Saturday Night Live

Saturday Night Live

February 16, 2014 2:30am

Look out, James Stewart is starting to roll. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider is now the first two-time winner of the Monster Energy Supercross season and looked even better here than he did with his win last weekend in San Diego. In the first timed practice, James was simply untouchable. Ken Roczen battled him for fast time in the final session, but all day, Stewart was fast. Speed, though, is generally not a problem for the #7. Now, he’s bringing his experience and race craft into the fold, saving some good lines for the main event. Also, on a hard, slippery track that led to mistakes for a lot of riders, Stewart didn’t seem to put a wheel wrong en route to victory.

Stewart is now third in points, just 14 back of series’ leader Ryan Villopoto, of Monster Energy Kawasaki. This season’s deep field of competition is helping Stewart gain ground much like it did Villopoto last year when he had to make up a gap on Davi Millsaps. Villopoto rode well, but couldn't get to Stewart, Ryan Dungey or Justin Barcia, and ended up fourth. Stewart chopped off seven points in one night.

Red Bull KTM’s Dungey didn’t get the win, but was still happy to be on the podium for the first time since round two in Phoenix. He mentioned Stewart had better lines and was able to get him quickly, and then when he learned the lines he was able to keep the gap pretty similar. By then, though, he was too far back to make a run. Stewart maintained a lead of 2-3 seconds for most of the main event.

It was close up front.
It was close up front. Photo: Cudby

Stewart might have two in a row, but the racing at the front of the pack is still super close. You could have thrown a blanket over the battle from third to sixth—or heck, a napkin—and have it touch all four riders. JGR Toyota Yamaha’s Justin Brayton had third early, Honda Muscle Milk’s Justin Barcia passed him, then Barcia bobbled and Brayton got him back. Then Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen and Villopoto got in on the battle. At one point Roczen was looking for a pass on Barcia, and Barcia scrubbed the crap out of a triple and nearly punted Roczen in mid air. After the race Roczen commented on the incident saying, “he tried to kill us on the triple,” and “He isn’t the brightest light in the room.” Barcia later told us the move was a complete accident, he used the same line on that triple every lap and didn’t even know Roczen was next to him until he heard a panic rev, and then he looked over. Congrats, you just saw episode 7634 of “Two riders seeing the same incident completely different.”

Oh, but Barcia did get a podium, incredibly his first one of the year after seven rounds. Remember, everyone left Anaheim 1 saying, “Barcia was the fastest guy.” Barcia says he made some changes to the bike to make it work better, but he didn’t ride as well in the main event as he did in his heat race, likely because it was the first time all year he’d really been up front. He hopes this experience will help him be more comfortable the next time.

Barcia and Roczen had different opinions on what took place in the main
Barcia and Roczen had different opinions on what took place in the main Photo: Cudby

Villopoto was eventually able to pass his training partner Roczen for fourth, then Roczen battled with Brayton for fifth. At one point Kenny was staying on Villopoto’s wheel to try to get back to fourth, then he made one big mistake and Brayton swallowed him up. Villopoto ended up fourth, Brayton fifth and Roczen sixth. The last few weeks, Roczen has been dynamite on practice times but hasn’t been able to replicate that exact speed in the main events.

Brayton said he was happy to get back where he felt he belonged after a so-so night at Anaheim 3, and a crash-induced ninth last weekend in San Diego. All year, Brayton has been in the fight with the lead group and running the “racing with the guys I’m supposed to be racing against” mantra, and he lived up to it again here.

We had some fun talking about #angrydungey for a few weeks but he was his old consistent self in Dallas and took second. He also said he didn't know what #angrydunge was and wasn't ever trying to be overly aggressive--or angry--this year.
We had some fun talking about #angrydungey for a few weeks but he was his old consistent self in Dallas and took second. He also said he didn't know what #angrydunge was and wasn't ever trying to be overly aggressive--or angry--this year. Photo: Cudby

Oh, that 250SX East opener. Oh, Martin Davalos. Arguably the fastest 250SX rider to ever not win a race had this one totally going his way after crushing it in practice, winning his heat race, and then grabbing the early lead in the main event. And then…poor Martin high sided on lap three while pulling away. He fought back to salvage a third but, what’s the guy got to do to get one of these wins.

