempt to get around his teammate. After a bit of contact, Izzi would hang on for second. The final order was Villopoto, Izzi, and Dungey.

Ryan Villopoto

photo: Carl Stone

Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Mike Alessi remained the man to beat out of the gates in AMA Motocross moto one, winning yet another Holeshot Award. Stewart was not far behind and stayed lower over the back tabletop to get in position to pass Alessi on the first lap. After a bad start, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Tim Ferry found himself deep in the pack, finishing the first lap in 22nd. Red Bull Honda’s Andrew Short was riding in third in his home event. His teammate, Ivan Tedesco gave chase in the opening laps before pulling off the track. Riley MX Racing Honda’s Michael Blose and his brother, MDK/Media Zone Honda’s Chris Blose, were both up front for the first time this season, with Michael earning an 11th place finish. Red Bull Honda’s Davi Millsaps started the moto deep in the top-10, but was on the move and passed both Blose brothers in consecutive laps coming off the Red Bull triple jump. Moto XXX Honda’s Jeff Alessi was also running strong in 10th. Factory Yamaha’s Sean Hamblin, in his debut ride for the team, bobbled in the opening laps and had his work cut out for him. He would battle to bring the bike home in seventh. Stewart was by himself on the track and continued to pull away while darkness descended at Lakewood. Alessi maintained his strong hold on second. Millsaps continued his strong ride, working his way into fourth behind Short. Ferry came through the pack to pass 16 riders for eighth. The man on the move was Moto XXX Honda’s Antonio Balbi, who would win the Ricky Carmichael Hard Charger Award in this moto after passing 18 of his fellow competitors. Stewart would win with ease, continuing his perfect season while Alessi continued his string of seconds with hometown favorite Short in third.

In the final AMA Motocross Lites moto, Grant would grab the Holeshot Award and make an early run away from the pack. First moto winner Villopoto didn’t get the jump he needed and rounded the first lap in ninth. Dungey suffered a hard fall on the opening lap on a downhill rhythm section and would not finish. MDK/KTM’s Martin Davalos was riding well in second behind Grant. Geico Powersports Honda’s Jake Weimer, coming off a career best at High Point, was mid-pack after a tough start. Grant continued to charge hard and pulled out to an 8 second lead on Davalos. Villopoto showed his quickness, picking off riders one-by-one. He passed a number of riders around the outside in the switchback section and continued to use sweeping outside lines to make up time. Star Racing Yamaha’s Matt Lemoine made a charge and would go on to score his best finish of the season, finishing fifth. Canard again would suffer a bad start and have to work his way up. First moto runner-up Izzi passed Mike Brown in the far back section of the track by out-braking the veteran. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit’s Brett Metcalfe had a tough evening, finishing at the back of the pack. Stroupe was riding strong again, but suffered another crash that knocked him out of the race. Villopoto was working on Davalos and got by him by out-running the KTM rider to the top of one of the hills. Davalos’ day would take a turn for the worse when he crashed while in third on lap 10. By this time, Villopoto had closed up to Grant and was trying to make the pass. Grant, who was riding a conservative pace, picked it up and quickly dropped his lap times. Villopoto stayed lower and used an inside line on Grant to pass him going into the downhill sweeper, but Grant would get him back by using the outside to carry momentum. The two battled for a few laps before Villopoto made the pass stick right before the finish line. Villopoto would hang on for a thrilling moto win and a 1-1 sweep of the night. Grant would get second and a hard-charging Canard would finish third. Villopoto and Grant would assume the same positions in the overall standings while Izzi garnered a career best overall finish of third.

James Stewart

photo: Carl Stone

As the AMA Motocross class blasted out the gates for its final moto, Alessi would sweep the Holeshot Award for the third consecutive week. With Stewart mired in fourth, Alessi went on to lead the first three laps. The Kawasaki rider jumped in between Millsaps and Short in the downhill rhythm section, passing both Honda riders, then moved into second and went after Alessi. Twisted/ Kawasaki’s Sean Collier had his privateer bike up near the front, battling with Factory Yamaha’s Josh Hill. Ferry got a better start this moto and was in fourth chasing Short and Millsaps early on. Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Michael Byrne was sixth and out-accelerated Michael Blose up the hill for another spot. On lap four, Stewart made his way around Alessi by out-braking the Suzuki rider and carrying more momentum out of the turn. At that point, he began checking out en route to his 10th moto win. In the late stages, Stewart washed out his front end and fell to the ground. However, he kept the bike running and lost only six seconds of his double-digit lead.

