Yes, it was only a weekend off, but it felt more like a month-long camping trip in the deep woods; no racing for 14 days! "Thank you Easter Bunny," he said sarcastically. At least it provided some time for riders to rest, relax and recuperate for the hard drive of the final five rounds of the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. After all, the entire season comes down to these final events and how well each rider performs here at the end of a very long, hard fought series in the dirt. Every day which can be used for training, tuning and preparing becomes more and more valuable now. Fine for the teams and riders, but what about the fans?
For us, it was all about the return to action in the hot lights of Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas, where the Supercross warriors finally remounted their machines in front of a crowd and fired up the excitement. The weekend really was a bit chaotic, with a surprise ending thrown in, but it ended with most everyone staying exactly where they were when each entered the Houston event. However, the results don't tell us everything, and the racing produced - as it always does - a thrilling experience for team members, fans and everyone who turned an eye to the field.
With the Supercross Lites East series winding down now, only one round remains before the Las Vegas finale, the rivalries there sure warmed up. The Supercross class itself has only four between now and the trip to Nevada, so riders competing at the premier level are under their own pressures and must make every lap count. The Championship is on the line and only a few more opportunities are available to add those valuable points. With this firmly in mind, let's see how the MotoSport.com contingent fared:
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
Two weeks ago, in the confines of the Rogers Centre in Toronto, the Rockstar Energy Racing team had both of their currently active riders finish on the podium. Supercross superstar Davi Millsaps had perhaps the best weekend of the crew with a solid 2nd place finish in the Main, but Blake Wharton, his 250 Lites East teammate, also landed a podium slot by finishing 3rd. These results brought important points their way and both riders maintained their high placements in the overall standings. At least one Championship is well within reach, with a second a slightly more remote possibility, thus keeping pressure on the team, but also holding excitement. The Easter break could have either worked as welcome rest or as a momentum sink, but which one for the Rockstar Energy team? Let's see:
Davi Millsaps left Toronto second overall in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship after securing a 2nd place finish in that night's Main Event. It may have been a resounding announcement that his knee had fully recovered, or that he was capable of competing at a high level through whatever pain he experienced, but it was a good result and one which the Rockstar Energy team was proud to have earned. In Houston, after the two week break, Millsaps was back at it again. In his Qualifying Practice, he pulled in lap times in the first outing which landed him second, but his follow-up ride could only bring him in fifth quickest even though he shaved a second off of his personal best time this night. He thus had the 3rd gate choice in Heat 1. Once the gates dropped on the Heat race, Millsaps got a decent start, but a nasty tie-up in the second turn stopped him in his tracks; he didn't fall, but he did go down the order. After he got back moving at his pace again, though, he advanced very quickly and managed to grab the 6th spot by the end of the second lap. In short order, Millsaps picked through the riders in front of him and had 4th with three laps remaining and a 7 second gap to 3rd. It was too much of a gap to make up in the short Heat race, though he got close, and Millsaps took 4th place in that race. This gave him the 7th gate pick for the Main Event.
When the Supercross Main began, Millsaps got off the line without incident at the start, but could only land himself in the top half of the order. By the end of the first lap, he had secured the 9th position, but still only about 6 seconds from the front. One more lap and one more position, Millsaps took 8th and then passed for 7th a few turns later. Working hard to make up time, Millsaps ran smoothly and surely, and by the end of the seventh lap he was in 6th. While the riders at the front, except for runaway race winner Ryan Villopoto, diced it up, Millsaps held a steady pace. At the half-way point in the race, however, Suzuki-mounted James Stewart went down hard, giving up his position and handing Millsaps 5th place. And, this is how it remained; the gap to 4th was too large to make up, but the space between Millsaps and 6th was enormous. So, a 5th place finish was what he brought home for the Rockstar Energy team, along with the much needed 16 Championship points which come along with it. Now that the Houston round is over, Millsaps continues to hold steady in the second overall position of the Supercross Championship standings owning a total of 256 points, with 21 points keeping him from winning it all. He has four more Supercross events in which to earn more, and this sport is full of twists and turns, so Davi Millsaps is still within reach of the 2013 crown. Will he do it? Stay tuned.
When we last saw Rockstar Energy Racing Lites East rider Blake Wharton, we witnessed him finishing his main event in Toronto in a respectable 3rd place, earning points and holding him in third overall for the 2013 Championship. With such a performance and a mostly healthy body, Wharton likely did not need the break, but he used it and this was on full display at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Qualifying Practice for Wharton turned into a warm-up in which he managed to hold inside the top ten quickest riders and where he dropped over a second from his times. Finally ending with the seventh fastest lap, Wharton landed in the night's second Lites Heat. When the race began, Wharton shot off the line and was already in second place behind KTM-mounted Marvin Musquin rounding the first bend. However, 2013 Arenacross Champion Tyler Bowers, getting his well-deserved call-up into the Supercross series, pushed him wide going into the third turn, taking 2nd and letting another rider though into 3rd, and Wharton fell back to fourth. It did not last very long as Wharton was back in third two turns later. Stability ensued for the leaders and Wharton held on to his position until the checkered flag was dropped, earning a 3rd overall for the Heat. In the Main Event, Wharton secured the fifth choice of starting slot.
