The racing at the third round of the Monster Energy Supercross series, and the second of three Anaheim rounds, wasn’t as magical as the celebrated '86 race that was the theme of the evening. Instead, the sport took a blow when its reigning champion bowed out with a knee injury before the main event even started. In fact, costumes aside, that was the only thing that this weekend had in common with Anaheim in 1986. On that night the reigning champion, Jeff Ward, had mechanical problems in his heat and, due to the racing format back then, was unable to qualify for the main event. In a press conference after practice James Stewart
announced that he had injured his knee on December 20th and it was not improving. After soldiering through the first two rounds, and getting a win in the process, Stewart decided to get his knee fixed and start preparing for the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship. Although he isn’t saying, Stewart clearly did some ligament damage to his left knee when he crashed in Washougal
last year and the instability is now causing problems.
Stewart’s departure left the door wide open for L&M Racing’s Chad Reed and he didn’t waste any time walking through it. Rockstar Makita Suzuki's Mike Alessi holeshot the main event but it only took Reed a few turns to steal the lead. From there, Reed went into cruise control and earned his second win of the season. Behind Reed, things were pretty mixed up. Favorites such as Tim Ferry, Andrew Short, Grant Langston and Ivan Tedesco were mired in the pack well outside the top ten. Josh Hill and Kevin Windham moved past early frontrunners Alessi and Millsaps when Davi crashed in the whoops. Mike Alessi was riding with an injured knee but rode solid and steady for fourth place. Team Yamaha's Josh Hill had a breakout race finishing second in only his third race in the premier class. And Windham added to his string of good rides with another podium finish.
The Lites class wasn’t the barn-burner that we all saw in Phoenix, either. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit rider Austin Stroupe
blasted off to a holeshot in the final, followed closely by Ryan Dungey
and the rest of the field. Dungey patiently waited for a chance to pass Stroupe while Jason Lawrence
, the other heat race winner, worked his way up from a bad start. As Lawrence moved to third place and rapidly closed on the leaders it looked like we were going to see another great race. Then, over a vertical wall obstacle, Lawrence stalled his bike and just couldn’t get going again. I mean, he literally could not get the bike started again. For the next five minutes Lawrence kicked the bike fruitlessly while two-stroke fans everywhere shook their heads. He would tally a 21st place finish for the night and effectively end his title hopes. Meanwhile, Dungey slipped past Stroupe and cruised to his second win of the season. Broc Hepler
charged to second position on his Yamaha, catching right up to Dungey’s rear fender at the checkers. It was Hepler’s best finish in a long time and Stroupe’s first podium ever. Torco Racing Fuels Honda's Daniel Reardon backed up his opening round ride with another solid fourth place followed by Brett Metcalfe
. Dungey goes to San Francisco with a 22-point lead in the series and a lot of momentum.