Observations: 6 Reasons to Keep WatchingWednesday, April 18, 2012 | 4:50 PM
I know you guys are expecting a recap of the New Orleans race but I can’t do it. I just can’t bring myself to jot down 3000+ words on a race that wasn’t very good from a racing point of view, and had what certainly might have been the smallest, most unenthusiastic crowd in the history of supercross. The announcers voices were just echoing in the very big, but very empty, Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The crowds this year have been very big, and the folks at Feld put on their usual good show in New Orlenas. But the fans just didn't seem into it this time--don't worry, they will be this weekend in Seattle when RV comes home.
But in Nola, hometown guy Kevin Windham wasn’t able to race due to (what else?) injury, but he did give it a go and was in the house to be introduced. That got the crowd going somewhat, but really, most of the night gave me an idea of what it would be like if you went to Sea World and one of the killer whales ate a trainer. Just morbid silence and a sense of awe.
I’ll give you an idea of how empty the place was. Dodge Motorsports Hart & Huntington team manager Kenny Watson said he left his suite at the race as soon as the podium interviews started, and wasn’t bugged by any fans whatsoever on his way back to through the concourse and to the pits. In itself, this wouldn’t have been that big of a deal because, you know, it’s Watson. But he was with team owner Carey Hart, his wife Pink (the world famous Grammy award pop singer) and Chad Reed (the two-time supercross champ, as well as the people’s champ). The four of them just walked the empty concourse, about fifteen minutes after the race, and Watson claims not one fan stopped them to get a picture or an autograph or anything.
RV already has the 2012 title in hand, but can he break the King's record?
Simon Cudby photo
So now that I set the stage for the race, let me offer you six reasons on why you should keep watching the supercross series and also, why you should hit up a race near you.
1. Can Ryan Villopoto finish with the highest margin of victory in supercross history? Hey, it’s something folks! RV’s at 115 with three races left, and at the end of Jeremy McGrath’s epic ’96 season, he had a 132-point lead. So Villopoto is close, but it’s definitely not a gimme by any means. With Ryan Dungey rumored to be coming back this weekend, things could get tight for RV, as Dungey is going for second in the points and will most likely end up second in the races. Also, if RV sweeps the last three races he will have a remarkable twenty-four wins in three years, which by my count is the third best three-year streak in supercross history after Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael. So yeah, there are records to be chased here people!
2. Who’s going to get second? The battle for second in the points is also up for grabs between JGR Toyota Yamaha’s Davi Millsaps, Team Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Brayton and if he comes back, Red Bull KTM’s Dungey. There are 14 points between the three of them, and Millsaps leads Brayton by five. So it’s getting good people! Getting top three in the points is pretty cool because generally in the history books, the top three are almost always listed so it’s an achievement. You’ll be there for history. From what I hear, there’s no contractual money for earning second in the points for Millsaps or Dungey but there might be for Brayton. So there’s that race. Both Brayton and Millsaps have led races this year and both guys, injury-depleted field or not, have been pretty good. And all three racers had to deal with some adversity, as well. Brayton missed a main way back at Los Angeles, and Millsaps is clearly the second guy over there on the JGR team. Being the second guy is a lesson in patience and understanding. Like, say, if your team only has one bitchen' gas tank/shroud thingee to use and you’re the odd man out. I just plucked that out of the air. What’s Dungey’s adversity you ask? Well, how about getting on a bike that had NEVER EVER EVER been on the podium in a premiere class supercross race before?
3. I’m not wishing any ill will on the Dodge Motorsports Hart & Huntington guys, but maybe you should check out the races to see if either of their fill-in guys, Kyle Regal or Tyler Bowers, gets hurt and has to drop out of the series. I mean, why not? The original four riders (Ivan Tedesco, Josh Hansen, Josh Hill and Kyle Partridge) are all done for the year in what has to be some sort of modern-day record. Heck, even their, “we’re so awesome, we’re going to pick up a privateer out of the pits and give him a ride for a day,” move of getting Mike Horban didn’t even work out when he knocked himself out in practice. This team can’t catch a break. Or maybe they can and that’s the problem.
