Seattle, Washington, and its CenturyLink Field had the honor of hosting round 15 of the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, and it just had to start out with some rain and cool weather. MUD - that is the Pacific Northwest's usual demeanor, and all those who lined up to compete on the track there were prepared for whatever Mother Nature could throw at them - experience teaches us all. Fortunately, the skies opening up on all did not dampen the proceedings, but the moisture they brought surely added some additional character to the day's races.
Here in Seattle, the Supercross Lites West series resumed in its penultimate round before the Las Vegas finale at Sam Boyd Stadium next month. Riders from the Lites East had the chance to rest and ready themselves for that final 2013 event. Supercross 450cc competitors, though, do not get the break and they all had to put everything into these final races since they only have two stops after this one to earn precious points. All together, everything teams put into this season comes down to these final races, these last few attempts at grabbing position can mean the difference between a crown and going home empty handed.
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship is always exciting, but this time of the season is when things get desperate for many. Excitement is increased, the stakes are far higher and even the fans are cheering louder as their favorites ride at their best against the very talented rest. Seattle's results brought home just how tight the points standings can be leading into the final rounds - the top three in all classes are all within 30 points of each other - and sets us up for a serious battle next week in Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. For now, let's see how the riders supported by MotoSport.com fared in the confines of Century Link Field and where they sit in this exceptionally tense series:
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
Last week, the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team doubled up with two third place finishes; one of those came courtesy of premier class veteran Davi Millsaps in the 450cc Supercross class, and the other came from high-flying Lites East rider Blake Wharton. Now that the series has made its way back to the West Coast, the Lites West region is back in action, so Wharton did not get to ride this night. Instead, Lites West competitors Jason Anderson and Ryan Sipes flew the flag for the Rockstar Energy team at the Seattle round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, marking their return after a more than two month break. Did the Millsaps momentum hold up? Were the rest days good to Anderson and Sipes? Here we will find out:
Last week in the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Davi Millsaps came back from a so-so practice to dominate his Heat race, taking his sixth overall victory there this year, and took 3rd in the Main. It was not enough, unfortunately, for him to hold onto his coveted second overall in the Championship, and he fell back to 3rd. However, only a single point held him back. In the very muddy conditions in Seattle, Davi Millsaps then needed to finish near the top to not only advance another slot in the overall, but to also keep him in the running for the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. In Qualifying Practice, in his first session out, he was only 10th quickest, but he turned up the heat in the second session and finished with the quickest overall time; since it was not quicker (in absolute terms) than his earlier run, though far ahead of the rest of the field, Millsaps had to settle for the tenth spot and the fifth gate pick in his Heat. Getting away quick at the gate drop, Millsaps took the holeshot and first position after the first corner thus leading the pack. At the end of the first lap, Millsaps held onto 1st but he was being shadowed by Honda rider Justin Barcia. That is until Barcia attempted an inside pass on the leader and went down. After that, the lead Millsaps had achieved was insurmountable and his Heat was mostly uneventful. And, that is how Millsaps wins his seventh Heat race of 2013. Such a quality result gave him the second pick of gates in the Main, which turned into a rain-soaked adventure for all participating.
Here, when the gates dropped on the Seattle 450cc race, Millsaps did not get a prime start and found himself sitting in the middle of his fellow competitors. A first corner pile-up makes it all the more interesting as the overall Championship leader - Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto - is almost brought down by it. By the mid-point of the first lap, though, Millsaps had cleared most of the crowd and had pushed his way into 4th position. In the fourth lap, Millsaps gets around 3rd place at the Finish and takes it over. With the rain continuing to fall, Millsaps begins his charge on second place, which at this point is held by a steadily advancing Villopoto. At the half-way point of the Main, though, Millsaps was starting to lose ground to the race leaders, but he did not have anyone on his tail either, thus he ended up with some space. The Main continued like this for the race leaders with very little changing other than intervals at the front - quite surprising considering the track conditions - and, for Millsaps, this was how it ended. He came in at the Finish holding a lonely 3rd place and earned another trip to the podium. It was enough for a welcome 20 points, and enough to move Millsaps back into 2nd overall in the Championship standings with 296 points, only 25 back from current leader Villopoto. Next week, in Rice-Eccles Stadium, Millsaps will be riding for his 2013 season as Villopoto can conceivably clinch the title - it should not to be missed!
