By Aaron Hansel and Chase Stallo
The Transfer Master
Last year Kevin Windham admittedly showed up at the MEC slightly underprepared. His starts were subpar, and he was even forced to race the LCQ after failing to qualify in both his heat race and semi. At one point Windham even uncharacteristically took another rider out when he put Vince Friese on the ground with what looked like a fair amount of attitude. K-Dub wasn’t very happy when he left Sam Boyd Stadium that night, and you can bet that the veteran will come into this year’s MEC wearing his race face. Oh, and of course, expect another wild, multi-lane leap from the Transfer Master during the opening ceremonies.
Ryan Villopoto will be back in action tomorrow.
Simon Cudby photo
Unless you’ve been living under a rock in the Sahara, you’re aware that Ryan Villopoto swept all three main events last year to take the Monster Million in the inaugural running of the MEC. Now, with the 2012 MEC upon us, the question on everyone’s mind is, can he do it again? We certainly wouldn’t bet against it, although with Chad Reed back in action, and Ryan Dungey’s KTM all dialed in, hitting the triple is going to be a bit tougher for RV. There’s also the fact that he hasn’t raced since tearing his ACL during supercross earlier this year, although you know Villopoto has stayed in shape, and the short, 10-lap main events might be just what he needs to slide right back into his winning ways.
The Go Kart Guy
Like Villopoto, Chad Reed hasn’t raced since getting injured in supercross earlier this year. If you’ve been following him on Twitter, you’ve seen some of the jokes he’s made about not being ready, such as asking MEC track designer Ricky Carmichael if the 10-lap mains can be lowered to five laps. He's also hinted that he's had so much fun on his new g-kart track that he didn't miss the bikes as much as he should. But make no mistake, Reed is a true competitor, and when he lines up behind the gate, he’s not thinking about second place. He's also a poker player, and it's hard to know how serious his threats of not taking racing seriously anymore really are. Will Reed’s return to racing be successful, or will he wish he’d stayed home and burned more laps on his go kart track?
The Joker Lane
To our knowledge the Joker Lane, a sandy detour that each rider must take once per main event, is a first in motorcycle racing. The new section is sure to add a new degree of strategy to racing, and it’s going to be extremely interesting to see how the guys handle this never-before-seen racing riddle. What if too many guys try to take it at the same time? What if someone goes down and causes a traffic jam as the leader goes through? What if the race leader forgets to take the lane? All these questions and more will be answered on Saturday night.
Chad Reed is also making his return to racing tomorrow.
Simon Cudby photo
Missing in Action
While the second-annual Monster Energy Cup will be packing plenty of star power with the likes of Villopoto, Reed, Dungey, Barcia, Tomac, Baggett, Weimer, Brayton, Grant and more, they're a few notable stars missing from the field. The Red Bull KTM duo of Ken Roczen and Marvin Musquin both opted to have off-season surgery to fix lingering injuries from this year ((broken arm for Roczen, broken hand for Musquin). Yoshimura Suzuki's James Stewart has also pulled out citing a lack of preparation due to his finger injury suffered at Unadilla. Stewart's former JGR teammate, and the newest addition to the Rockstar Energy Suzuki team, Davi Millsaps has also elected not to race. Millsaps' new teammate Nico Izzi will also miss the race due to a knee injury. Privateer Weston Peick is a late scratch after suffering a concussion earlier this week testing. And last but not least, Josh Hansen will not be in attendance.
While Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed and Kevin Windham have garnered the headlines after each was sidelined early in 2012, the Monster Energy Cup will also see the supercross return of PJ Larsen, who missed all but two rounds of Lucas Oil Pro Motocross after tearing his ACL at Toronto Supercross, and the return of Gareth Swanepoel, who sustained a broken leg at Millville. Swanepoel has signed with the TiLube/N-Fab/Foremost Insurance team to compete at the MEC. Neither Larsen nor Swanepoel is expected to challenge for wins, but they should leave Sin City with top-15 finishes in hand.
If there were ever a supercross for Mike Alessi to win, it would be this years Monster Energy Cup. It’s no secret that Alessi’s kryptonite in supercross is the whoops. Well, there are now whoops on this track. Also the short races (three 10-lap main events) play right into the hands of the notoriously quick starter. Although Alessi may not be the favorite heading into the weekend, don’t be surprised to see him up front early. But is always the question with Alessi; will he be able to hold on?
Justin Barcia will be making his Muscle Milk Honda debut tomorrow.
Simon Cudby photo
Big Red Machine
There’s no denying the fact that Justin Barcia wants a win in Vegas this weekend. The new Muscle Milk Honda rider talked to the DMXS Radio folks this week and never mentioned “getting my feet wet” or "just trying to learn." Nope, he’s going for the W and has no problem saying it. But wanting to win and actually winning are two very different things. Will Barcia, who’s very, very comfortable on the 450, be able to snag a main event win in his debut? And what about Barcia’s former GEICO Honda teammate Eli Tomac, who’s making the jump to the 450 as well? Will the other half of the GEICO Honda 2012 Lites SX sweep be able to make an impact on Saturday night?
With no other legitimate threat to win a moto on a 250, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasakis Blake Baggett will be carrying the torch for the little guys at the Monster Energy Cup. While it would be improbable for Baggett to overtake RV, RD, Reed, Barcia, Tomac, Alessi and Windham on a 250, it’s not impossible. Remember Jake Weimer’s wild victory at the U.S. Open in 2007? The odds are stacked way against it, but it will be interesting to see how he does--and how he looks sporting his new number four.