By Jason Thomas, Chase Stallo and Aaron Hansel
After missing the MXoN due to surgery, Ryan Villopoto will be back in the saddle this Saturday night to once again chase after the Monster Million. There's no doubting that Villopoto is capable of sweeping all three motos like he did in 2011, but a lot has to go right for that to happen. Villopoto himself was knocked out of the event early last year when he crashed hard in the second moto. Will the reigning supercross and motocross champ cap off another outstanding year with yet another million-dollar paycheck? – Aaron Hansel
Last year, it didn’t take Justin Barcia long to serve notice to the 450 Class by winning in his first attempt at the Monster Energy Cup. Although Barcia didn’t contend for the Monster Energy Supercross title in 2013, he did win two mains and finished fourth in points. With a year under his belt, Bam Bam has shaken the “new kid on the block” moniker. His second 450 season starts this weekend—with a title defense. – Chase Stallo
James Stewart will make his Monster Energy Cup debut Saturday night.
Simon Cudby photo
Stewart’s MEC Debut
James Stewart has won the predecessor to the Monster Energy Cup but has never actually attended the event in its current form. Between injuries and team change flux, timing has never quite worked out for the multi-time champion from Haines City, Florida. Although he hasn't won a supercross championship since 2009, Stewart is still a threat to win every time he lines up, and when it comes to winning heat races, he still might be the best there is. With the Monster Energy Cup featuring a short, three-race format, with each race consisting of just ten laps, it plays directly to one of Stewart's greatest strengths. One of the most popular riders in supercross history, having JS7 in Vegas will definitely be something to watch. – Aaron Hansel / Jason Thomas
Back in the Spotlight
Ryan Dungey was taken to the woodshed on the internet by many following his recent Motocross of Nations performance in Germany. Justified or not, Dungey will face his first major test since—excluding his victory at the Red Bull Give Me Five in Madrid. Dungey is typically able to refocus quickly, leaving the last race behind (see, Madrid), but his performance this weekend will be looked at through a microscope—no matter the circumstances. Will Dungey silence the critics in Vegas? – Chase Stallo
Welcome Back Deano
Dean Wilson makes his return to racing this weekend at the Monster Energy Cup. After ending his season early due to another shoulder surgery, Dean is looking good from all accounts in California and must be excited to get back out there. This will be Dean’s last race on the 450 for a while as he is slated to contest the 250 SX and MX series in 2014. – Jason Thomas
Cooper Webb makes the jump to the 450 for his professional supercross debut.
Simon Cudby photo
Head to Head
Although Eli Tomac and Ken Roczen publicly downplay any sort of serious rivalry between them, you can be sure that for each guy, losing to each other ranks somewhere between racing at Unadilla with an open-face helmet and vacationing in North Korea. This weekend, the two will be going up against one another on 450s for the first time in history. Will they go at it like they did at the Motocross of Nations? – Aaron Hansel
2014 Yamaha YZF450 Debut
Yamaha has made major changes to their 450 for 2014. Over the past few years, much has been written and said about the revolutionary changes that Yamaha unveiled in 2010 and for better or worse, they are working to get back on top of the motocross world. At the Monster Energy Cup this weekend, a few riders will be riding the 2014 model for the first time in serious competition. Josh Grant, Cooper Webb, Alex Martin and PJ Larsen are just a few of the Yamaha supported riders that will be hoping to show what the new machine has to offer. Hopefully Yamaha can get back to where many of us are accustomed to seeing the proud brand. – Jason Thomas
Eli Tomac is a contender for the Monster Million tomorrow.
Simon Cudby photo
Webb Steps Up
MyPlash/Metal Mulisha/Star Racing Yamaha’s Cooper Webb will make his professional supercross debut in Vegas … on a 450. Webb has experience at the ME Cup, winning the Amateur All-Stars event a year ago, but turned pro at Hangtown and has yet to race supercross as a professional on a 250, let alone a 450. Webb has reportedly been testing for about four weeks, which should help the transition. Will Webb be competitive against the big boys? – Chase Stallo
Amateurs Make Their Case
Although losing the hype of Webb vs. Cianciarulo has taken some air out of the Amateur All-Stars race, don’t sleep on this class. GEICO Honda’s Jordon Smith leads a talented group of riders that is expected to include: Paul Coates, RJ Hampshire, Justin Hoeft, Jace Owen, Thomas Covington, Dakota Alix, Mark Worth, Mitchell Harrison and a host of others. Who will shine under the bright lights in Sin City? – Chase Stallo
Making its debut at the Monster Energy Cup this year will be the Dirt Shark Biggest Whip competition. X Games headliners Josh Hansen, Jeremy “Twitch” Stenberg, Edgar Torronteras and Todd Potter are all prequalified for the nighttime throw down, and will be joined by three additional riders who will be competing in an afternoon qualifying session outside of the stadium. Riders looking to qualify include Robbie Maddison, Jarred McNeil, Nate Adams, Andre Villa, Destin Cantrell, Tyler Bereman, Lance Coury, Billy Laninovich, Tom Parsons, Brett Cue and Taka Higashino. The best part? The winner will be determined by a panel of judges, not by popular vote. – Aaron Hansel