4. We still have a great battle on our hands in the Western Regional Supercross Lites series. With just three rounds left, GEICO Powersports Honda’s Eli Tomac and Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson are going at it with only two points between them. And at only fifteen points out of the lead in third place, Troy Lee Designs Lucas Oil Honda’s Cole Seely is certainly within striking distance. This title fight is going to be great. Before the break, it was Tomac’s to lose, but a crash and subsequent DNF in San Diego got Wilson right back into it. With the potential for some bad weather this weekend in Seattle, then Salt Lake City (where it snowed a couple years ago) and then Vegas (with it they run the weirdo first race of the night is your main event format), anything can happen. Both riders are looking for their first supercross title, but with Wilson going to a 450 next year, this is his last chance.
5. We have the Dave Coombs Sr. East/West shootout! The finale in Vegas offers the only opportunity of the year to see the West Coast guys go against the East Coast guys, and while last year’s shootout had the intensity of a 14-year-old girls’ pillow fight, it’s still cool to see the guys out there at the same time. If it were me, I’d keep the Vegas race as the final for both the Eastern and Western regions, and add in a few more East/West races during the year like they used to have. Then again, if it was up to me I’d do a lot of things to shake up supercross but no one ever listens to me.
6. There’s still something cool about seeing a rider get on the podium for the first time all year, like in New Orleans with Josh Grant. Mike Alessi could still do it, Andrew Short could still do it, Brett Metcalfe could definitely do it and call me nuts, but I could see Kyle Chisholm with the ability to do it as well. Honestly, with Grant’s podium coming completely out of left field, why couldn’t anyone grab their first podium? Everything about this series is bonkers.
Let’s take a look at the results from New Orleans shall we?
Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Overall
1. Darryn Durham Kaw - Nice to see Durham get the first win of his career in New Orleans, even though it came with a few close calls. Durham’s a good dude, as well as a former privateer who was rewarded with a factory ride this year. We cheer for this sort of thing to happen.
2. Blake Baggett Kaw - Baggett’s best race of the year, I believe. Baggett hasn't been the force we thought he would be, but the outdoors are coming and that is where he really shines.
3. Justin Bogle Hon - Good to see Bogle back on the box; he did it the hard way by coming from the back. With the way his series had sort of been going, he and his team needed this.
4. Justin Barcia Hon - Definitely Barcia’s worst race of the year, but he commented afterwards that he was thinking about clinching the title the whole main event. He got it done, so can we please get him on the 450 for the next two races? No? Ok.
5. Ken Roczen KTM - Oh man, I thought Roczen and Barcia were going to get it on in New Orleans. Both guys were super fast, with Roczen killing them in practice and the heat race. In the main he said he got arm pump and maybe he needed to “wank it more” or something. Oh those Germans, always throwing in the puns.
6. Kyle Cunningham Yam - Nice to see Cunningham get back into the mix with the top guys.
7. Jake Canada Hon - This is what Canada does this year, he gets good finishes. You know you’re having a good year when you get seventh and some people after the race are wondering, “What happened?”
8. Tyler Bowers Kaw - Bowers has been mediocre since jumping back into the 250 class after winning the Arenacross title. He’s just too big to compete in this class and with the injuries, he’d be better off in the 450 class in my opinion.
9. Austin Politelli Hon
10. Phil Nicoletti Hon - Filthy Phil breaks into the top ten. He’s got the speed, he just needs to be consistent and cut down on the crashes.
11. Shawn Rife Hon
12. Matt Lemoine Kaw - I thought Matt would be better this year. I haven’t seen the flashes of speed that he had last year.
