450 Words: Hangtown

June 2, 2009 1:00pm | by:

  • A long time coming, Mike Alessi finally has a 450 overall victory
  • Will new confidence make Tedesco a contender?
  • Josh Grant has been a whole new rider on the 450
Once again, a knee injury has changed the outlook of a championship series. Ryan Villopoto was heavily favored to win the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship in the 450 class, at least until he slowly climbed off his bike after the first moto at the 41st Annual Hangtown Classic and threw in the towel on what could have been his fourth straight outdoor motocross title.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the fourth time in recent history that a champion-to-be was sidelined with a bum knee. Just last year, James Stewart bowed out of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship with a knee injury after two rounds. Actually, it as the second time Stewart left a championship early due to that left knee, as he lost the ’07 AMA Motocross title when he put his foot down at Washougal and buckled his knee. And remember back in the fall of 2003 when it was discovered that Ricky Carmichael could not go after a fourth straight AMA Supercross title after The Goat tore up his knee up practicing at The Farm?

  • Chad's going to have to get aggressive earlier in the races
  • Andrew Short was close in 2007, and should be right there again at the end of 2009
The recipient of good luck in both those stadium cases was Chad Reed, and he now hopes to be the recipient of some outdoor luck too. But just because Villopoto is out, it hasn’t thrust Reed to the front. In fact, it’s his own Rockstar/Makita Suzuki teammate Mike Alessi who is setting the pace, with Joe Gibbs Racing MX/Toyota’s Josh Grant and the seemingly revitalized Ivan Tedesco keeping pace. Reed, who is still getting up to speed after missing a few seasons of summertime racing, is 19 points behind Alessi (92 to 73) and has yet to win a moto, but after Hangtown, where he ran 6-3 after an off-track excursion of the first moto and a thrilling chase of Grant and Alessi that came up just a few bike lengths short, Reed seemed to have a new outlook, and it was obvious the confidence is starting to build.

But Chad’s going to need more than confidence to catch the very fast and consistent Alessi. Mikey has had a tough couple of years, struggling in supercross compared to old rivals Villopoto and Davi Millsaps, and then not winning an outdoor national the past two summers. But everything changed on Saturday afternoon when RV pulled out, just as #800 was getting his old groove back. Now he goes to Texas with the points lead, and the rugged Freestone is one of the tracks Alessi seemed to match up best on with Stewart last summer before being used as a welcome mat by most of the 450 class at Red Bud.

Curiously, Alessi mentioned the absent James Stewart on the podium, complimenting the missing man some pit pundits are whispering about as his potential teammate in 2010. Now just imagine the star wattage on that team and the possible personality clashes…. No matter how this thing turns out, it’s going to be a very interesting silly season!

{LINKS}Check out the Freestone National live video stream this Saturday afternoon, starting at 1:30 ET (12:30 locally) on www.allisports.com.