Sipes took home victory at the Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Shootout in Vegas. Photo: Simon Cudby
Sure, GEICO Powersports Honda’s Justin Barcia carried a solid lead into the finale, but he had to share victory lane with Ryan Sipes, Blake Baggett and Dean Wilson, and for awhile it looked like Barcia’s teammate Blake Wharton was en route to victory in Atlanta. And the West Region was even more stacked, with five winners and a points chase that went to the wire.
The last time the SX 125 class (Lites, today) delivered nine winners was back in 2000, and indeed that was an exciting season as well. The winners included (our own) David Pingree, Tallon Vohland, Greg Schnell, Casey Lytle, Shae Bentley, Michael Brandes, Stephane Roncada, Travis Pastrana and Ernesto Fonseca. Both titles were nail biters, with Roncada going into the East final tied with Brock Sellards (who didn’t win a race) and pulling it out when Sellards went down early. The West was even crazier, as Pingree and Bentley both got into first-turn crashes at the final, and both raged through the pack. At the finish, no one even knew who had won the title, until ESPN pit reporter (our own) Davey Coombs got the word while interviewing Bentley on the podium, leading to the classic, “Yeah I freakin’ won it!” scream from Shae. Great stuff (unless you’re Ping).
Ping and Casey Lytle mixing it up in 2000. Photo: Jim Sanderson
Point is we had a great Lites season eleven years ago. But the 2000 tour in the 250 class was a yawner, with Jeremy McGrath winning the opener and holding the points lead through the entire season. He won ten races.
So when you’re thinking greatest season ever, think of 2011 as a whole. It pretty much doesn’t get any better than this.