Tuesday Race Update - 26 March 2013
Spring has sprung, yet the cold of winter seems to be hanging around, especially in the Great White North of Toronto, Canada. Inside the Rogers Center, that chill was in the air, but not for long; once the Monster Energy AMA Supercross started engines and riders began circulating the indoor course, everyone and everything began to heat up.
With only the Supercross Championship in action in the indoor racing world, all eyes turned to the action north of the border on March 23rd. The series is beginning to tighten up, only five rounds are left to be run, including the final in Las Vegas, and that means only a few more events in which to earn vital points. With the Lites classes, the four stops before Vegas are evenly split between East and West, so the riders in those regional divisions are under even more pressure to bring in the results. Each and every race counts even more now, both teams and fans know this, thus these final rounds are often packed with action - both driven and desperate - and are the most closely watched of the season. How did the MotoSport.com teams fare? Glad you asked:
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
Last week, at the Indianapolis round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team had somewhat mixed results. Supercross rider Davi Millsaps has had a career season thus far, and he battled back from a knee injury last weekend to turn in an impressive Heat race and a solid 4th position in the Main Event. This allowed him to maintain his high position in the points and kept the title well within reach. Supercross Lites East rider Blake Wharton also seemed to be on pace for a stellar result last weekend. His Qualifying and Heat performances had him on pace for what might have been his first victory of the season, but an error in the very last lap right before the final corner cost him the win in the Main. With that weekend behind the team, Toronto had to be better if there is to be a Championship for either rider, so let's see how it all went down:
With last week's 4th place finish in the Main, Rockstar Energy Racing rider Davi Millsaps continued to maintain second overall in the AMA Supercross Championship points race coming into the Toronto round. It was certainly not the result Millsaps wanted, but it was very good considering that he nursed a knee injury throughout the Indianapolis event, and it held him where he needs to be in the fight for the 2013 Championship crown. As he continued to have issues with soreness at this track, Millsaps could only mark the fifth fastest lap time in Qualifying Practice. The performance was good enough to give him a good start in his Heat, but was surely not what fans are accustomed to from this highly competitive racer.
In his Heat 2 race, Millsaps snagged a decent start and ran with the lead group out of the first turn, settling into a close 4th spot. Quickly, Millsaps took over 3rd even before the second corner of the second lap. He gapped 4th place and started to gain on 2nd. Each lap brought Millsaps closer to second-place and Honda-mounted rider Justin Barcia as his times got better - and both riders drew closer and closer to the race leader, defending Champion Ryan Villopoto. The final lap of the Heat brought Millsaps right next to 2nd place, with both riders going toe-to-toe over jumps and bumps right to the Finish. Barcia held out, though, and Millsaps came home in 3rd; even though he did not win the event, Millsaps was the quickest around the track out of all riders in that Heat.
In the main event race, Millsaps qualified for the 5th slot. When his gate dropped, Millsaps charged off the line and again found himself in the lead group and had secured second position by the end of the first lap. When lap 2 ended, Millsaps was in first, but he was not alone at the front. Lap 4 had him ahead by 2 seconds with Ryan Villopoto coming up fast from behind. In Lap 7, Millsaps' lead was less than a second over 2nd. At the half-way point, the order remained like this with Villopoto occasionally getting close, but not having what he needed to pass Millsaps. In each of these mid-race laps, Villopoto would show a wheel and then Millsaps would respond by grabbing throttle and jetting forward.
But, in Lap 11, Villopoto got the best of Davi and the defending Champion took over the lead. At this point, with all the hard riding at the front slowing the two leaders a bit, KTM man Ryan Dungey had caught up to them and was challenging Millsaps for the second spot. It did not last, as Dungey encountered a bike issue, lost his momentum, and his position to Chad Reed, shortly after Villopoto gained the lead. Nothing would change at the front for the remainder of the Main event, and when the checkered flag was waved, Millsaps held on to 2nd place to finish on the podium once more.