Believe the hype? Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Adam Cianciarulo won the race by riding very unlike a rookie—he was smart and solid and loose the whole way and never let the nerves get to him. When Davalos crashed he inherited the lead, and showed some great race craft in fending off a challenge from his teammate teammate Blake Baggett. Yes, this is AC’s first supercross race ever. “There was no way I was gonna’ beat him, [Davalos] he was pulling away for sure,” said Cianciarulo. “I was just riding my laps, and he made a mistake and I was like “Oh my God I’m in the lead.” I don’t think I would have won if I hadn’t been out front at Loretta’s and stuff like that, all those amateur races. It might sound weird but being out front and being familiar with it. I just tried to get it out of my mind that I was going to win a supercross race.”

Blake Baggett’s second was solid, his best indoor result in a long time. He only rode seven times before this race after breaking his foot badly in the pre season, and admitted he started to tire around the ninth lap. “But I’ll take it, if I ride every race like that I’ll be right in there for a championship,” said Baggett.

Baggett pushed Cianciarulo hard but the rookie didn't crack.
Baggett pushed Cianciarulo hard but the rookie didn't crack. Photo: Cudby

Hey, how about that PC Kawasaki sweep? Been a long, rough road for Mitch Payton and the boys as of late, so this one had to feel good.

The rest of the 250SX race was a tale of what might have been. Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha rider Anthony Rodriguez had a dream ride going while running third after Davalos crashed. Unfortunately, he crashed out in the same corner that claimed Davalos. Privateer Gavin Faith looked to have a shot at third, then, but he crashed and busted a lever. Vince Friese dug deep to hang onto a strong fourth on his Factory Metal Works Club MX machine.

It was a salvage day for the GEICO Honda boys. Justin Bogle had a terrible heat race and had to qualify through the LCQ, but then rebounded from a bad start in the main to get fifth. He was right on Friese at the end. Blake Wharton also had a bad start and a crash, he took seventh. Rookie Matt Bisceglia had rear brake problems and took 19th.

Worst night of all was reserved for Yamalube Star Racing Yamaha’s Jeremy Martin, a pre-season favorite. He crashed twice in his heat and was then saddled was a bad gate pick in the LCQ. Of course he was promptly pushed off the track in the first turn and couldn’t make it back into the top four. Martin also didn’t qualify for last year’s Dallas main.

This is Anthony Rodriguez. This was his first pro race. He was fast.
This is Anthony Rodriguez. This was his first pro race. He was fast. Photo: Cudby

Worst day, though, was reserved for Discount Tire TwoTwo Motorsport’s Chad Reed. After last week’s crash in San Diego, he tried to ride with four broken bones, but a few laps in the first practice and a few more in the final one told the story—he couldn’t go. No word yet on a recovery timetable, Reed was already visiting doctors on Saturday night.

Early in the 450 race, privateer hero Weston Peick looked to be making magic again while he rode just behind the lead group in seventh. Then he cross rutted a jump and went flying in a huge endo. Few would have gotten up, but Peick is tougher than most and rejoined the race. Ironically, Phil Nicoletti crashed in the exact same spot late in the race and his downed bike caught Peick and pulled him down again! Nicoletti was down hard and extremely sore—but not seriously injured. He took 22nd place. Peick finished 20th.

The Soaring Eagle Casino/RCH Suzuki team has bounced back of late after some injury-filled weeks, with Broc Tickle taking seventh and Josh Hill ninth. GEICO Honda’s Wil Hahn, riding with a jacked up hand that prevented him from racing last week, gutted out eigth. Andrew Short kept his season-long streak of top tens going with a tenth.