We’ve passed the halfway point in the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season and just as the competition was starting to look a little less heated, and racers were maybe settling into their positions, the opening lap of Round 9 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis turned everything on end. Let’s see who won and who lost.
Ryan Dungey. Red Bull KTM. Dungey is on a roll, third podium in the past three races, and finally got the monkey off his back with a win. Yes, Ryan Villopoto, James Stewart, and Ken Roczen, went down early on lap one and had to battle back all race, but Dungey has had misfortunes of his own this season. He got around holeshot artist Mike Alessi on Lap 4, then pulled out a comfortable margin that allowed him to ride his 450 SX-F unchallenged the rest of the race. At the checkers he had almost a seven-second lead over runner-up Eli Tomac. “We are only halfway into the season and I’m finally gaining some points toward the championship,” Dungey said. “My goal is to remain consistent as you never know what can happen with eight rounds remaining.” Win.
Eli Tomac. GEICO Honda. Tomac finally had a result that looked like the Tomac we were expecting in 2014. He got off the gate well and was into 3rd by the end of the first lap. Although he didn’t get around Mike Alessi until Lap 12 when Alessi made a mistake and went down, he kept his CRF450R on two wheels on the technical track. “You had to be on your toes and consistent the entire 20 laps because the track was so rutted and gnarly,” Tomac said. “It would make some of the best guys in the world look like they weren’t all that good, at least that’s how it felt to me.” Though not in contention for the championship, it was good to see Tomac back to form. Win.
Cole Seely. Team Honda Muscle Milk. It was a smart idea from the Team Honda Muscle Milk folks, to tap West Coast Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda 250 rider Seely as a fill-in for the two injured 450 riders – Justin Barcia and Trey Canard. Seely has been called to duty twice before – once each in 2013 and 2012 – and it’s clear he is comfortable on the CRF450R. He put himself in a good position early in the race and was able to grab the last step on the podium when Alessi went down. Seely has the ride through the next two rounds, before returning to the 250SX West title chase, where he sits just four points out of 1st place. Seely’s first career 450SX podium is not a bad way to spend your mid-season break. Win.
Ryan Villopoto. Monster Energy Kawasaki. How did Villopoto manage to go down in the start straight pile up, remount in 17th place, and then end the night extending his points lead by double digits? “I found myself on the ground but if you’re going to be on the ground it makes it better when the rider [Roczen] you’re in the points battle with is there as well,” said Villopoto. It didn’t hurt that James Stewart, then sitting 3rd in points, went down in another pileup just around the corner in the first turn. So, it was a matter of riding his KX450F through the pack and making the most out of a bad night. When Villopoto isn’t on the box, he’s just a step or two off. Win.
Mike Alessi. MotoConcepts Suzuki. Another impressive night of riding for Alessi, starting with a holeshot and win in his Heat race, besting both Ryans, then followed up with the Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot in the Main. After being passed by Dungey on Lap 4, he held Tomac off convincingly well for another eight laps before he got cross-rutted and went down. Unable to get his RM-Z450 started before being passed by 10 riders (ouch!), Alessi had a disappointing 15th place finish. Also, the Fox Sports 1 announcing crew seemed to be cheerleading a bit for Alessi with Ricky Carmichael out of the booth. Still, bouncing back from last week’s controversy, this was a Win.
Andrew Short. BTO Sports KTM. Just after I had noticed Short had staked out the mid-section of the order, with seven 9th or 10th place finishes in eight races, he takes his 450 SX-F to a season’s best 6th place finish. On a night that saw lots of riders down and almost everyone making mistakes, Short changed up several things on his bike after practice and it paid off. Win.
Ken Roczen. Red Bull KTM. It just wasn’t Roczen’s night. It started with an extra six laps around Lucas Oil Stadium, as he did not qualify directly out of his Heat and had to go the Semi. Later, the German rider ended up on the ground at the end of the start straight in the Main. Roczen remounted his 450 SX-F slowly, and started making is way through the field. He got as far as 9th before crashing on Lap 12 and retiring for the night. Roczen was just nine points behind series-leader Villopoto coming into the night’s event, but has lost position to Dungey, and leaves Lucas Oil Stadium in 3rd place, over a race down. Lose.
James Stewart. Yoshimura Suzuki. Having the fastest qualifying time and winning your Heat doesn’t mean much at the end of the night if you get caught in a pileup just after the first turn that leaves you with bent handlebars. Stewart had to battle the gnarly rutted track from 21st position, eventually riding his RM-Z450 to a 7th place finish. “I was right there in, I think, a top-five start and then, boom, I was on the ground,” said Stewart. He lost a few points on the night, and drops from 3rd to 4rth in the standings. He’s only four points behind Roczen and seven behind Dungey, but reeling in Villopoto is incrementally becoming harder. Lose.
Photography by Simon Cudby and Jake Klingensmith