10 Things to Watch: St. Louis

10 Things To Watch St. Louis

March 2, 2012 12:00pm

By: Aaron Hansel and Chase Stallo

Held Back
Last year it was frequent crashes that held Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen back. This year, other factors are holding him back, literally. Last week, Roczen charged to a sixth place finish after starting in dead last when he got stuck in the gate in Atlanta. Roczen is coming also coming off of a broken arm, and will no doubt improve each and every week. Could St. Louis be the race in which Roczen takes his first win of the season?

Delayed Debut
Kyle Peters was originally scheduled to make his professional supercross debut in Dallas, until a separated collarbone sidelined him for a few weeks. Now, the rookie is back in action and is slated to race in St. Louis. While it’s doubtful that Peters will make a big splash in the results so soon after an injury, it’s going to be interesting to see where he fits in tomorrow night.

Bouncing Back
In Dallas, Cole Thompson took ninth place in his first supercross race ever, then failed to qualify in Atlanta just one week later. Thompson has already showed that he’s got the speed to run with the pros, now he just needs to show that he can do it consistently. Will Thompson  be forced to watch the main event from the stands again tomorrow night, or will he bring the same speed he had two weeks ago?

Can Cunningham rebound from a tough beginning to 2012 with a podium in St. Louis?
Photo: Simon Cudby

Third Time’s a Charm
Kyle Cunningham has had a rough beginning to his season. He went down hard and DNF’d the Eastern Regional SX Lites opener in Dallas, and was racing with a sore wrist last week in Atlanta. Now that he’s had some time to recover, look for Cunningham to be back on the move tomorrow night in St. Louis.

King of the Arena
On the heels of his second straight Arenacross title last week in Minneapolis, Tyler Bowers will make his 2012 SX debut in St. Louis. Bowers contested the final three rounds of the Supercross class last season with his a seasons best coming at the series finale in Las Vegas.  With the Arenacross class making the switch back to the 250F for the 2011-12 season, Bowers will drop down to the Lites class for the first time since riding for the now defunct Yamaha of Troy team in 2008.    

Marvin Lands in St. Louis
The often criticized 350 was thought to be an afterthought in 2012 with the arrival of Ryan Dungey to factory KTM. But with the Supercross class debut of Marvin Musquin on the horizon, the 350 makes its return. Musquin is the latest in line of West Region Lites riders to make the jump to the Supercross class on the East Coast, following in the footsteps of Cole Seely, Nico Izzi, Billy Laninovich and Gavin Faith. Leaving the comfy confines of the Lites class for the dog eat dog world of the SX class will be challenging, but can Musquin find a way to dig deep and grab a spot inside the top ten?

Musquin makes his Supercross class debut this weekend in St. Louis.
Photo: Simon Cudby

Canada Streaking
Last season MotoConcepts’ Jake Canada made the top ten once in the West Region Lites class. Through two rounds in 2012, he has two top tens. After bursting onto the scene outdoors last year with a ninth at Thunder Valley, Canada was quickly snatched up by MotoConcepts, replacing the departed Christophe Pourcel, and he has yet to relinquish his spot on the team. Canada has looked strong through the first two rounds, but will he be able to keep his top ten streak alive in St. Louis?

Spirit of St. Louis
When Blake Wharton left GEICO Honda to sign with Rockstar Energy Suzuki this off-season he was expected to bring a ray of hope back to a team that was left in the dark in 2011. Through two rounds Wharton has met those expectations. Wharton led at the opening round in Dallas before colliding with Darryn Durham and eventually charging back to a fifth. Hot-lanta brought a different set of circumstances as the Texas native looked to have a podium spot locked up before costly mistakes late in the race allowed a charging Justin Bogle to secure third. But St. Louis has been kind to Wharton in the past. He picked up his first career win as a rookie in 2008 in St. Louis.  Will the Spirit of St. Louis bring more luck to Wharton this weekend in the form of his first podium of 2012?

Failure to Launch
While James Stewart has battled several issues this season, his lackluster starts have been one of his biggest problems. Stewart has yet to holeshot a main even this year and has only led eleven laps, all of which were recorded in Oakland. Many believe Stewart and his new JGR Yamaha/Pirelli tires setup will be more comfortable on tackier dirt (closer to where Stewart tested at his Florida home), but he needs to start up front to show it. Will Stewart overcome his starting woes this weekend, or will he once again find himself buried in the pack when he comes into the first turn in St. Louis?

Championship Chase
When Ryan Dungey crossed the checkered flag in Phoenix erasing years of stagnation for KTM most thought it to be the tipping point for KTM and Dungey. But the following rounds provided a different storyline as Dungey struggled with starts and a case of the whoops in San Diego. Just when many thought the KTM/Dungey fairytale was over, he answered the bell in Atlanta—proving he is still very much alive in the championship race. But the whoop section in Atlanta was tame—can Dungey get it done through a tough section? Ryan Villopoto is determined to make sure that doesn't happen, as he was none-too-happy about seeing his win streak snapped in Atlanta. Look for another big showdown between the Ryans on Saturday night.

Villopoto leads the championship chase, but Dungey is hot on his tailpipe.
Photo: Simon Cudby