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450 Words: Daytona

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Ricky Carmichael was the kind of guy for whom pressure was a motivator. Over the years, a lot of people have compared Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto with Carmichael, from his three-straight Lites Outdoor titles, and his dominance in his second year in the Lites Supercross Series, even to his sort of slow start in the big-bike supercross ranks. However, two things can and should be noted: 1) that RV has already won six AMA Supercross events halfway through his second season (much of the first season he missed with an illness), and 2) that RC was racing against Jeremy McGrath when he moved up, among others.

Still, there’s one thing that Villopoto definitely has going for him in the RC/RV comparisons, and that’s the fact that Villopoto thrives on pressure.

  • Ryan Villopoto won his fourth race of the year at Daytona.
  • Ryan Dungey finished second but was never a serious threat for the lead in the main event.
  • In his third-ever 450cc race, Trey Canard got his second-ever podium.
  • Kevin Windham (14) came through the pack for fourth.
  • Davi Millsaps was chasing down Canard for third early in the main but fell and ended up fifth.
Ricky Carmichael relished the thought of racing at the Motocross des Nations, and the pressure of finishing off a perfect season – three times – is something that can’t be explained in words. You either get it, or you don’t.

But look at Ryan Villopoto’s career, and you see that even when he wasn’t successful, he was doing his best to be. In the Lites East in 2008, he had come back in a short series from a first-round DNF to control his own destiny at the finale. All he had to do was win, and he was the champion. However, Trey Canard had other plans, and after Villopoto passed him for the lead, Canard attempted a pass on the inside, and when the two collided, it sent Villopoto into the finish-line scaffolding. Canard was champ, but Villopoto did what he needed to do that day, it just didn’t work out for him through little fault of his own.

Then, there was the Motocross des Nations at Budds Creek, where he absolutely dominated the field – on his KX250F. As a matter of fact, in his three appearances in the MXdN, he has never failed to win his class, nor has his team failed to win the event.

Knowing all of this, it’s pretty easy to understand that sitting 23 points behind Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey going into Daytona is almost just an inconvenience in Ryan Villopoto’s head. And it’s motivation.

Villopoto’s ride was dominant at Daytona, but not just because he won the race. Dungey matched Villopoto’s pace, but Villopoto wasn’t going to be denied. It was a dominant performance purely from the point that Villopoto was going to win, period. He got two holeshots to start the main event (after the red flag), and he led all 21 laps (including the red-flagged one). Barring more mistakes like the one in Atlanta, Villopoto may become a runaway train, and it’s up to Ryan Dungey to stop him.
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