This Week in Monster Energy SupercrossFriday, March 30, 2012 | 3:20 PM
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This Week in Monster Energy Supercross: Houston
AURORA, Ill. – Following his seventh victory of the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, season, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto is in search of history tomorrow night inside of Houston’s Reliant Stadium. Villopoto, the defending Supercross Class Champion, has the opportunity to become the first rider since Ricky Carmichael to capture back-to-back titles, while also securing the championship earlier than any rider in the 38-year history of the sport.
Villopoto became the first repeat winner in Toronto last weekend, taking over the lead on the second lap of the Supercross Class Main Event and cruising to victory. His points lead over Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey currently sits at 79 points, meaning Villopoto will need to accumulate 21 points tomorrow night to secure the title.
“The plan is the wrap it up this weekend in Houston,” said Villopoto. “I’d like to clinch the title in a domed stadium before we head back to outdoor stadiums, where weather can come into play. Houston is normally a fun track, so it could make for a great night.”
After suffering an injury that kept him out of Indianapolis and Toronto, JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha’s James Stewart announced last night that he will return to action tomorrow night. The two-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion has two wins on the season is currently third in points.
"Yeah, it wasn't fun to go down like that in Indy,” said Stewart. “Everybody knew I hit my head, but we found out the next day that I tweaked my knee pretty good and hurt my hand. Actually, I broke one of the small bones in my hand. I still tried to ride throughout the week and but just couldn't do it for Toronto. That was hard to sit through; I didn't like it at all. We talked about it for this week, and I felt a bit better so the team and I decided to come out and give it a shot in Houston. So we'll see where we're at. But it will feel good to be out there with the guys and to see all the fans again."
Fellow Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Jake Weimer has improved his consistency in recent weeks, taking advantage of the absence of several championship contenders to put forth some of his strongest rides of the season. Weimer has already made the podium on two occasions and now expects nothing less.
“The last few weekends haven’t been what I wanted, but last weekend was a step in the right direction,” said Weimer. “I’m going to keep fighting and know I can be back on the box. Houston usually has really good dirt and it’s a big stadium, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Brayton has become one of the hottest riders in the Supercross Class in recent weeks. On the heels of back-to-back runner-up efforts in Indianapolis and Toronto, Brayton has finished on the podium three of the last four weeks. He’s also led 11 laps of competition over the last two main events and has the confidence to potentially grab his first career win.
“I was really happy to be back up on the podium for a second week in-a-row,” said Brayton. “Being able to lead for a few laps has been a big confidence builder for me. I really want a win, and I know that I can run up front now. Now that I have been able to start riding a little more during the week, it is really starting to come together.”
Wil Hahn joined the team in Toronto, riding for the Factory Honda effort in a substitute role for the first time this season, finishing 10th. Following an injury that left him sidelined for much of Western Regional Supercross Lites Class competition, Hahn is eager to take advantage of the opportunity to compete before he returns to action out west.
“I am happy with my finish (in Toronto),” said Hahn. “This was my first race back and my first ride on a 450. I came out to ride a solid 20 laps and will build on my finishes from here.”
GEICO Honda’s Kevin Windham posted his second podium finish in three weeks in Toronto, battling his way through the field to finish third. Surprisingly, Windham’s two recent podium efforts are his only ones in 2012 to this point, but with a pair of races close to his hometown of Centreville, Miss., over the next two stops, he’s looking to continue the upward progression.
“It was a long week of therapy for me after my crash (in Indy), but I was able to dig deep and get the GEICO Honda up on the podium,” said Windham. “The track was really tough in Toronto and my main focus was staying consistent and keeping the bike straight through the whoops.”
Yoshimura Suzuki’s Brett Metcalfe started his night in Toronto strong, posting a fourth-place result in his heat race. However, he went down while running seventh in the main event, and after having issues restarting his bike, was relegated to 18th.
“A rough weekend last weekend so I’m looking forward to getting back out there,” said Metcalfe. “I think my riding and my setup on the Yoshimura Suzuki is really good right now. Unfortunately, we had a crash last weekend but if we can get up there and get a good result, that’d be good. The stadium (in Houston) is really nice and I’ve had some good results in the past there. The dirt is really cool – it’s got a lot of moisture and traction, and that suits me really good. I’m looking forward to getting out there and hopefully putting the Yoshimura Suzuki up on the podium this weekend.”
A rider looking to take advantage of some opportunities in the premier class is Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle. Tickle has finished inside the top-10 for three consecutive weeks, and is now ready to break the top-five and challenge for the podium.
“The key for me is having a good day from the get go,” said Tickle. “I’m feeling better and better on the bike, and I’m looking to be inside the top-five this weekend. I’ve never raced Houston before, but have heard nothing but good things about it.”
