In the middle of the tightest supercross championship in recent history, the Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Championship headed into St. Louis with most of the talk seeming to surround former Lites East SX and National MX champ (but more famously X Games champ and Nitro Circus star) Travis Pastrana. Pastrana designed the course, and helped build it, but although he wasn’t slow by any means, he was his own worst enemy, crashing out of a qualifying position in his Heat race, and then draining his RM-Z450 of coolant after landing on the back of another bike on the opening lap of the LCQ. His Suzuki quit a full six laps later while he was battling for a qualifying position.
JGR/Toyota Yamaha’s Josh Grant grabbed the main-event holeshot and led the opening two laps while both Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Chad Reed and San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart worked their way through the front-runners on the opening lap. As the trio crossed the line, marking the end of the first lap, Reed was working on Grant, and Stewart on Reed.
On the third lap, Reed finally made a pass stick on Grant, and Stewart followed him quickly through. The race was on. Stewart used a clever pair of outside lines in the S turn that criss-crossed the front straightaway to set up Reed for a pass just before the finish line, grabbing the inside on the defending champ and jumping the finish line anyway. Reed followed suit and began to give chase. For the bulk of the next 11 laps, Reed stayed about the same distance behind Stewart, but then lost a couple seconds in one lap when he had a moment in the track’s whoop section, running over a Tuff Block knocked in front of him by a lapper.
But it all came to a head on the 15th of 20 laps, when Stewart – who had fallen twice earlier in his Heat race on his way to ninth place, barely qualifying for the main event – went down in the main event. Stewart hit neutral on the face of a tricky step-up following the whoops before Yamaha’s Josh Hill careened off of him. Stewart was up as quickly as could be expected following his endo, but not quickly enough to keep Reed behind him.
Reed took over the lead, and led the final six laps unchallenged on his way to his third victory in four weeks. Stewart was second, and bummed out, while Grant was pumped to finish third, despite a badly bent shift lever that had him stuck in third gear for much of the main event. Andrew Short finished fourth, while Jason Lawrence finished fifth.
With the win, Reed extended his points lead back to 11 with five rounds left to run. Hypothetically, if Stewart wins the next four rounds, and Reed is second, Reed will go into the Las Vegas finale one point behind Stewart, making for a winner-take-all scenario. Or, assuming neither rider finishes lower than second from here on out, all Reed needs is one more win to ensure his second-consecutive AMA Supercross championship.
GEICO Powersports Honda’s Blake Wharton has figured his starts out. After struggling with his starts for much of the early part of the season, Wharton has started at or near the front for the last two weeks. In the Lites main event in St. Louis, Wharton grabbed the holeshot while his most likely challengers – Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Christophe Pourcel and Austin Stroupe – were 17th and fifth on the opening lap, respectively.
However, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Nico Izzi was all over Wharton out front, and remained such for about half of the race before Wharton – riding much more like a veteran than a rookie – began to distance himself from Izzi, who fell back into the grasp of the charging Stroupe.
On the final lap, Stroupe made a pass stick on the fading Izzi for second, but Wharton had the race wrapped up. He rode over the finish line without so much as a fist in the air, and rode over to the podium, perhaps not realizing what he had just accomplished.
Pourcel, who started well back in the pack, methodically worked his way through to fifth and holds a 25-point lead over Stroupe with only two rounds left to run in the Lites East. Matt Goerke rode a solid race for fourth.