10 Things to  Watch: Salt Lake City

10 Things To Watch Salt Lake City

April 27, 2012 10:15am

By Chase Stallo and Aaron Hansel

Rough Riders
In Seattle, Eli Tomac and Dean Wilson showed that neither one of them is willing to give up this Lites West Championship without a fight. The two took turns banging into one another for second place before Wilson eventually found himself in the dirt after he ended up on the wrong end of an aggressive block pass from Tomac. Afterward, Wilson said there’s nothing wrong with a little rough riding, while Tomac said it isn’t how he wants to race, but he will if he has to. With Tomac now leading Wilson by just four points with only two races remaining, the Western Regional Supercross Lites series is coming down to the wire. How will Tomac and Wilson handle the pressure in Salt Lake City? And will Wilson’s shoulder hold him back?

Second Time Winner
Ever since the racers of Monster Energy Supercross started dropping like acid at a Grateful Dead concert, we’ve been speculating on who might take advantage of the situation and record a win. Names like Kevin Windham, Davi Millsaps, Justin Brayton and Jake Weimer were mentioned early and often, but it turned out to be Andrew Short, who had just one race under his belt since getting injured way back in San Diego, who emerged victorious. Can he get the double this weekend? [Ed Note: L&Mc announced a new title sponsor earlier today. Check out the story HERE]

Can Anderson breakthrough and capture his first career podium in Salt Lake City?
Garth Milan photo

When Ryan Villopoto hobbled off the track in Seattle, not only did he lose the rest of his season, his 14 straight top-ten finish streak would also be snapped—the series’ longest running. Both Ryan Dungey and Chad Reed had similar runs going but were derailed by injuries. With Villopoto now on the mend the torch has been passed to Davi Millsaps—who currently has an eight race top-ten streak in the works. Sitting closely behind Millsaps is Broc Tickle (6 in a row) and Justin Brayton (5 in a row). Can this trio keep their streaks alive in Salt Lake City?

A Quiet Turnaround
Quietly Rockstar Energy Racing’s Jason Anderson is making a case for comeback rider of the year. Considered by many to be a can’t miss prospect, Anderson struggled under the weight of those lofty expectations in his rookie year. Revitalized by a new off-season program Anderson has shown the speed and style that made him the 2010 AMA Horizon Award Winner—given out to the top amateur rider. With only two races left, can Anderson finally break through and snag his first career podium?

Kenneth the Menace
When we liken Ken Roczen to a menace, we mean to the competition, of course. While the young German spent some time aboard a 350 last year, his performance last weekend in Seattle was far and away his best ride yet in the premier class. After challenging for the lead several times, Roczen settled in and took second place, finishing just over two seconds behind race winner Andrew Short. In addition to being Roczen’s best ride in the class, it was also the best result for the 350. With altitude putting power at a premium in Salt Lake, can Roczen pilot the unique machine to its first ever win?

After a fourth in Seattle, are Seely's title hopes done?
Garth Milan photo

Box Bound
Don’t look now, but Mike Alessi has quietly been putting together some great rides on a non-factory bike. Two weeks ago he was set to record the best finish of his season until tangling with a lapper, and in Seattle he even posted the fastest qualifying time of the day. So far this season, Alessi’s best results have been a pair of fourth places in Dallas and Houston. Can Alessi get on the box before the season ends?

Mother Nature
Unlike years past where the weather in Salt Lake City has wrecked havoc on the riders in form of rain and snow, it appears Mother Nature is going to cooperate this weekend. Although it will be a tad nippy, with temperatures expected to hover around 50 degrees at race time, there is no chance of rain or snow expected in the area, according to weather.com. With title aspirations in the air for Wilson and Tomac you never want the weather to play a deciding factor in a championship run.

Hopes Dashed?
Lucas Oil Troy Lee Designs Cole Seely entered Seattle fifteen points back of Dean Wilson for the championship and left Seattle fifteen points back of Eli Tomac. With the sands of the hourglass trickling towards desolation Seely’s fourth in Seattle may have been the dagger in the heart to his title hopes. But, in a season that has seen riders drop like flies, it’s hard to close the door of opportunity until all the I’s have been dotted and T’s have been crossed. It will take a lot of help from Wilson and Tomac for Seely to be crowned champion in Vegas, but as 2012 has already showed us, nothing is for certain.

Can Dungey bounce back from a sub-par performance in Seattle?
Garth Milan photo

Spoiler Alert
Ryan Sipes and Marvin Musquin played the role of spoiler to perfection last weekend. Using an early lead, and a fight for the title playing out behind, Sipes stunned the Seattle fans with his win. Musquin, who set the fastest laps in both practices, overcame a horrid start to chase down Tomac (who suffered a broken shift lever after a run-in with Wilson and had to ride the remainder of the race in third gear) and steal two valuable championship points from the GEICO Honda rider. Will Sipes and Musquin continue the trend in Salt Lake City or will a new set of players step in and throw their names into the hat?

Easing In
When it was announced that Ryan Dungey would be returning to action in Seattle, a wave of excitement rippled through the racing community. After all, Ryan Villopoto had been dominating, and if anyone had a shot of racing with him, it would be a guy like Dungey, who had taken two wins earlier in the season before getting hurt. Instead, Dungey ended up having a mediocre night, qualifying in seventh and taking sixth in the main. Now that he’s had a weekend to get back up to race pace, can Dungey once again find himself fighting to stand on top of the box?