By Chase Stallo and Aaron Hansel

Friendly Ground

How crazy is it that Ryan Villopoto hasn’t won a race since round four in Oakland? We’ve seen the champ struggle (for RV, anyway) to find his dominant form on the mostly slick tracks through the first nine races, but this weekend he’ll have completely different soil to work with. The soft dirt, motocross-style track and long lap times of Daytona are exactly where Villopoto thrives. He’s going to top the podium again sooner or later this season. Will it be in Daytona? – Aaron Hansel

Delayed Reaction

A crash at the opener left Eli Tomac with an injured shoulder and on the sidelines for the first four races, and that made GEICO Honda rider a nonfactor this season. Until Indy, that is, where Tomac rode a superb race to nab second and his first career 450SX podium. Afterward, Tomac said he’s finally starting to come back to his full potential and can ride without his shoulder bothering him. Last year Tomac took fourth at Daytona while moonlighting in the 450SX class, so you know he’s fast in Florida. The kid definitely knows how to pound out a rough track! Let’s see if it adds up to another podium this weekend. -Hansel

Turnaround Time

For a lot of riders, going eighth, twelfth and tenth in the first three rounds of the Eastern Regional 250SX Championship would be a good thing. Not so much for SmarTop/MotoConcepts' Kyle Cunningham, who has consistently performed better than that in the past. The good news is that the Daytona track is huge and lap times are much longer there, which means that Cunningham, who has a reputation for charging through the pack, will have more time to pick off riders as the race unfolds. Will he log his first top five of the season in Daytona? -Hansel

Kyle Cunningham looks to get back on track following a slow start to the season. Photo: Simon Cudby
Kyle Cunningham looks to get back on track following a slow start to the season. Photo: Simon Cudby

Holding the Keys

Judging by the last two races, it would appear that Mike Alessi has unlocked some new speed. He took sixth in Atlanta, won his heat race in Indy and was on his way to second place in the main before going down. Now the championship is heading to Daytona and the timing couldn’t be better; Alessi loves motocross, and Daytona is as motocross as supercross gets. Let’s see if he can keep his newfound speed rolling on the infield of Daytona International Speedway. -Hansel

Back on Top

Of the podium, that is. At Indy, Ryan Dungey broke through for his first supercross win since Minneapolis last year, and gained some valuable points on Ryan Villopoto in the process. After crashing out at A3, Dungey now sits second in points, twenty-three back of Villopoto. With that elusive first win now out of the way and three podiums in the last four races, it appears that the Red Bull KTM rider is back on the right track. We’ll see if he can keep the momentum going with another win this weekend. – Hansel

His Kind of Track

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett can excel on a rough, long track like Daytona. Starts have been his Achilles heel thus far, and he’s eighteen points back of teammate Adam Cianciarulo. If Baggett is going to rejoin the title chase, it’s essential he take advantage of Daytona. Baggett won here in 2011 and finished a close second in 2012. Can get back into the title hunt with his second career win at the speedway? – Chase Stallo

Malcolm Stewart will make his 450SX debut at Daytona.  Photo: Simon Cudby
Malcolm Stewart will make his 450SX debut at Daytona.  Photo: Simon Cudby

Joining the Ranks

For the first time in their supercross careers—they did compete in Lucas Oil Pro Motocross together in 2013—James and Malcolm Stewart will battle in 450SX. Malcolm, who resides in Florida, will make his 450SX debut at hometown race, Daytona. He’ll be on his practice bike, tricked out with some fresh race parts. Can Malcolm, who many think is better suited for a 450 due to his size, make the same splash TLD teammate Cole Seely did in Indy? - Stallo

Davalos’ Resiliency

The last time Martin Davalos buckled while in position for what appeared to be a sure win (in Arlington) he fired back with dominance the following week. It was the first AMA win of his career. Davalos is again faced with the harsh reality of shaking off another tough loss. Will he show his resiliency in Daytona and secure the points lead for the first time all season? - Stallo

Matt Lemoine and other privateers have shined in 2014. Photo: Simon Cudby
Matt Lemoine and other privateers have shined in 2014. Photo: Simon Cudby

Three-Man Field

Toyota JGR Yamaha’s developmental pilot program has had its ups and downs. On the bright side, Phil Nicoletti came into play earlier than expected when Josh Grant missed two rounds with a shoulder injury. The bad news: Nicoletti garnered only three points in three races due to crashes. Daytona is one of three races Nicoletti is contracted to race—Atlanta and East Rutherford, NJ, being the other two. For the second time all season, JGR will field a three-man squad in Daytona. Can Nicoletti bounce back from his early season troubles and contend for a top ten in the Sunshine state? – Stallo

Privateer Power

Through three rounds of the 250SX East Region, privateers Vince Friese, Jimmy Decotis, Matt Lemoine and Mitchell Oldenburg have accounted for nine top tens and one top five. Furthermore, Factory Metal Works/Club MX’s Friese has yet to finish outside the top six, while Decotis has finished seventh the last two weeks. Currently, factory backed riders like Cole Thompson, Blake Wharton, Matt Bisceglia, Jeremy Martin and Anthony Rodriguez all trail Friese in points. Will the privateers continue to make an impact at Daytona? - Stallo