After a four-year hiatus, Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, makes its return to Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah for the penultimate round of the 2009 season. The chase for the championship is a two-man race between Team San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart and Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Chad Reed concluding next weekend in Las Vegas.
Last weekend in Seattle marked a trio of firsts as Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto captured his first career AMA Supercross class victory, Reed failed to finish on the podium for the first time in 2009, and for the first time in history, Stewart failed to win a main event in which he didn’t fall. In the end, Stewart took advantage of his rival’s misfortune and vaulted back into the points lead by three points with two races to go. For Reed, it’s all about moving on and taking care of business this weekend.
Chad Reed Speaks…
"I’m looking forward racing at Salt Lake City," said Reed. "It’s been a while since we’ve raced there and it will be good to be back. The last time I raced there, I was riding a two-stroke. So this weekend will be my first time to race the Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z450 four-stroke at Rice Eccles Stadium."
While Stewart leads the series in wins with 10, Reed holds three big victories to his own credit and is still well within striking distance of reclaiming the series title he won last season.
Reed’s teammate Mike Alessi found himself at the front of the pack once again in Seattle, grabbing the holeshot and leading the majority of the first half of the race, before a mistake forced him to the ground. As the season continues, Alessi is getting stronger and looks to maintain his momentum in Salt Lake.
Mike Alessi Speaks…
"I’ve never raced at Salt Lake City before," he stated. "It’s at altitude, so I should have an advantage since I’m a little bit lighter than most of the guys. I’m hoping to get another holeshot on my Rockstar Makita Suzuki RM-Z450 and run up front. We’ve only got two races to go and the end is near and I can see the finish line."
Ryan Dungey helped put himself in prime position to claim his first-ever professional title at this weekend’s AMA Supercross Lites Western Regional Championship finale thanks to his fourth victory of the season. The Rockstar/Makita Suzuki rider carries a solid nine-point lead in the standings going into Rice Eccles.
Ryan Dungey Speaks...
"This will be my first time racing at Salt Lake City and I just want to keep an open mind and take it one race at a time," explained Dungey. "It ain’t over till it’s over, so I’m just going to keep doing my regular program. I don’t see any reason to change things up. We’ll be at a high altitude so the bikes will run a little different but whatever comes our way, we’ll be prepared for it."
Over at Monster Energy Kawasaki, the entire team is still buzzing about the maiden victory for their young star Villopoto and the team’s first visit to the top of the AMA Supercross podium since Phoenix of 2008.
After being forced to miss three races due to a virus, Villopoto returned to the championship in his hometown and captured the biggest win of his career. Despite the time off, the young rider feels better than ever and hopes to continue riding the wave of momentum through the rest of the season and catch win number two.
Ryan Villopoto Speaks…
"Getting the win in Seattle is great," exclaimed Villopoto. "We have been working hard all year and getting a win doesn’t change that. I was back on the track Monday trying some things so I can stay up on the box."
Teammate Billy Laninovich continues his in-season development since taking over for an injured Timmy Ferry at New Orleans. The experienced rider is looking for his best result of the season in Salt Lake City and a return to the top-10.
Billy Laninovich Speaks…
"Even though it’s late in the season, I’m just getting into shape," explained Laninovich. "Getting the call to race has been awesome and I feel I’m getting better every week. Hopefully I can show that this week and put my Monster Energy Kawasaki back in the top-10."
In AMA Supercross Lites, the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team still holds two of the top three positions in the Western Regional standings and continued to post strong results in Seattle.
With Salt Lake City marking the final race of the season for the class, Jake Weimer is well aware of the deficit he faces this weekend and knows a win is in order if he wants any chance to win his first-career championship. Just nine points back, Weimer hopes his hometown race will be one to remember.
Jake Weinmer Speaks…
"I feel like I have to win the race to have a shot at the title," said Weimer. "It has been a good season, but I think it would be a little disappointing to not win the championship. These guys work so hard and I really want to put that number ‘1′ plate on Mitch’s truck."
Ryan Morais continued his season of consistency with another runner-up finish, his fifth in seven races. While he sits third in the standings and still has a shot at the championship, his primary focus is to earn that elusive first victory to cap off a stellar season.
Ryan Morais Speaks…
"I really want to get my first win," stated Morais. "Being on the podium is great, but I know I’m so close to getting a win. These guys work so hard and I want to reward them."
In Seattle, the Honda Red Bull Racing charge was led by Davi Millsaps. Capitalizing on a good start, the two-time Monster Energy® AMA Supercross winner ran up front the entire main event to score his third podium finish of 2009. His week of preparation has been with the intention of maintaining strong results.
Dave Millsaps Speaks…
"It definitely helps if you get a good start to make your race a lot easier and less eventful, which I did in Seattle last weekend," explained Millsaps. "Heading to Salt Lake, I’m not really too sure what to expect. It’s supposed to be very cold there right now and because of the elevation I am expecting the racing to maybe be a little slower. I’m told it’s been snowing there so the dirt will probably be very soft; it should be interesting. My goal is to replicate my podium finish this weekend."
Trey Canard helped make the return of the AMA Supercross Lites Western Region memorable for the GEICO Powersports Honda team. The 2008 Eastern Regional champion has experienced an up and down sophomore season and was even forced to miss a race early in 2009. However, in Seattle he showed the form that won him last year’s title and will look to finish the year off equally strong.
Trey Canard Speaks…
"It was good to be able to put the GEICO Powersports Honda team back on the podium with one round remaining in the series," said Canard. "I will be pushing hard again to finish the season off on a high note. I’m going into Salt Lake with an open mind this weekend not knowing what to expect. I hear it’s cold and there’s a good chance of rain, and I’m sure the higher altitude will come into play."
For the Muscle Milk/MDK/KTM team, Seattle was a forgettable race as both of the team’s AMA Supercross Lites riders suffered injuries while in the Northwest.
Justin Brayton, who sits fourth in the standings, injured his left hand and foot while qualifying for the main event, severely hindering his performance and forcing him to the sidelines for the remainder of the evening. However, he expects to be 100 percent this weekend.
Justin Brayton Speaks…
"I injured my hand during my heat race when a rider went down in front of me and I put my hand out to catch myself," he explained. "It is really swollen right now but nothing is broken. My bad luck continued when I collided with another rider in the LCQ and badly bruised my foot. The swelling in my hand and foot should be down by this Thursday when I plan to ride press day in Salt Lake and then put my KTM on the podium Saturday night."
His teammate Ryan Sipes, who sits fifth in the standings, suffered even worse luck when he experienced a hard fall, dislocating his wrist. The injury will force him to sit out the remainder of the season in preparation for the outdoor nationals.
On the AMA Supercross side, the Jagermeister/MDK/KTM team signed support riders Michael Sleeter and Jesse Casillas to fill in for injured riders Josh Summey and Travis Preston for the remaining two races of the season.
Michael Sleeter Speaks…
"I am really happy that the Jagermeister/MDK/KTM Team decided to pick me up for the last three races," boasted Sleeter. "It’s exciting to be riding under the factory tent and I hope to represent the team well by putting my KTM in the main event."
Luck did not fare much better for the Factory Yamaha team as each of their riders Josh Hill and Broc Hepler were forced to miss last weekend’s action thanks to separate injuries suffered in preparation for Saturday night’s race. The team hopes to have both riders back on the gate this weekend in Salt Lake City.
The AMA Supercross class will air on CBS Sports Sunday, April 26 at Noon (EST), and the Western Regional AMA Supercross Lites class will air on Sunday, April 26 at 2:00 p.m. (EST).