By now, most have recovered from the St. Patrick's Day festivities - hopefully, that green dye washed out - and are looking back on the third weekend in March to see what happened.
Though the answer to that will vary by the individual, in the off-road racing world there were two national level series in action. Starting out the weekend was the final round of the AMSOIL AMA Arenacross Championship - which was held in Denver Coliseum in Colorado from Friday through Sunday - where the list of 2013 champions for all classes, including the new-format Race to the Championship, was finally decided. On that Saturday, Round 11 of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship also had riders circulating the track, but over in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana. Since there are six rounds remaining in the SX series, no final standings were in order, but points continued to accumulate in both the premier Supercross class and, at this stop, in the SX Lites East series.
Plenty of action available to keep enthusiasts either glued to their TV sets or on the edge of their seats for those lucky enough to attend either one of these events. This also means that MotoSport.com had riders running for the flag at both venues. Let's see how they all fared in what was the final weekend of a long winter:
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
After the Daytona round, where Rockstar Energy Racing's Davi Millsaps dropped back to second place in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship race, the team had to re-group and prepare to work its way back to the top. At Lucas Oil Stadium, located in Indianapolis, Indiana, where round 11 was held, the team had its work cut out for it. Millsaps needed to maintain his consistency and earn big points, and teammate Blake Wharton needed to do the same in order to gain position in the hotly contested 250 Lites East series. Both riders being fierce competitors and skilled pilots meant that fans could expect them to give their every effort to achieve these goals. With the competition heating up every weekend, though, would it be enough?
Last weekend, at the fabled Daytona Bike Week and Round 10 of the AMA SX series, Davi Millsaps had an uncharacteristic bad day in the dirt and he lost the lead in the Championship and the Red Plate that comes with it. Coming into the Indianapolis round, though, he still held a very solid 2nd position and was only 2 points adrift of the overall 1st place position. Millsaps had work to do. In Qualifying Practice, he was off his normal pace in the first outing, coming in only 8th quickest; the second trip out was better, and Millsaps finished in 5th overall. This performance gave him a good slot in Heat 2, where he lined up between Yamaha rider Ben Lamay and KTM man Andrew Short.
The Heat race started with Millsaps getting off well, but not in the top-5. By the end of the first lap he worked his way inside that group, and advanced into 4th a short time afterwards. Mid-way through his third time around, he passed for 3rd and began to hunt down 2nd position rider Short. By the fifth lap, he finally achieved 2nd place and had open track behind Heat race leader James Stewart. However, Stewart already had a commanding lead and Millsaps could not have caught him, so the Rockstar Energy rider finished the Heat in 2nd, securing his spot in the night's Main Event. In the Main, Millsaps lined up between Suzuki-mounted Stewart and Honda rider Trey Canard. At the start, Millsaps rocketed out of the gate and grabbed the holeshot, but Stewart was right behind him, and a mistake only three corners in allowed Stewart to take the lead. Millsaps was able to hang with Stewart and kept a firm grip on 2nd, but current Championship leader, and defending SX Champion, Ryan Villopoto was also holding his own in third and beginning to gain.
At the very end of the sixth lap, Villopoto capitalized on his momentum and he flew past Millsaps on the Finish jump to take over 2nd. Now that Millsaps was in 3rd, he held onto the back end of Villiopoto but he had another advancing rider to contend with, KTM's Ryan Dungey. Right after this occurred, race leader Stewart stalled his Suzuki and was at a dead stop. This put Millsaps in 2nd again when he passed the halted rider, but only for a few hundred feet as Dungey came right by him shortly after both riders went around Stewart. Millsaps settled into 3rd while the two leaders slowly started pulling away at the front, but he had the fortune to be 7 seconds ahead of the now 4th place rider, Stewart. However, Stewart started to gain on Millsaps and a tiny mistake allowed Stewart to cut that time to less than 3 seconds with three laps remaining.
Stewart caught him, and the battle for third began with about one-and-a-half laps to go. Another bobble from Millsaps in the final lap let Stewart take over 3rd place and take an insurmountable lead. Thus, Millsaps finished off of the podium in 4th, but still earned 18 very important points. After 11 rounds, Millsaps holds down 2nd overall in the Championship with 218 points; this puts him 9 points back from 1st and 8 ahead of 3rd overall. It was sure not the result Millsaps wanted from his trip to Indianapolis, but he did secure those valuable points, held his Championship slot, and accomplished it all with a nagging knee injury. Not a bad weekend for the Rockstar Energy Suzuki rider, not bad at all.