13. Zach Freeberg Hon - Second straight main event for Freeberg.
14. Blake Wharton Suz - Wharton crashed early in the race and wasn’t a factor. Too bad, it was an inconsistent finish from a consistent guy.
15. Tommy Weeck Hon
16. AJ Catanzaro KTM
17. Malcolm Stewart KTM - Mookie was flying early on and it looked like he was going to get his first career podium in New Orleans, until he crashed hard in spectacular fashion in the whoops. Major props to Stewart for getting back into the race and trying hard. I would’ve been curled into a ball crying.
18. Sean Lipanovich KTM
19. Alex Martin Hon- Yeah! The Ewok Warrior holeshot the main event from the outside gate because he had to go through the LCQ. After that, not sure what went down but for a brief, shining moment, he was there.
20. Kyle Peters - Yam
Will Ryan Dungey make his return this weekend?
Andrew Fredrickson photo
1. Ryan Villopoto Kaw
2. Josh Grant Kaw - Great for Grant to get a second. If you closed one eye it looked like the 2009 Josh Grant out there. There’s no doubt that Josh Grant is in the upper 10 percent of all riders in terms of talent, he’s just got to stay healthy and get some confidence.
3. Justin Brayton Hon - After leading laps two races in a row, Brayton’s got zilch the last two races. He also hasn’t gotten a start.
4. Brett Metcalfe Suz - Metty ended up in fourth which is tied for his best finish of the year. Metcalfe is going to make a podium before the year is out. Stamp it.
5. Andrew Short Hon - Short came back after a layoff due to an injury and some team sponsorship difficulties and rode great. He wasn’t that happy after the race, but look at a guy like Ivan Tedesco who is the same class of rider as Short, and was also coming back after a long layoff. Tedesco didn’t make the main. Short got fifth, and that’s a good start. I don’t care what he says.
6. Davi Millsaps Yam - Millsaps went down in the first turn, so this finish is pretty sweet, methinks.
7. Weston Peick Yam - Peick’s been great this year. He’s taking advantage of the injuries and making stuff happen out there.
8. Kyle Chisholm Kaw - The Chiz went down in the first turn with Millsaps and others.
9. Wil Hahn Hon - Wilbur’s time on the factory Honda is over and if I had to give him a report card for his time, it would be a C. He was all right but was also behind the eight-ball a bit because of an injury and not having much experience with the 450s.
10. Broc Tickle Kaw - Tickle made contact with Short and went down early in the race, which didn’t make him happy, despite Short’s apology after the race.
11. Nick Wey Kaw - Wey returned from injury this week and he wasn’t happy with his ride but to me, it’s a good return.
12. Jimmy Albertson Suz - Top Jimmy’s best finish of the year. This is the range that he should be in all year long, in my opinion. It looks to me that he had much better starts this past weekend.
13. Mike Alessi Suz - Oh the pain! Alessi was five laps away from making his first podium of the year, but crashed when he hit Justin Sipes as he was lapping him. Bummer dude.
14. Justin Sipes Kaw
15. Gavin Faith Hon - Faith’s got a JGR Toyota Yamaha tryout for this week and I’d look for him to be under that tent for the rest of the supercross season.
16. Cody Gilmore Kaw - Good for Gilmore to make what I think is his first ever 450 main event.
17. Kyle Regal Kaw - Kyle’s performance with the H&H team probably hasn’t gone the way he, or they, have wanted it to. He’s pretty invisible out there except for picking his bike up off the ground.
18. Bobby Kiniry Yam
19. Nico Izzi Yam - Izzi was the fastest guy in the second practice. Yes, I’m serious. He needs to keep it on two wheels though, as I see crashes and near-crashes quite a bit.
20. Jake Weimer Kaw - Jake the Snake went down the first lap and again later on. He told me that shortly after his second crash he almost went over the bars over the triple and decided that right then and there, it wasn’t going to be his night.
Thanks for reading this week and please, email me at [email protected] if you have any comments, questions or concerns.
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