Millsaps began to open a lead on Short, who was under attack from Ferry. This was the most exciting action of the moto as the hometown rider and “Red Dog” battled throughout the moto. Ferry got alongside Short a few times, but couldn’t make the pass stick, with the Honda rider eventually holding on for fourth. Suzuki City Biloxi, MS/OTSFF Suzuki’s Cody Cooper, who has consistently been a top privateer rider, had a rough night and failed to finish either moto. A local rider, KTM/RPM Racing’s Kyle Summers, had a good night, finishing 10th in the first moto and 13th in the second moto and beating many of the factory riders.

AMA Motocross Lites podium

photo: Carl Stone

Stewart took the win, with Alessi second and Millsaps third. This would be the overall finish as well for the second straight week.


Davi Millsaps, Red Bull Honda, AMA Motocross, Third Overall

“I put my head down and did the best I could. I’ve been working hard the past couple weeks and it just feels awesome to do this well. I took some time off over the break to let my body heal a little bit and it paid off. It was kind of hard to see for me out there in some spots. I have an eye problem that happened when I was younger so I was trying to overcome that all night.”

Mike Alessi, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki, AMA Motocross, Second Overall

“It was definitely good (to get the early lead). The line I chose out of the gate worked good for both motos (in grabbing the holeshot). I think (my fuel injected bike) is an advantage up here (in high altitude). We didn’t have to make any changes or anything. It worked really well all weekend and I think it put us one step ahead of everyone else. I did some training in the altitude earlier in the week and it definitely helped. James is riding good. Being able to put pressure on him is what keeps me motivated. The track layout was awesome and the dirt was great. I thought the lighting wasn’t that great. I could see a lot of shadows.”

James Stewart, Monster Energy Kawasaki, AMA Motocross, Overall Winner

“I had to make a couple passes in the beginning. I got around those guys pretty quick. It probably took me about three laps to get used to the lights. I saw mike pulling away a little bit and tried to catch up. I got to him and pulled off a move and it stuck. I think the night race is cool. I know a lot of people are against it but I think it’s because of the lighting. Sometimes we need to spice things up a little to help this sport grow and be more appealing to a larger audience. Maybe if we just add a few more lights out there it’ll be good. They’ll definitely work on it in the future to make it better. I’m looking forward to RedBud. I really like it there.”

AMA Motocross podium

photo: Carl Stone

Nico Izzi, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki, AMA Motocross Lites, Third Overall

“This a little bit of an overwhelming experience right now. I tried to stick with (Ryan Villopoto) as long as I could and built up a little cushion (over third). So I felt pretty good. Ryan (Dungey) put some pressure on me and we battled, but it was fun. The last three or four laps I started cramping up and he caught me. We bumped a couple times but just because we’re teammates doesn’t mean we’re gonna let each other go. It just feels good to be up here. Once you’ve been up front a couple times you get used to it.”

Josh Grant, Geico Powersports Honda, AMA Motocross Lites, Second Overall

“I haven’t been able to really do anything. I started working out a couple weeks ago and put in a few days of riding. I’m happy to be here. I ridden (motocross) at night before and I was excited about this. It was a good comeback for me. I’m happy to get back out there and get a good result for my team and I’m looking forward to next weekend. It was a battle (with Ryan Villopoto). He caught me and that was that. He got the better end of the deal. His pace was a lot faster than I expected in the second moto. I knew it was faster than mine, I knew where I stood so I didn’t really surprise me that he got by. I’m just glad to be able to run up at the front.”

Ryan Villopoto, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, AMA Motocross Lites, Overall Winner

“It was tough (under the lights),” stated Villopoto. “You had to watch your shadows and really keep on your toes. I just tried to make my passes stick. Josh got away and once I got into second I had to put a charge on. I was able to carry a little more momentum on the outside (to pass him). I think we could use a little more light. It was better than I thought it would be and the track was maintained well throughout the evening. Normally, the altitude up here gets to you, but since it was cooler and at night our bikes were able to perform better and we could endure easier. I saw Ryan (Dungey) go down. It has opened up the points a little bit for me, which will help as we go along.”

Interview opportunities are available to the media by contacting AMA Toyota Motocross Championship media coordinator Brandon Short via email at or by phone at 951-203-2605.

For more information on the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship, presented by FMF, log on to for live timing and scoring at @theWireLIVE!. Racer X Illustrated will host a new and improved webcast on, with live racing action hosted by Jason Weigandt. The Racer X Motocross Show on has also been added on Saturday night of each race weekend, featuring practice footage and interviews taken earlier in the day.

Credential requests for each round of the 2008 AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF must be submitted via email to three weeks prior to the race. Media members interested in interviews with the riders of the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF should contact Brandon at 951-203-2605 or email