Going for the W:  Four Riders, Four Stories

Going for the W Four Riders, Four Stories

January 2, 2013 3:10pm

The Anaheim 1 starting gate is loaded with talent and potential, but only four riders who have won this championship before. Here are four stories about those four riders—and clues about their chances for another title in 2013.

Ryan Villopoto:
The gang at Feld Motorsports promised to fill the Monster Energy Cup with non-stop action, and they succeeded. The event went by in a blur. By the end of the night, it was hard to remember everything that had happened. But race winner Justin Barcia didn't forget. At the end of the third main event, while holding a big check for $100,000, I interviewed him for Monday Conversation, and he voluntarily added this to his story:

“It feels good, man. It feels really good to come out with $100 grand. Villopoto, he was riding really good that first one. No excuses, he was ripping, so I’m sure he’s always going to be fast and we know he’s a good rider, so he’s always going to be competition out here, for sure.”

No one asked Barcia about Villopoto. But Barcia, who was in second for most of that first race, couldn't forget just how fast Villopoto was going hours earlier. He could have spun his overall win any way he wanted, but he knew the supercross champion deserved credit.

Modern sports medical technology can change sports (but lets leave all Lance Armstrong talks aside, please). No one, not a single person, thinks that RV's torn ACL from last year will be a factor in the season at all. Those days are over—if dealt with properly, knee injuries end with exclamation points and not question marks. So 2013 rests on Villopoto's shoulders, not his leg. If he puts all the other pieces together—bike, fitness, riding—he's still the favorite for this thing. So far, anyone who has seen him ride says he is doing all of the right things.

Of course, the three-peat is a daring feat. Eventually, bad luck is due. But Villopoto actually already went through that—with his ACL tear—while keeping his indoor title streak in tact. If anything, he's due for another good one!

RV is seeking a three-peat heading into the 2013 season.
Simon Cudby photo

Ryan Dungey
Recently, Ryan Dungey chatted on DMXS Radio about the sting (that still stings!) of the 2008 Lites West Championship. He let his emotions get the best of him then. To prevent it from happening again, he works actively to stay level headed at all times. Sucks for those of us that want some drama from RD5, but, it's hard to argue with his strategy. Since the beginning of the 2009 season, Dungey has only not won three titles, and he was in the hunt for each of the ones he missed, too. Subtract a derailed chain and an empty gas tank, add up some points, and you can make a case for Dungey as 2011 450SX and 450MX Champion. Last year in supercross, he was right there again until a broken collarbone knocked him out.

Criticize Dungey for many things—maybe he should be more aggressive, more cocky, whatever—but realize that his game plan always puts him in the thick of the championship hunt. Consider that last year's deep field resulted in a lot of injuries, and many theorize everyone was just pushing too hard. Consider the wild swings you'll see in the standings when you have so much talent to steal points away. Consider all that, and you can consider Dungey's long game is perfectly suited for 17 races in 18 weekends.

Can Dungey capture his second career 450SX title in 2013?
Simon Cudby photo

James Stewart
A few years back, David Bailey and I were doing the TV call for Lucas Oil Pro Motocross. During some down time, among our many, many bench racing topics, I asked David, “What was it like when Bob Hannah came to Honda in 1983? What was he like to ride with?”

Bailey answered simply: “It would be like riding with James Stewart. He was so fast and so aggressive, it would just demoralize you at times.”

Remember, this was Hannah six years after he exploded in supercross, and three years after he had won a title. He was past his prime in many ways, especially since careers were much shorter in those days. But, even an aging Hannah still had “it.” He could still make superstars like David Bailey and Johnny O'Mara look like mere mortals, and even during one glorious run early in that '83 season, he did it at the races. It was called Hurricane II, and Hannah looked ready to own the sport again. Until he crashed and broke his wrist.

Bailey's Stewart/Hannah comparison rings true right now. Hannah was 26 heading into the 1983 season, Stewart just turned 27. Hannah was three seasons removed from his last supercross title, as is Stewart now. Both riders headed into the season leaving their old bike (a Yamaha) behind for a switch to what they really wanted—a Honda for Hannah, a Suzuki for Stewart.

Hannah still had “it” and Stewart could still have “it,” too.

Stewart is out to prove he still has "it" in 2013.
Simon Cudby photo

Chad Reed
We had all written off Chad Reed before the 2011 season. Go ahead, go revisionist history on us now. Claim you had him finishing four points away from the 2011 title when Anaheim 1 opened, and he finished a quiet fifth. Right, sure you did.

Heck, the whole darned industry didn't expect that from Chad anymore. That's why he was on his own privateer bike at that point, racing for his own team. The factories had given up on him—or, at least, they had given up on paying him the amount of money a championship-level rider can command. Because they didn't think Chad could contend for championships anymore!

His setup looked off at that debut race for TwoTwo Motorsports. Add in all the other obstacles stacked in his way—age, new competition, and don't forget a lot of people thought Chad would lose the will to hang it out after he had become a dad and lost his buddy Andrew McFarlane in a short span—and it looked to be over.

It was not over. Not by a long shot. So that's why this time, even with Chad coming back from the longest layoff of his career, you simply can't count him out. You never can.

Trust us, it's never smart to count out Chad Reed.
Simon Cudby photo