After lining up, the gates dropped on the Main and Wharton was away, but two major tie-ups brought down some riders early. This did not hold up Wharton as he was in 5th position by the second turn, and he punched into 3rd by the next corner, then 2nd one turn later, and then he took the lead - all in less than one lap! He wasn't entirely alone, however, as he had Musquin challenging him from behind. Right before the end of the first lap, Wharton slipped into second behind the KTM rider. Again, it was short-lived, as Wharton quickly went back to the front a few bends later. It looked like it would be a dogfight between Wharton and second place runner Musquin until the end, but a mistake by the KTM rider dropped him from the challenge and allowed then 3rd place rider Wil Hahn to pass him by, thus gifting Wharton a sizeable leading gap. Hahn was trying for the win, though, and he was quick to make up that distance and began to challenge Wharton. At the finish line on lap 11, though, Hahn misjudged his distance to Wharton and ended up losing some time, again providing some space for Wharton. This repeated itself a few more times, with Hahn coming up close and the falling back again, right up to the finish. When that flag dropped, the Houston stop was Wharton's first win of the 2013 season. Perhaps it was because the race was in front of Wharton's home-state crowd, or maybe it was just due to the continual hard effort he puts into this sport, but no matter what the reason, Wharton put on a stellar performance this night. The 25 points he earned from this race gives him a total of 133, which is currently 23 points from the Championship title. Only one round stands between Wharton and the Vegas finale, so he has only one more chance to earn points towards the crown before he goes into the Championship decider. Wharton has the momentum, all he needs now are the results and some luck.
The trip to Reliant Stadium in Houston turned out to be an exercise in duality - Lites East rider Blake Wharton brought home his first win of the year in the race which passes for his hometown event, but Supercross star Davi Millspas had an uncharacteristic "good" race, not up to his usual standard of greatness. Even so, Millsaps continues to be right behind the current Championship leader and has a real chance to take that position away from him. Wharton occupies the third-highest slot in his class, and though his fight is more difficult, he too could challenge for a crown of his own. Next week will see the Rockstar Energy Racing team saddle up with the rest of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross participants in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This will be the last 2013 Lites East race before the Vegas finale, though there are a total of four rounds remaining overall, with the West region beginning again in Seattle a week afterwards. Rockstar Energy Suzuki is in it with some of the best riders in the sport, so make sure you are ready on April 13th to see what this team has in store for us fans!
MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing:
The MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing team sat out the Houston round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship due to the injury suffered by Lites East rider Gareth Swanepoel back at the Daytona round in Florida. Unfortunately, there is no update on his condition at this time. We do look forward to the MotoSport.com/ADR team's return to action in two weeks when the Lites West series starts up again on April 20th at Quest Field in Seattle. Riders Ricky Dietrich and Kade Mosig will be back to resume their season in the final push toward the last round in Las Vegas. We wait...
2013 GNCC Offroad Series:
Kailub Russell entered Sunday's FMF Steel Creek GNCC race tied with fellow Factory KTM rider Charlie Mullins for the lead, and the two did not disappoint fans. Round three, held in Morganton, NC, featured a grueling three-hour battle with Mullins taking the lead for good mid-way through the seven lap race. He bested Russell by more than two minutes.
Russell fell sick earlier last week with a cold and said it was hard to keep his energy level up to finish the race. However, his toughness beat any lingering ill effects and he was happy to reach the podium with a second place finish. Russell and Mullins quickly passed holeshot winner Paul Whibley with Russell holding down the lead for two laps before Mullins jumped out in front by lap three. The two exchanged lead positions several times until lap four. Russell sits behind Mullins in the standings by five points with 10 races left.
Steele Creek GNCC Results:1. Charlie Mullins 2. Kaliub Russell 3. Chris Bach 4. Jordan Ashburn 5. Rory Mead 6. Nick Fahringer 7. Ricky DRussell 8. Takeshi Koikeda 9. Adam Bonneur 10. Ian Blyth
GNCC Series Standings:1. Charlie Mullins (85) 2. Kailub Russell (80) 3. Chris Bach (52) 4. Josh Strang (48) 5. Paul Whibley (43) 6. Thad DuVall (42) 7. Jordan Ashburn (39) 8. Ricky Russell (39) 9. Takeshi Koikeda (37) 10. Adam Bonneur (33) here.