450 Words: Anaheim 1

450 Words Anaheim 1

January 9, 2013 10:40am

You already know who won the races. Now enjoy 450 Words for an extra take on a story you might have missed.

The first race of every series is loaded with great expectations for a few elite riders and distant hopes for pretty much everyone else. While we like to think there is always an underdog who can rise up and beat all the favorites, it rarely happens. And with a top-loaded field of former champions like Ryan Dungey, Chad Reed, and James Stewart—let alone reigning champion Ryan Villopoto—few might have predicted that the last lap would come down to Davi Millsaps and Trey Canard. Sure, they’ve won Monster Energy Supercross races before, but for Rockstar Energy Racing's Millsaps, that was a few years ago; for Muscle Milk Honda's Canard, that was two years and two nearly career-ending injuries ago. Between these two charismatic, well-liked racers, it would be hard to pick who deserved—and needed—this win more. Their hopes were nearly as distant as, say, Weston Peick, Bobby Kiniry, or one of the far less supported racers out there on Saturday night, but there wasn't a person in Angel Stadium who might have picked them to go 1-2.

After the race, I wandered over to both the Rockstar Energy Racing and Muscle Milk Honda rigs. Both teams had tumultuous off-seasons. Bobby Hewitt's Rockstar squad didn’t get much in the way of support from the struggling American Suzuki, and Honda of course turned over its management, with Gary Martini taking over the reins of the program Erik Kehoe had led for some time. Needless to say, the Honda folks were very pleased with both Trey's runner-up ride and Justin Barcia's mostly impressive debut; the Rockstar Energy Racing gang was downright ecstatic with the win.

RV had his struggles coming through the pack at the opener, leading to a 16th place finish.
Simon Cudby photo

But what about the other guys? What were they thinking after the race? Red Bull KTM's Dungey and TwoTwo Motorsports' Reed both took away solid points in third and fourth, which is what we expect from veteran talent like them. And Yoshimura Suzuki's Stewart was probably trying to make sense of another freak injury that might once again sideline him long before the title run.

The man who had the worst night—Josh Hill and Josh Hansen notwithstanding—was Ryan Villopoto, rider #1 and the man with the greatest expectations of all. He has a rare shot at history in 2013: RV could become only the fourth man in Monster Energy Supercross history to win three straight championships. He knows his moto history and knows this is his chance at something extraordinary. But a poor start, mistakes in traffic, off-track excursions, and finally a cartwheel over a Tuff Block while passing the cautious Stewart were not part of his game plan. Sixteenth place sure wasn’t either.

Ten years ago to the very night—January 5, 2002—defending champion Ricky Carmichael cartwheeled himself out of the race in the middle of the Anaheim opener. (The fairly unlikely top three that night? Frenchman David Vuillemin, veteran Mike LaRocco, and premier-class rookie Ernesto Fonseca.) Of course, Carmichael picked himself up, dug deep, and started fighting back. He would end up with a second straight title and add that rare third consecutive championship in 2003.

Like RC a decade ago, this is RV's chance to dig deep and take that shot at history. But with a deep field to climb through and a reinvigorated Millsaps and Canard, it's going to be quite a chore.