Four Riders Vying for Supercross Title

2011 AMA Supercross

One would be hard pressed to try and find a more dramatic, topsy-turvy, and unpredictable Supercross season like the one that has unfolded in 2011.

With 15 rounds thus far completed, and just two rounds remaining – Salt Lake City and Las Vegas – a scant nine points is all that separates the top four riders from securing their name in the record books as the 2011 Supercross World Champion. It doesn’t get any closer than this.

Ryan Villopoto is presently the points leader at 293, with Australian Chad Reed trailing by just six points at 287. Trailing Reed is 2010 Champion, Ryan Dungey, with 286 points. And just two points further back (284, and just nine points out of the lead) is legendary fast man, James Stewart.

With five race wins, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Villopoto, who has been strong all season, but has also had some dismal luck, would be hard to bet against. A huge point lead early on was eclipsed in a near unbelievable round where crashes in both his heat race and last chance qualifier kept Villipoto from riding in the main. One can’t help but wonder how things would be playing out had that not happened.

Regardless, the Seattle, Washington-born rider is optimistic.

Ryan Villopoto says: “I’m looking forwards to going to Salt Lake City. I missed last year and I remember the dirt being a lot like Seattle. I just hope the weather is better to us compared to what I watched on TV last year.”

Two-time Supercross Champion Chad Reed, who only shortly before the season started formed his own team (TwoTwo Motorsports/Bel-Ray Racing) and is campaigning the Honda, has been consistent enough to be chomping at Villopoto’s heels with a narrow six-point gap, despite having secured just one race win.

Trailing Reed by a single point is the personable 2010 Champion, Ryan Dungey aboard the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki. Sitting in third spot, Dungey was down 38 points at one time, and has managed to claw his way back to be in a strong position to defend to his title.

Perhaps the most unpredictable aspect of this four-way challenge for the title, and a man you certainly can never rule out, is James Stewart. The San Manuel Yamaha rider has amassed five wins thus far this season, but has also had his share of crashes. Coming into Salt Lake City, Stewart is carrying the momentum of two strong consecutive wins.

James Stewart says: “My weekend in Seattle was great. I really couldn’t ask for anything better. Everything really worked out, my San Manuel Yamaha was riding great, and the technical track kind of played to my advantage. It feels great to get another win! We had a week off, and I hope to make it happen again in Salt Lake.”

An interesting aspect of this year’s Supercross season has been the consistent performance and finishes by the top four Japanese manufacturers, as is reflected in the current points standings, with Kawasaki leading, Honda second, Suzuki in third, and Yamaha in fourth.

You can bet the executives at each company are sweating this one out, as a Supercross Championship Title sells a lot of motorcycles.

Saturday night at the Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah will be critical for the four main protagonists in the 2011 Supercross Championship. The title can’t necessarily be won, but it sure as hell could be lost.

The challenge is how to play it safe when the top four riders are all known for putting 110% into it. Each is close enough in points that a “nothing to lose” attitude does not apply. The key is staying upright, finishing strong, keeping your cool. It will certainly be a game balancing speed against smarts. Adding to the mix is Jake Weimer, who will be making his Supercross class debut.

Saturday night marks the seventh time Salt Lake City has hosted a round of the Supercross series. Ricky Carmichael won the inaugural race in 2001. Television coverage is on CBS, at noon (EDT) Sunday, May 1.