Ryan Villopoto (Monster Energy Kawasaki) has now moved into second in series points for the first time in 2013. Pre-season, many would have expected him to be leading by now. So nobody saw this, or the half dozen trips to the mat he's taken, coming out of the two-time defending champion. But, with a win and a steady second place outing in the last two rounds, he is already on a path to make it interesting come round 17. Yesterday, Jason Thomas' The Moment centered around a single obstacle making the difference between Villopoto and James Stewart (Yoshimura Suzuki). You have to ask yourself if Ryan would have held back like that earlier in the season. He was quoted in Dallas about being cognizant that if he felt that he was a second or a third place guy, he needed to accept it, be happy, and stay steady. Again, it’s been a quick turn around in the past two weeks and you can actually look at Villopoto's second place in Atlanta being a victory.
This reminds of Ryan Villopoto’s 2008 East Coast 250 effort. That year in Atlanta, he got cannon-balled by Josh Grant and didn’t finish the opener. Took him a few races to get going, but then he clicked off wins and was, “just waiting for a mistake,” from point leader Trey Canard. RV patiently stalked the rookie until he finally got that mistake, when Canard stumbled at the next to the last round. Villopoto finally got back into striking distance, setting up a mano y mano brawl between the two. The championship climax was Ryan slamming into the finish line structure - and Canard winning the title. Still, RV proved he could make up ground with the best of them.
Can RV pick up more ground in St. Louis?
Simon Cudby photo
The next two races on the board (St. Louis and especially Daytona) have historically been some of the wildest of the series. Looking at the points, Villopoto is 22 behind Millsaps, then Ryan Dungey (Red Bull KTM) is merely four more back, and Trey Canard (Muscle Milk Honda) is quietly sitting in fourth place only 13 points behind Dungey. Like I said at the top of the page, it’s going to take one very bad race, or several mediocre ones from Millsaps for them to catch him, but if they do we could see a four-way dog fight in Las Vegas.
How about this for a kicker to close 450 words out; imagine a Chase format. What if they reset the points with six rounds remaining and awarded bonus points for wins and/or fastest qualifying times? Certainly James Stewart would smile at this. Do we need something like that to make our sport more interesting? Or, is it enough to see the guys race through 17 rounds healthy and, “may the best man win?” Definitely something to think about.