Monster Energy Supercross – Phoenix 2014 | Winners and Losers | Motorcycle Racing Commentary
The results are in from the Phoenix round of the 2014 Monster Energy Supercross series, and we have our Winners and Losers. Some are repeats, and some are making a debut showing.
Ryan Villopoto. The Monster Energy Kawasaki rider came back strong at Phoenix, showing why he is a 3x winner of the premier SX class. After a midpack start in the Main, Villopoto methodically worked his way to the front, taking the lead from Justin Brayton on lap 14 and never looked back. Villopoto heads back to A2 back on top of the points standings. Big win.
Justin Brayton. The JGRMX/Toyota Yamaha rider hasn’t been on the podium since March 2012 and finished 6th at A1. Phoenix was his night. He battled with Villopoto for most of Heat 2, finishing 3rd behind Villopoto and Dungey. In the Main, Brayton grabbed the holeshot and led the race for 13 laps before Villopoto was able to chase him down and make the winning pass. Brayton closed back in on Villopoto on the last lap, threatening to pass as the finish line approached. “This feels so good,” Brayton said. “The new Yamaha is unbelievable. We did our homework this year. It’s been a lot of hard work, but being up [on the podium] pays off. I was trying to pay attention to what was going on behind me but still look ahead. I did all I could to stay up front, but Ryan [Villopoto] got by me.” Huge comeback for an underachiever the last two years.
Ryan Dungey. The Red Bull KTM factory rider continues to use his consistency to rack up points in his bid for a third 450 SX championship. Rarely the fastest rider on the track, Dungey wasn’t even able to chase down Brayton at Phoenix. However, his strategy for winning depends on landing on the podium every week, and he achieved that. Dungey. He comes away from the Round 2 in 2nd place, one point behind Villopoto and two points up on Ken Roczen. It’s a win, but it will be difficult for him to win the 2014 Championship without some victories.
James Stewart. He kept his Yoshimura Suzuki RM-Z450 on two wheels in Phoenix, finished the race, and collected points. This is a “win” after last week’s crash-and-burn performance. Stewart wasn’t particularly fast, tooling around in fourth for most of the race, picking up a few positions after his mediocre start. Collecting 18 points is a win after his DNF at A1.
The Fans. Despite Heats and Semis that were less exciting than A1, the Phoenix fans still got to see an exciting Main event. Brayton unexpectedly challenged for the top step of the podium right up to the final corners. Points are tight with the top three riders only three points apart. This bodes well for the rest of the 17-race series, unless Villopoto hits his stride early.
Justin Barcia. While the Team Honda Muscle Milk Honda rider didn’t quite have everything going his way in Phoenix as he did at last week’s A1, he walks away with the same 5th place result. He squandered a third place start, passing Brayton for the lead on Lap 6. However, they came together and he lost two positions, eventually fading to 5th. With teammates Eli Tomac and Trey Canard on the sidelines, more is expected of Barcia than consistent 5ths, leaving him in 6th in the points race. Loss.
Ken Roczen. Winning the opening round puts the pressure on you, and the Red Bull KTM rider did not respond. Starting in 5th place, Roczen foolishly let himself get cleaned out by Barcia on the flattrack corner, putting him on the dirt. He picked himself up, but could only manage a 6th place, dropping him to third in the standings. Loss.
Chad Reed. He looked like the good old 2011 Reed at A1, landing on the podium, but the Discount Tire TwoTwo Motorsports rider barely finished in the top 10 at Phoenix. With a lousy start, Reed never managed higher than 10th place and looked more like the also-ran 2013 Reed. Which Reed will show up for A2?
James Stewart. Yes, he was also a Winner because he didn’t crash out, but Stewart needs to get on the podium, not fall farther behind. His 4th place only gets him to 9th in the points, 21 behind Villopoto. With the quality of riders in the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series, he can’t afford to let the Ryans and Roczen build this much of a lead.
Jake Weimer. If you’re riding a Monster Energy Kawasaki KX450F, 18th place is simply not good enough. Two races in, he is only a point ahead of Mike Alessi and out of the top 10. Loss.
Josh Hill. 18th at A1. Doesn’t qualify for the Phoenix Main. He is floundering. Loss.
Eli Tomac and Trey Canard. The two Honda riders’ 2014 championship hopes are over. Both will miss the first three races, at least, leaving 75 nonredeemable points on the table. That has to be a bitter pill for the pair to swallow. Double Loss.
Action photography by Don Williams