One veteran former champion breaks through while another gets broken—that was the theme walking away from Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego tonight. James Stewart’s win was big, not only because it was his first win of the year, but because of how he did it, and what it might mean going forward. You could tell Stewart meant business on this night and was very confident in his machine, logging the fastest qualifying time. In the main event, he immediately got aggressive and went after Ryan Villopoto on the first lap, taking a few big shots at him before making the pass stick. Next, he rode calm and confident under pressure from the current champ the whole way, before finally pulling away a bit in the final few laps. It was a solid, smart ride, and it also looked repeatable.
Stewart said last week the he and his Yoshimura Suzuki team made some bike changes that didn’t work at all, so they went in a totally different direction this week and made things much, much better.
The other big story was the final-lap crash by Chad Reed, who was hanging it out trying to make a pass on Ken Roczen for third (and with Ryan Dungey right behind). Roczen said: “On the last lap, I was really bummed, I hope Reedy is okay, I think he got into my rear end or something. I was really close to [lapped rider] Nick Wey and I got squirrely myself in the whoops, and I think Reed hit me. I hope he’s okay. I’m really bummed about that, and sorry.” While Roczen was quite apologetic, the crash didn’t appear to be his fault at all, and team members of both Red Bull KTM and Discount Tire TwoTwo Motorsports who watched the footage agreed that it was just a racing incident.
No word yet on Reed’s status—team members said he went to the hospital and will announce news shortly. Late Saturday night, Reed’s wife Ellie tweeted that Chad will spend the night at the hospital and no additional updates will be available until Sunday at the earliest.
Villopoto ended up second, with a race quite similar to his ride last weekend at Anaheim. He said the track was slick and it was easy to make mistakes. He had a couple of shots at Stewart but couldn’t quite make it happen, and then Stewart got away in the final few laps in lapped traffic. “I’m happy where we are leaving here, with the points lead,” he said. “The track was hard to pass on a James rode a really good race.”
Roczen was third, surviving that heated battle with Reed and Dungey to get the spot. “I didn’t feel great tonight so I’m happy to get a podium,” said Roczen. “I was just really sketched out, made a lot of mistakes. Really not happy with the riding.” Still, Roczen is second in the points, nine behind his training partner Roczen.
The track wasn't loved by most--lap timess were short, passing lines limited , and the dirt was very slick.
Dungey had a battle on his hands most of the way. He got a good start but cased a jump badly early, which allowed Reed to slip by him for third. Then he battled Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia, who at one point slipped around him for fifth. Barcia then crashed in a turn, and Dungey got around and closed back up on the Reed/Roczen battle, then dodged Reed’s bike to grab fourth.
As for Barcia, the crash proved costly, as did another not-great start. “I just crashed in the corner—I felt good and was making up time on Reed and Roczen,” he said. “I didn’t get a great start. Really seems like the same story every week.”
So with Reed crashing out and Barcia also crashing, can you guess who finished fifth again? That’s right, it’s Weston Peick for the second week in a row. Weston also won the LCQ, so he rode a lot of laps and also had to overcome a bad start in the main to get the spot. He was fourteenth on the first lap and then just mowed riders down. Should we mention that he even got around high-priced factory talent in Justin Barcia and Eli Tomac? Weston Peick: dude is good!
Eli Tomac had tried some bike changes this week and didn't like them at all--he was scrambling during practice to change the setup back, and overall, said he was just riding terrible. He hung in there for seventh. The real positive is that Eli actually completed his first 450SX main of the year--he was injured at the beginning of the year and had a flat tire last weekend.
Andrew Short rode well all day on his BTOSports.com KTM, getting sixth in practice, a holeshot in the main, and showing great speed throughout. But in the main it wasn't great, Short said he tried to force something in the main event though and didn't ride as well as he could. He finished tenth.
Toyota JGR Yamaha’s Justin Brayton crashed on the second lap and found himself in last, he came up to ninth. Brayton says he tried some bike changes before Anaheim 3 that didn’t work, and returned to his previous setup for San Diego. Although the result wasn’t good due to the crash, Brayton says he felt much faster, more like he did at the first four races this year.
Whatever you remember about Justin Hill from last year (and it’s probably not much), just forget about it. This is a totally and completely different rider. Hill took what he learned leading in Oakland and applied it in San Diego, getting a good start, then taking the lead when his teammate Dean Wilson went over the bars, and then riding strong under pressure. Series’ leader Jason Anderson got into second but couldn’t do any reeling in of the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki rider. Hill was on the gas!
In the 250SX Championship hunt, Wilson’s crash (and a trip to the mechanic’s area to fix his bike) left him in 21st place even though he did return to the track to log some laps. He’s now 33 points behind Anderson in the standings.
Rockstar Energy Racing KTM’s Anderson didn’t get a great start in the main but worked his way forward and took a solid second. His title rival, Lucas Oil Troy Lee Designs Honda’s Cole Seely, was suffering from food poisoning all week and was a but off of his usual pace. He salvaged a fourth.
Last week, Anderson had a run in with Seely’s teammate Malcolm Stewart, and Anderson ended up on the ground. Immediately people started yelling about potential team tactics, and that awareness only heightened this weekend when Anderson accused Jessy Nelson of cutting him off in practice, and then the two had a screaming match on the track before jamming together near some tough blocks. Anderson said he was frustrated about being cut off, and Nelson said it was not his fault and that he has team video to back that up. However, we’ll throw this one out there for team conspiracy theorists—Malcolm took third tonight and held his teammate Seely at bay the whole way.
Some bad news on the injury fronts: GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn elected not to race in the night show after struggling with a hand injury suffered in a practice crash last weekend at Anaheim. He said he lacked the grip strength to hang on. And Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer crashed in practice and injured his wrist and shoulder. He was out for the night, and more info on his status will be available after he has some tests this week.