Saturday Night Live: Houston

Saturday Night Live: Houston

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The Houston track was challenging—some were even going so far as to say too challenging after practice—but in the end a simple “challenging” would suffice. The whoops were really gnarly because they were spaced very far apart, and the spacing and steepness of the whoops varied. Lots of riders went down in them. The Houston dirt is good, though, so that helped riders in general, although a few slick, shiny spots came through as well, which also grabbed some riders and took them down.

For 450s, the track revolved around a big quad jump before the finish. Josh Hill and Ryan Villopoto were the first to bust it out in practice, then Villopoto used it to pass Eli Tomac in a semi. Tomac then realized he'd have to jump it in the main, and he did it clean most of the time before coming up short once and crashing. He got back up for ninth.

Eli Tomac battles Killy Rusk off the start. Eli was fast in spots but a main event crash hurt his results.Photo: Cudby
Eli Tomac battles Killy Rusk off the start. Eli was fast in spots but a main event crash hurt his results.Photo: Cudby

It was such a rough weekend that even Kevin Windham crashed practicing a big transfer jump on Friday! Kevin told us that he jumped 112 feet on a 115 foot jump, and he knew he was going to come up short as soon as he took off. He took a trip to the hospital for some scans but turned out okay—although he didn’t do any riding on Saturday.

But the roughest weekend award goes to JGR Toyota Yamaha, though. Justin Brayton came into the race with a broken foot, then crashed and aggravated that injury in practice. Then he came back out for the next practice and crashed again, breaking his hand! His teammate Josh Grant picked up the slack for the team with great laps in practice and his heat—he led for a bit but got sideways in a corner and caught his leg. That dropped him to fifth. Then he got tangled up in a mega crash on the first lap—Ryan Dungey and Weston Peick came together and Josh got landed on. He’s sore but expected to race next weekend.

That first lap crash put Dungey in next-to-last (Josh Hill went down by himself and was even further back) but he charged back to seventh. That’s a good ride but it still cost him second in the points. James Stewart was sick all day and missed most of practice but soldiered on in the main event to get fifth. He overtakes Dungey for second in points, but it’s all pretty moot at this point. Ryan Villopoto has a 45-point lead over Stewart, and if he gains six more points on him next weekend, this title is on ice.

Here's Shane McElrath and Malcolm Stewart battling in tandem. TLD guys were in four of the top ten spots again.Photo: Cudby
Here's Shane McElrath and Malcolm Stewart battling in tandem. TLD guys were in four of the top ten spots again.Photo: Cudby

We mentioned Josh Hill going down in the first turn. He would fight back to a solid 13th, but even that didn’t show how well he was riding. Hill was fast in practice—top five—and won his heat race.

It looked like it would be a good day all around for the Hill brothers, as Justin was fast as expected in the 250s and was in the mix for the lead early against Jason Anderson and Dean Wilson. Then he crashed, and crashed again. He finished ninth.

Trey Canard’s return to racing has gone well with fifth and now fourth place finishes. Trey said he’s surprised how hard these last two tracks were—they were technical and challenging and definitely a test for a rider who had not raced all year. He’s hoping the next track in Seattle is a little more mellow. He felt much better than he did last weekend, though, especially in the early laps.

Andrew Short had a great race in Detroit, then overdid it in training after and felt flat the last two weeks. He was stronger this time and carded sixth.Photo: Cudby
Andrew Short had a great race in Detroit, then overdid it in training after and felt flat the last two weeks. He was stronger this time and carded sixth.Photo: Cudby

While the Rockstar KTM team was pumped to get a win from Jason Anderson, there was bad news for its 450-class fill-in rider Cole Thompson, who popped his knee out during the qualfiers. We’ll follow up on Cole in a few days to check his Seattle status.

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