Maybe not. The SX Class Title and both Lites Championships were already wrapped, but for three riders, there was still a series within the series. Davi Millsaps, Justin Brayton and Ryan Dungey all had a shot at second in the final SX standings, and it was clear that provided plenty of motivation for the boys. For Millsaps, there was nothing on the line but pride—he doesn’t have a team bonus in his contract for getting that second spot—but pride and pride alone proved to be plenty enough.
Millsaps put in some inspired rides down the stretch.
Millsaps rode well all day. He won his heat race over Dungey, then got a bad start in the main and immediately started making things happen. He rounded the first turn way back, outside of the top ten, but pushed hard and ripped past a bunch of riders, putting him seventh at the beginning of lap two. He kept charging, closing on the Alessi/Metcalfe/Weimer group ahead of him and going to work there, passing Weimer quickly. But a mistake led to an off-track excursion, so Millsaps had to go to work again. With great determination, he did, getting around Alessi and Metcalfe and then battling Weimer hard, again, this time for second. Millsaps had the whoops dialed—the same way he used to blitz past riders in his Lites SX days—and used that to make another move on Weimer, which didn’t stick, and then do it again, for good, later. Millsaps needed to stay close to Dungey and ahead of Brayton to secure second for the season. He did just that.
Millsaps used to be criticized for a perceived lack of determination, but no one can claim he didn't give his all this season.
On paper, second for the year is a great performance for Millsaps, the best of his career, and a massive improvement over finishing eighth last year. But just as important is how Millsaps did it. Two weeks before the season, Davi underwent knee surgery, leaving him way behind the curve when the year began, and 16th in the Anaheim season opener. Once again, critics were left criticizing his determination.
There aren’t many questioning it now. By mid season, Millsaps had raced his way back into shape—probably the best shape he’s ever been in, thanks to his trainer Pablo and long-time coach Ezra Lusk. He pushed hard, he dug deep, and fought through plenty of adversity to become one of the few riders to make every main this year (and he took some hard hits along the way, but bounced back up). While JGR's Stewart scenario was filled with ups and downs, Millsaps served as the team's rock. And when something extra was on the line in Vegas, he rode with pride one last time, giving his team some positive news on a weekend in which they were going to have to announce Stewart was gone.
For his Vegas ride, Millsaps earned a career best in the standings, an extra dose of respect, and this week’s Racer X Outstanding Performance Award.