Star/Valli Yamaha’s Bobby Kiniry celebrated his first top-10 result of the season in Toronto. Although Kiniry made it to the Supercross Class Main Event via the LCQ, he pulled out all the stops in the 20-lap race and compiled his best effort of the season so far, bringing home a well-earned ninth.
“Ultimately, we just had a good day in Toronto,” said Kiniry. “I was in the second-turn pile-up in my heat race, so I got into the main through the LCQ. I ended up getting a pretty decent start in the main and rode 20 hard laps. I put myself in a good position in the first 10, and kind of cruised those last 10 to a solid ninth. I’ve been really striving to make the top 10. I’ve been a top-10 guy all my career, and it’s been really frustrating these last few weeks, knowing I belong in the top 10. Now it feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders, so I’m really excited to move forward in Houston and keep getting up there.”
Star/Valli teammate Nico Izzi is a full-time Western Regional Supercross Lites Class contender, but has been competing in select races back east. In Toronto, Izzi started the evening strong with a fifth-place finish in his heat race, but made contact with another rider in the main event, aggravating an injury to his wrist. In an effort to remain healthy, he retired for the evening.
“I was having a great day and felt great,” said Izzi. “Then, I got tangled up with another rider and hit my wrist, and then a big rock hit my wrist and made my whole hand go numb. I pulled in because I couldn’t feel my hand and I was getting squirrelly in the ruts, and almost went down harder. I’m a little frustrated that it ended like that, but I’m healthy and we’ll be back for Houston and start plugging away again.”
In the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Championship, GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia captured his fifth win in six races, extending his already impressive points lead even more. The defending Eastern Regional Champion has been the class of the field throughout the season, and he’ll be looking for continued success tomorrow night in Houston, where he won last year.
“It was great to get another win in Toronto,” said Barcia. “I got my first supercross win there a few years ago, so it is really special to me. It was a great night for me, and the GEICO Honda was running great. After grabbing the holeshot and getting out front, I was able to breathe, ride my own race and check out.”
The Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team gave it their all, and then some, in Toronto. Coming off his first Supercross Lites Class win since 2009 two weeks ago in Indy, Blake Wharton was on fire in Canada. The feisty young rider held nothing back, putting in an aggressive ride to take the final podium position in the 15-lap main event, and assume control of second in the standings coming into Houston.
“Toronto was a great race,” said Wharton. “The track was very technical with ruts, yet hard-packed, and I felt like I made the most of it. I would’ve liked to win, especially after winning (in Indy), and I want to get back on top at Houston. I was born there and I’ve spent a lot of time there, and my first supercross was in Houston.”
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Darryn Durham has shown the speed and determination to get the first Supercross Lites Class win of his career, particularly after breaking through with a heat race victory in Toronto. However, following an early crash last weekend, Durham missed out on the podium, falling a spot in the championship standings. Durham currently sits third in points, just three points out of second-place.
“I’m looking to bounce back from last weekend,” said Durham. “I felt really good and got a heat race win, but threw it away in the main event. I hope to limit my mistakes in Houston and battle for the win.”
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett has shown flashes of speed throughout the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Championship. Baggett knows he can win races, so it is just a matter of being there from the start.
“I had a hard time figuring out the track last weekend,” said Baggett. “I know I have all the tools to win, so it’s just a matter of laying down 15 solid laps like I know I can. I rode almost every day this week and am ready to be up front Saturday night in Houston.”
Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen was eager to claim his first win of the 2012 season in Toronto, but was forced to battle a case of the flu. The German rider found himself up front early in the main event, but fell to second after an aggressive move from Barcia. Once in second, Roczen solidified himself in the position and brought home a solid runner-up effort, surprising even himself.
"I honestly didn't expect to be on the podium last weekend as I was sick all week and had to sit out the first practice session," said Roczen. "But, I just dug deep in the main and rode pretty good to finish in second. I'm slowly getting healthier and confident I can rise to the occasion again and be on the podium in Houston."
Tune into the enhanced exclusive weekly video content from SupercrossLIVE! during the entire 2012 season on SupercrossOnline.com, the Official Website of Monster Energy Supercross.
Weekly Supercross LIVE! Video Content Schedule
The Official Supercross LIVE! Pre-Show Race Days at 11 AM Local Race Time
Behind the Scenes with Supercross LIVE! All Day on Race Days
2 Minutes on the Track Race Days at 3:30 & 5:30 PM Local Race Time
And on the Podium Tonight Following Each Round’s Main Events
The Official Supercross LIVE! Post-Show Saturday Nights at Each Round
Toyota Tailgate Talk Wednesdays at 5 PM ET
After The Checkered Flag Thursdays at 5PM ET
For more information on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, please log on to www.SupercrossOnline.com, the official website of Monster Energy Supercross. For all media requests, please contact Denny Hartwig [email protected] or 630-566-6305. To follow Monster Energy Supercross on Facebook and Twitter, log on to http://www.facebook.com/supercrosslive and http://twitter.com/supercrosslive.
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