When Blake Wharton, Rockstar Energy Racing's Lites East pilot, rode onto the dirt at Lucas Oil Stadium, he did so holding fourth overall in the 2013 Championship race. In order to gain position, his race had to be very good and his competition would need to finish behind him. Once Qualifying Practice began, Wharton was in fine form and landed in the top-10 in his first outing, but his second run was more challenging and he did not improve. This placed him 9th quickest of all competitors and in the 5th slot for Heat 2, and this is where it changed for the better.
When the gate dropped in the event, Kawasaki-mounted Dean Wilson was first off the line and took the holeshot, but the lead going into the second corner belonged to Kawasaki rider Justin Hill. Wharton sat in 4th at this point, but only until Wilson went down hard and #13 took over 3rd behind Honda rider Wil Hahn. Again, this lasted only moments before Hahn first took 1st and then went on an off-track excursion letting Wharton slide comfortably into 2nd. This, then, only lasted about half a lap before Wharton passed Hill and grabbed his spot at the front. By lap four of the six lap Heat, Wharton had opened up a gap between his Suzuki and 2nd place. Wharton took victory and guaranteed his start in the Main Event where he would line up in the 2nd slot.
On to the Main Event and Wharton grabbed the holeshot taking the lead into the first corner while riders behind became tangled in a first turn pile-up. By the second turn, however, Wharton briefly lost his lead to Kyle Peters and his Honda, but Wharton went back to the front a few corners later. Wharton continued to lead all riders throughout the Main, holding 1st all the way, but Peters began to gain on the leader.
With two laps remaining, KTM rider Marvin Musquin, who was on a charge after falling in the first lap and having to work his way up from the back, passed Peters and started to hunt down Wharton. In the last lap, Wharton runs into a tough block and goes down and hands Musquin the lead. While re-mounting, others which were behind Wharton start to pass him and he is only able to start moving again in 9th position which is also where he finishes. After leading for almost the entire 250 Lites event, it is a simple error which costs Wharton what would have been his first victory of 2013. However, even with the less than stellar finish, Wharton earns 12 championship points, and that is enough to land him in 3rd overall with only 15 points holding him back from 2nd.
Now, with Indianapolis and SX Round 11 wrapped up, the Rockstar Energy Suzuki Racing team has both riders in position to challenge for their respective Championships. High flier Davi Millsaps dealt with adversity and pain, yet earned enough points to keep his position squarely within less than one race from the top slot; one event can make all the difference in his 2013 season. Lites rider Blake Wharton also performed admirably and even gained a spot this weekend, so it was certainly not a lost weekend for him.
Our next event is to be held in Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, so the team better have passports in hand. We know they do, and we know that every minute between now and the first drop of the gate on March 23rd will be spent getting ready to fight for the win. Davi Millsaps has six rounds left and Blake Wharton has only three more until the Las Vegas finale to earn his points. Anything can happen in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, so make sure you don't miss any of it - it's simply too exciting!
MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing:
With the Daytona Supercross round in the books, the MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Race team had to split for this weekend in March. Since the team is running both an off-road and a road race team, the dirt contingent was off to Indianapolis, while the road crew remained behind in Florida for the AMA Pro Racing Daytona 200 more on that here. Unfortunately for the team and fans alike, at the Supercross event on the Denver Coliseum dirt, Supercross Lites East rider Gareth Swanepoel had to sit the round out due to the nasty wrist injury he suffered at the Daytona round in Qualifying Practice. Thus, for this round, there is no MotoSport.com/ADR SX update. Next weekend, the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship goes north of the border for round 12 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, and we hope to have more to report for you.
MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing Arenacross Team:
The final round of the AMSOIL AMA Arenacross Championship was held in Denver Coliseum in Colorado, and it was here that all Championship winners were officially decided and announced. The MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Race team was in full attendance and eager to get on the track even though no riders on the team had a chance to take home the top honor on this night. Only two riders from the team would actually be in action, though, as this was a West Region event and the team had at least one injured rider, Steven Mages. That mean that we would only see Nathan Skaggs and Willy Browning bringing home points for the team, but this did nothing to make this weekend any less exciting.
After maintaining his 7th place overall position in the Race to the Championship in the Sprint Center two weeks ago, the MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing team captain, Nathan Skaggs, knew he would not be able to grab the crown for 2013. Even though, Skaggs wanted to race and, as always, put his best on the line under the lights in Denver. Skaggs pushed through Qualifying Practice, as he often does, and easily made it to the Arenacross Main Event.
