The 2009 Monster Energy Supercross championship proved to be just out of Chad Reed's reach, but the Thor/Parts Unlimited team still had a great deal to celebrate after winning both races and dominating the podiums at the Monster Energy Supercross Series finale Saturday night at Las Vegas.
Ryan Villopoto continued to serve notice that he'll be a title contender in 2010 by winning his second main event in three weeks, with Reed second for the 12th time in 17 races. Reed had to settle for a runner-up finish in the championship as well, finishing four points behind James Stewart, who was third on Saturday.
The 15-lap Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Supercross Lites Shootout truly was a Thor showcase. East Region champion Christophe Pourcel took a narrow win over West champion Ryan Dungey, and Pourcel's Pro Circuit teammates, Jake Weimer, Austin Stroupe and Ryan Morais, finished fourth through sixth, respectively.
Ryan on the Rise
Villopoto may be sorrier than anyone to see the season end. The rookie from Poulsbo, Wash., returned from a three-race layoff forced by medical issues to put together two wins and a fourth in the final three events. That finish left him sixth in the standings, just five points out of fourth, and has everyone wondering what might have been.
There's no way to answer that, but there's no question that Villopoto is ready for a strong outdoor motocross season, and he's let Reed and Stewart know that they'll have to contend with him for the 2010 Supercross title.
"This is a great way to end the season," said Villopoto. "I got a good start and just stayed right there with the leader. When he made a mistake, I made my move and tried to gap him as by as much as I could."
"1" Step Away From Two in a Row
Reed could have a moment in which he wonders what might have been, too, if Kyle Chisholm hadn't run into him in the next-to-last race of the year at Salt Lake City. The collision with Stewart's teammate, which got Chisholm disqualified, cost Reed a chance at a race win and left him six points behind going into the season finale. That meant Stewart needed to finish third to claim the title no matter what Reed did.
The Australian star gave it his best. He rebounded from a sluggish start to challenge Stewart for second on lap 14 and took the position with an aggressive pass that produced contact and rekindled the controversy that has followed them recently, but Stewart stayed on two wheels and followed Reed across the finish line.
Reed's runner-up finish was his 12th of the season to go with three wins and he was on the podium in 16 of the 17 races. His only miss was in round 15, at Seattle, when he said he made a mistake and fell and finished seventh.
"It's hard to swallow, to have to give up that (title)," Reed said. "I feel like I worked really hard for this championship and to be so close really hurts. But I had fun this year and that's the main thing. It's disappointing and its' hard, but at the end of the day I felt that we achieved big things this year, so it's good."
The championship battle between Reed and Stewart, generally considered one of the best title fights in Supercross history, created some added interest because of the controversy at Salt Lake City. The prospect of more fireworks on that front and the showdown between the nation's top Lites riders was enough to sell out Sam Boyd Stadium.
The event was sold out on Wednesday and a standing-room-only crowd of 39,506 filled every corner of the stadium on Saturday.
So Much for Jinxes
Pro Circuit has been the top Supercross Lites team for more than a decade, but one thing that had eluded Mitch Payton's Corona-based powerhouse in recent years was a win in the Dave Coombs Sr. Lites Shootout. Saturday night, East Region champion Pourcel took care of that with his 0.42-second win over West champion Ryan Dungey.
It was Pro Circuit's first win in the Shootout since 1999, when Nathan Ramsey provided the honors.
"I was a little off at the start," said Pourcel. "I think I came out fourth or fifth so I had to work to get to the lead. There were fast guys out there and it was tough. It was a really good race."
Big Year for the Lites Team
Pourcel's win in the Shootout put the finishing touches on another good Supercross season for Pro Circuit, which had Pourcel and Stroupe one-two in the East Region and Weimer and Morais two-three in the West.
Pourcel had six wins, including the Shootout, and never finished out of the top five in nine starts. Stroupe had two wins and five podiums. Weimer, who lost the West title by five points, had three wins and six podiums, but was hurt by two fourth-place finishes.
Morais didn't win, but the Murrieta rider was extremely consistent, with five runner-up efforts and seven podiums.
The King Makes a Visit
Jeremy McGrath returned to the sport he dominated on Saturday night, making a special visit to check out the highly-anticipated season finale on behalf of Thor/Parts Unlimited. The winningest supercross rider of all time took a break from his new off-road career on four wheels to take part in the festivities and interact with the thousands of rabid fans.
With the supercross season coming to an end, the Thor/Parts Unlimited team prepares for the second half of the 2009 season with the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship. While the attendance of Reed at this season's nationals is still in the air, Villopoto is making his case for being considered a heavy title favorite. On the Lites side, the ultra-talented foursome will welcome the addition of a fifth teammate in South African transplant Tyla Rattray, the defending FIM MX2 World Champion. With such a deep, talented field across both classes, this year's motocross season has the potential to be one of the most memorable in history and blasts out of the gates on May 23 at Glen Helen Raceway.
About Parts Unlimited
Parts Unlimited is the world's largest distributor of aftermarket accessories in the powersports industry and is owned by LeMans Corporation headquartered in Janesville, Wisconsin. Parts Unlimited sells to over 12,000 dealerships world wide and continues to expand its market penetration with its sister companies, Parts Canada, Parts Europe and Drag Specialties.
Parts Unlimited continues to promote racing through its campaign WE SUPPORT THE SPORT®, helping to drive consumers to dealerships, while entertaining its dealers through hospitalities at the events it sponsors.
About Thor Motocross
Thor is one of the originators of motocross apparel. When Torsten Hallman made his first U.S trip to race and promote motocross in 1966, he inadvertently started to develop Thor riding gear. Thor is a hardcore, grass roots company that understands what it takes to reach the top and more importantly, how to stay there. It is one of a few companies with over 40 years experience in the motocross marketplace.