News 16 Jan 2010

AMA SX: Stewart and Dungey to resume battle in Phoenix

No one expected rookie Ryan Dungey to control the first 16 laps of the 2010 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, but last weekend he officially threw his name in the hat of title contenders to challenge defending champion and last weekend’s winner James Stewart.

Stewart (1) and Dungey (5) bang bars at Anaheim's opener.

Stewart (1) and Dungey (5) bang bars at Anaheim's opener.

No one expected rookie Ryan Dungey to control the first 16 laps of the 2010 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, but last weekend he officially threw his name in the hat of title contenders to challenge defending champion and last weekend’s winner James Stewart.

Tomorrow night at Phoenix’s Chase Field, the second installment of Monster Energy Supercross will go down in the desert.

San Manuel Yamaha’s Stewart leads the AMA Supercross points race heading into Phoenix and is a proven winner at Chase Field, having won three consecutive races there. Third on the all-time AMA Supercross class win list with 37, Stewart can tie Chad Reed for second with a win Saturday night, but for now, he’s ecstatic about his Anaheim 1 win.

“I’m a lot better off than last year by getting this win,” said Stewart, refereeing his 19th place finish at Anaheim 1 just one year ago. “It’s a great way to start off the season.”

Dungey is the defending Western Regional AMA Supercross Lites class champion and is campaigning his first full AMA Supercross class season. Last year in Phoenix, Dungey won the Lites class main event and is eager to get his first premier class win.

“I really learned a lot at A1, and I’m just ready to move from here on out,” said Dungey. “I feel like I have room for improvement going into Phoenix. We’re going to put in a solid week of practice and testing, and I think with a little fine-tuning we’re going to be good. I want to take it one race at a time and be consistent, be smart, and have fun.”

One of the biggest surprises coming out of Anaheim last weekend was 16-year veteran Kevin Windham, who rides for the GEICO Powersports Honda team, snatching up the third-place finish on a bike that his team labored over during the off season in pursuit of the perfect set up.

“The GEICO Powersports Honda team has done a lot of work in the off-season, and we’ve got another year under our belt on the new Honda CRF450R,” said Windham. Things are going great. It was great to start the AMA Supercross championship off with a podium finish last week and I’m working to keep that momentum going.”

Windham has shown signs of brilliance at Phoenix, having earned the second fastest lap time last year during practice and sixth in the main event.

“At the Phoenix supercross last year, I was second fastest in my heat race and placed sixth in the main,” said Windham. “I showed at A1 that I have the pace to be on the box and that’s where I want to finish again this weekend.”

Former two-time AMA Supercross class champion and last year’s runner-up Chad Reed ran into bad luck on the opening lap of the main event in Anaheim. While jockeying for position, he and Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki rider Austin Stroupe collided and shattered the spokes in Reed’s front wheel. Ironically, Reed was credited with 19th place, which is the same place Stewart was credited last year when he crashed out of the Anaheim 1 main event.

“I think anything is possible,” said Reed. “That’s why we go racing. I’ve only had something similar to that happen to me one other time. All you do is just put your head down and go to work. Try to put yourself in the best position to try and maybe capitalize on a mistake on their part. I think throughout the year, mistakes are going to be made and the pace is really high right now and you just got to be in it to win it.”

Stroupe, who will contest the Eastern Regional AMA Supercross class championship this year, was racing in the first AMA Supercross class main event of his career. It certainly wasn’t the way he wanted to make his debut, but the youngster values the experience and will apply it this weekend in Phoenix.

“I’m looking forward to Phoenix, now that I have those first-race nerves out of my system,” said Stroupe. “I never thought I’d be on the 450 line this year, but it feels good. I’m definitely ready to do some work this week and get out there and race.”

Stroupe and Dungey’s teammate Matt Moss is still sidelined with an injury but supported his teammates at Anaheim 1.

“I’m itching to get out there; I just want that so bad what Dungey had—to race with James Stewart and have a chance at beating him,” said Moss. “I’m going to go home and work hard and hopefully come back and do what Dungey did at A1.”

Monster Energy Kawasaki is heading to Phoenix looking to rise out of a hole dug in Anaheim. Chad Reed finished 19th in the main event after contact with another rider damaged his bike on the first lap of the race. The early retirement put Reed behind in the race for the championship, but the Australian rider isn’t writing off the title chase yet.