In Friday's first Main, Skaggs brought home a 10th place finish, placing him right behind Kawasaki-mounted Tyler Villopoto. In the next race, Skaggs did not get in as solid of a run, and the best he could get was 15th position. Friday's results added up to an overall 14th and netted Skaggs only 9 points. Saturday was to be a better trip to the track for Skaggs, and far more rewarding. In the first Main of the final race of the season, Skaggs came through the finish on his KTM in 6th, right in front of teammate Willy Browning. Ten more laps of Main 2 down, and Skaggs rounded out his night with an 8th place finish. This was good enough for 7th overall and another 20 points.
When all points were tallied and positions set for the final time, Nathan Skaggs finished the 2013 AMSOIL AMA Arenacross Race to the Championship in 8th overall, missing 7th by only three points. It is surely not where Skaggs wanted to be here at the end of the Arenacross year, but he was one of only ten riders to compete for the 2013 crown out of a field of nearly 40, so it was a positive season nonetheless. Watch this space for Nathan Skaggs in 2014.
Willy Browning has had a good year; even if he was not in a position to take the 2013 title when he arrived in Denver, he was in the Race to the Championship and had one victory to his name. This night would have him put in a solid Qualifying Practice performance, thus landing him a coveted starting slot in the Main Event. The Friday Main was certainly better for him than his teammate; in the first 10-lap event, Browning reeled in a 5th place finish. Main 2 was much the same, though he did lose one spot, and he hauled the KTM past the checkers in 6th.
For Friday, Browning had a respectable overall 4th place and walked away with another 23 points to add to his total. Saturday almost turned into deja vu for the Motosport.com/JBR/Spinechillers rider. His first Main result had him in 7th, but Main 2 was better and he finished up in 5th. Overall, though, it was only good enough for 6th position, though his performance did earn him an additional 22 points, only one less than his 4th spot the night before. When his final Race to the Championship points were totaled, Willy Browning had finished the 2013 AMSOIL AMA Arenacross Championship in 6th overall; a fine showing for the MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers rider, and a great setup for what is to come.
Though there is no action report for MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers rider Steven Mages, we do know where his 2013 season finished. Mages narrowly missed the Race to the Championship in its first year, but he still scored points racing all season long. It was enough for Mages to end the AMSOIL AMA Arenacross season in 12th place overall, second from the top of riders not in the Race to the Championship, and a grand final part to this chapter of his career. In the Arenacross Lites West series, he finished up in 6th overall. Mages did take one victory in the Lites class during the year, and that surely helped that result. Next season will surely bring even more from the always busy and very competitive Steven Mages.
Tanner Sisson, riding mainly in the Arenacross Lites West region, ended the 2013 AMSOIL AMA Arenacross season in an overall 16th place. Given the issues the racer encountered this year, that is a solid performance, and it did place Sisson above another 13 athletes who also managed to score points during the year. We will surely see the return of Tanner Sisson in 2014.
Zach Easter and Caleb Rhoads are a bit younger than their fellow riders on the MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers team, but they were just as fierce on the track. At the end of the 2013 AMSOIL AMA Arenacross season, Easter placed in 3rd overall in the SuperMini 9-15 East Championship and Rhoads was right behind him there - only two points separated them - in 4th overall. In the second class in which they both competed, SuperMini 9-15 North, they scored even higher. This time Rhoads ended one point ahead of his teammate in 2nd, leaving 3rd for Easter. Next year could be a whole different experience for both of these young competitors; given what we have seen thus far, finding them at the top of the higher class standings would not be surprising in the least!
That is it for the 2013 AMSOIL AMA Arenacross Championship - all awards have been presented, the teams are all on their way home, and preparations for next season have started. The MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing Team performed at a high level all year long and is surely ready for some rest, but not too much. The 2014 will be here quicker than anyone imagines and there is a great deal of work to get done before that. Of course, many of these riders also have other race series in which to compete, so there is little doubt that each of them has plenty on which to focus in the near term. For a solid 2013 season, this team deserves appreciation for all that they have done. So, please join us in giving a big "Thank YOU" to team members Nathan Skaggs, Willy Browning, Steven Mages, Tanner Sisson, Zach Easter and Caleb Rhoads - and to team owner and manager of the MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Race Team, Dallas Avery, and his partner in this, Eddie Forsythe, we wish you "GOOD LUCK" in 2014.