There are ten spots left in our Monster Energy list of the 30 Greatest AMA Motocrossers, and the rankings are getting more and more difficult. All of the men left in the days leading up to the Red Bull Hangtown Motocross Classic carry multiple outdoor titles and large tracts of victories. They are all well-known, some in the Hall of Fame, the rest on their way. The difficulty is rating men from one era against another—competition is rarely even, and equipment and racing circuits have evolved in ways that the old guard may have never even imagined. Yet we plod on, because this kind of bench racing does not take mid-battle pitstops for the timid.
Ryan Dungey is not a fixed figure on this list at #10. He is a contemporary athlete on his way up, though he begins his 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship campaign with #1 on the front plate and side panels of his Red Bull KTM. He will also be carrying a ten-race winning streak, one of the longest in series history. Dungey, of course, is the reigning 450 Motocross Champion, having dominated the last ten rounds in 2012 after James Stewart crashed out of the fifth moto, having run the table early. There on the sidelines with him were former champ Ryan Villopoto and past champ Chad Reed, not to mention Honda Muscle Milk's Trey Canard. But he raced every race like they were out there, and he won all but one moto after Stewart’s departure.
Dungey was hand picked by Roger DeCoster to ride for Suzuki. He responded with a 250 title in 2009.
Andrew Fredrickson photo
Last summer was the second time Dungey had received a gift of that sort. Back in 2010, while racing a Suzuki RM-Z450, a terrible crash at the St. Louis SX knocked Ryan Villopoto out of title contention in both series. Stewart was once again not around for the whole summer, and Reed and his Kawasaki were something of a mess. It was a fairly easy run for the efficient, fast Dungey, who also has a 250 National Motocross Championship under his belt. Not bad career stats for a kid from Minnesota who was plucked from the obscurity of the amateur ranks by star-finder Roger DeCoster, then built a unique training setup where he gleans all he can from Ricky Carmichael, whose ranch track he rents.
With three titles and thirty-one wins in a total of seventy-three outdoor national starts, plus the current #1 plate on his 450, how exactly does Dungey show up on this list earlier than, say, his close rival Villopoto? RV has one more major title but eight fewer national wins—but he did that in much less racing. He's also missed two the last three summers with major injuries he picked up after winning three straight Monster Energy Supercross titles.
Dungey won his first career 450 title in 2010 with Suzuki.
Simon Cudby photo
The one place where an effective snapshot of their racing comes in 2011, where Villopoto took away Dungey's #1 plate in motocross and then was the easy winner of their last outdoor race together, the 2011 FIM Motocross of Nations in St. Jean D'Angely, France. (They crossed the line together because Villopoto slowed down and waited for his Team USA teammate.) But in looking at their pure numbers—nationals entered and wins—Villopoto is much more efficient but also more fragile. Dungey is a workhorse like Jeff Stanton; Villopoto is more like Johnson—dominant when he's healthy, but not always healthy.
Moving forward, Dungey has the chance to soon climb from #10 on our Monster Energy 30 Greatest Motocrossers list and into the single digits. A few more race wins and certainly another title would launch him past at least a couple others, so stay tuned.
You can see all of Ryan Dungey's results here in the Racer X Vault.
Dungey is the defending 450 champion.
Simon Cudby photo
(Racer X Contributors to this list: Davey Coombs, Jason Weigandt, Eric Johnson, Steve Matthes, Jason Thomas, Andrew Fredrickson, Chase Stallo and David Pingree)