“We can come back from this,” said Reed. “Of course it is disappointing to get a DNF, but we are still looking to win races and the championship. Bad luck happens sometimes, but I know I would have been right there challenging for the win.”

Ryan Villopoto is looking to build on his fifth place result at the season opener. After his first full race back from knee surgery over the summer, Villopoto feels confident he can get on the box in Phoenix.

“Anaheim was tough,” said Villopoto. “It is difficult to recreate racing conditions and now we know what we need to do. I’m going to be at the test track working on some things and I know we’ll get a better result this weekend.”

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer is looking forward to Phoenix. The Idaho native once again captured the season opener and this year he hopes to take the win at Chase Field.

“I’ve always raced well at Phoenix,” said Weimer. “I got my first ever win there and last year I was leading before I went down in the sand section. I’m just going to try and stay relaxed throughout the race and hopefully get another win at Chase Field.”

Weimer’s teammate Josh Hansen heads to Phoenix looking for a little redemption. The two-time X Games Gold Medalist finished eighth at Anaheim, but he knows the results could have been a lot better.

“I had a little trouble at Anaheim,” said Hansen. “I was running right behind Jake and then I made a little mistake and went down. Heading to Phoenix I know I can get on the podium and challenge for a win. I guess I need to stop talking about it and just go out and do it.”

Red Bull Honda Racing’s Andrew Short started his season with a fourth place finish at Anaheim 1 after scoring second place in his heat race.

“I started the 2010 season off with a second in my Anaheim 1 heat race, which felt good, and I finished fourth overall in the main. It’s great to get the season underway and I’m looking forward to racing Phoenix supercross with Honda Red Bull Racing.

Short likens the racing surface at Chase Field to that of Angel Stadium in Anaheim and says the excitement of Anaheim 1 carries over to this second stop.

Stewart was the big winner at Anaheim 1.

Stewart was the big winner at Anaheim 1.

“The Phoenix supercross is a great race because it’s still fairly close to Southern California where we’re based; the scenery is beautiful, the dirt is good and it’s always a fun race,” added Short. “There is a real sense of excitement at this second stop because it’s still very early in the season and the riders are measuring themselves against one another. The track is usually very fast and produces good-tight racing.”

Short’s teammate Davi Millsaps won his heat race, beating Dungey, but a rough start in the main set the tone for his performance.

“Last weekend aboard my CRF450R I got away to good start in my heat race and made a pass that stuck for the lead in the second set of whoops,” said Millsaps. “Once out front I stayed there for the entire race. Winning my heat race was definitely a good way to start the season and gave me a lot of confidence heading in the main event. In the main, and after getting another good start out of the gates, I got hit in the first turn and I struggled to find my rhythm, finishing in eighth.”

Former AMA Supercross Lites class champion Trey Canard put his GEICO Powersports Honda on the podium at Anaheim 1, finishing second overall.

“I went into Anaheim not really having a good week; I was just nervous the whole been such a long time since I’ve raced supercross so to end up in second place was a good result for me,” said Canard. “I feel good about my speed and fitness heading into Phoenix. I will just work on remaining calm, and not be too nervous, and I think it should be another good weekend. “The GEICO Powersports Honda team has done an amazing job in a short period of time preparing Honda’s all-new CRF250R for racing. The bike felt great last weekend and I’m ready to put the bike through its paces again this weekend.”

Sophomore Blake Wharton narrowly missed qualifying through the heat race as he grabbed the ninth and final qualifying position.

“A1 was a good night for our team with Canard and Windham both scoring podium finishes. I finished in fourth spot, which I was fairly happy with considering I got a bad gate pick because I had a bad heat race. I’ve learned from last year and consistency is key, especially if you want to win the championship.

Last year during Wharton’s rookie season, he raced on the Eastern Regional AMA Supercross Lites class championship, and this year will be his first appearance in Phoenix.

“This week’s race in Arizona will be my first time racing the Phoenix supercross and I’m really looking forward to it,” said Wharton. “I’m not sure what to expect but I guess that’s how this whole season will be for me; my first time racing the West Lites division.”

San Manuel Yamaha’s Josh Hill joined the team this off season and is looking for the second win of his career and to challenge Stewart for the number-one position. Hill earned his first win at the Metrodome in 2008.

“This opportunity is the greatest thing that has happened to me,” said Hill. “The whole Team is so supportive. They’ve given me my confidence back.”