Unfortunately, he only earned 22 points and was behind current Championship points leader - and 2012 Champion - Ryan Villopoto at the flag. Still, given the fact he is continuing to recover from that injured knee, Millsaps put on an amazing performance to land those all-important points. Millsaps remains within reach of the 2013 AMA Supercross Championship with only 12 points separating his solid 2nd overall and first place on the sheet. Consistency has kept the Championship hopes alive for Davi Millsaps and the Rockstar Energy Suzuki team.
As we witnessed previously, Rockstar Energy Suzuki Supercross Lites East rider Blake Wharton experienced the chaotic nature of racing last week when the series made its stop in Indianapolis. Even with this, Wharton held fast in 3rd overall in the Championship points race and had some distance between himself and those behind him. Most of this is simply due to his consistent practice of running at the front. In Qualifying Practice in Toronto, Wharton again proved his skill and determination to win by turning in what was the second quickest lap time of the night, after slicing more than 2 seconds off his first run, and ended behind only his stiffest competition, Honda-mounted rider Wil Hahn. Such performances reward the rider with good position in the Heat races, and Wharton sidled up in the first slot for Heat 1.
In that race, Wharton launched off the Start and, though he did not get the holeshot, he was secure in the second slot and riding right on lead rider Vince Friese's heels. By lap 3, both riders were side-by-side and dueling it out for that first spot, but it would not last. When lap 4 began, Wharton had put a sizeable lead on the second-position rider. The lead only got bigger as Heat 1 wore on and he easily won the race - his third Heat victory in 2013 - and good position for the night's Main Event.
The Main opened with Wharton qualifying for the second slot and starting from the outside. When the gates dropped, Wharton had a middling start and was at the back of the lead group going into the second turn. By the end of that first lap, he had pushed his way into 3rd position and began his attack on the lead riders. Wharton was handed 2nd when one of those up front encountered issues which dropped him down the order; now Wharton had the win in his sights. Championship points leader Wil Hahn was right behind him, though, and he possessed an urgency to maintain his points lead. This battle lasted for a few laps and, after gaining slowly on Wharton, Hahn made a pass in lap 7 and started to grow a gap.
At the front, the Main kept this order, with the gaps opening a bit and then closing some, throughout the remaining 8 laps. Only the fourth place rider, Yamaha rider Jeremy Martin challenged for third in the final laps of the event. Wharton held his own, though, and finished a strong 3rd when the checkered flag fell to add 20 more points to his total. With that added to his season points total, Wharton held on to 3rd overall in the Championship and sits a mere 26 points out of first place and the title. As he only has two more rounds and the final in Vegas, the 2013 AMA Supercross Lites series will surely bring nail-biting excitement for fans of the Rockstar Energy Lites East rider in these last few weeks of the season.
At Round 12 in the Rogers Centre at Toronto, it turned into an action-packed weekend for the Rockstar Energy Suzuki Racing team, and the team handled it very well by holding firm to their position in the standings. Davi Millsaps has had season-long momentum and has produced consistent results of which any rider would be proud. Being in 2nd overall in the Supercross Championship with only five rounds remaining is an important accomplishment and bodes very well for the team.
Blake Wharton had a very uncharacteristic race the week previous, but in Toronto he redeemed himself quite well and he still has a chance to take it all. What's in store for these riders? Only the final races of the season will answer that question. However, all teams get a weekend off before the next round, thus confusing things even more as some riders get the chance to recover from injury, some will improve bike setup, and all will make plans for the final events. Tune in on April 6th for Round 13 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, and see what the next Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship has in store for the teams and all of us fans!
MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing:
Unfortunately, the MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing team had to once again sit out at the Toronto round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship due to the severe injury sustained by Supercross Lites East rider Gareth Swanepoel. His hard hit while in Qualifying Practice at the Daytona round earlier this month fractured his wrist, handing the rider a difficult problem to overcome in a sport which taxes the entire body to its limits even when perfectly healthy. There is no update for the team from this round. Two of the team's riders will be returning to the track come April 20th at Qwest Field in Seattle when Supercross Lites West riders Ricky Dietrich and Kade Mosig get to resume their season. Until then, we will have to wait...