When we last looked at Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki rider Jason Anderson, he was riding in the Lites West round in San Diego at Qualcomm Stadium. In that event, Anderson landed a 3rd place podium spot which kept him in fourth overall in his series. Arriving in Seattle, Anderson had only this event and one more before his finale, so finishing high and earning points was a priority. In his Qualifying Practice, Anderson put on a show for his team. He came out in his first run and was tied for fourth quickest on the track, but his second run was even better, if a bit slower due to the conditions, and he managed the second quickest time on the board. Even so, it is the fastest absolute time which counts, so Anderson came in 5th quickest overall in Qualifying giving him a berth in the second Heat of the night. In that Heat, he took third gate choice. When the gates dropped on Heat 2, Anderson got off the line very well considering the track surface, and he was already in 4th by the first bend, then 3rd by the second turn. At the end of the first lap, he was sitting in 3rd right ahead of teammate Sipes. By the half-way point, he pulled himself around the 2nd place rider, Kawasaki-mounted Tyla Rattray, to take over the position. Unfortunately, the race leader, Honda man Eli Tomac, had checked out at the front and was essentially un-catchable by this point, so Anderson finished holding 2nd position and earned fourth gate choice for the Main.
When the Main started, Anderson does not get the jump off the line he had hoped for and he ends up in the lead of the middle group rather far behind even his teammate, Sipes. When the first lap order is registered, Anderson finds himself in 9th. As he crossed the Finish at the end of lap 2, though, he lost a spot and ends up in 10th. In his third lap, Anderson goes down, and thus lost several positions. When he comes out of it, he found himself in a lowly 16th place - but he does not tarry here for long and quickly attacks riders and takes positions. Thus, he held 12th position by the time the sixth lap began. Several laps later, with only five remaining, Anderson takes another spot. And, again, as the race nears its end, Anderson passes for 10th place, then 9th, and then 8th. In the final go around, though, Anderson loses those gains and he finishes the race in 10th place. This only provides a scant 11 points to his Championship total, advancing Anderson into 5th overall in the Lites West series with a total of 99 points, only 3 behind 4th. The conditions certainly played a role at the Seattle event, and Jason Anderson had a difficult track to ride there, but he did finish the race and gathered more points for his Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team thus setting them up for the next round.
Ryan Sipes was sidelined by injury the last time we saw him at a Monster Energy AMA Supercross event after having taken a nasty tumble in Anaheim at the Championship's second trip to the California city. This unavoidable incident kept him off the track for the next three Lites West events leading to the start of the East region rounds. The time away did him some good, though, and he was ready, willing and able in Seattle even if he had to wear braces on both wrists. His Qualifying Practice, which he shared with teammate Anderson, had him at mid-pack in his first session, but his second outing - even with the difficult and wet track - proved far better and he was fourth quickest. However, it is always the best of two here, so Sipes had to settle for 9th quickest and a ride in the second Heat where he had fifth choice of gate. At the start, Sipes jumps off the line and is sitting in 2nd place coming out of the first corner. By the second turn, though, he had slipped into 5th. After a rider goes down in the very next turn, he finds himself riding right behind his teammate, Anderson, in 4th position. He is in that same slot at the end of the first lap, and this is where he stays throughout his Heat 2 race. An uneventful Heat race, considering, and a 4th place finish grants Sipes the eighth gate pick for the Main Event.
Sipes pulled off an incredible start in the Main Event and holds himself in a very solid 3rd place through the first few bends. At the end of the first lap, Sipes is in 4th, having been passed by KTM rider Ken Roczen. He would not settle here, though, and he began to chip away at 3rd, now held by Honda-mounted Chris Craig after Roczen moves into 2nd. And, at the end of the second lap, he finally achieves his goal and flies into 3rd. His time in 3rd is not lonely and Sipes fights for his spot with Honda's Zach Osborne. In lap six, he loses the battle and must settle into 4th place. Towards the race's end, with only three laps to go, Sipes has lost 4th to Honda rider Cole Seely and a battle breaks out between riders in 5th through 7th position. The heightened stress levels push Sipes until he runs into a toughblock, which lets another rider jump into 5th and sets Sipes one more back in 6th, for which he continues to fight. In the final lap, Honda-mounted rider Austin Politelli makes a pass and puts Sipes one more back in 7th position. This is where Sipes ends the Main Event, and this 7th place showing brings him 14 points. Since he missed the previous three rounds of the Lites West series, his points total is only 45 and he holds an overall 15th place in the Championship. Ryan Sipes performed admirably given the rough track in Seattle this weekend and the reality of his physical state - having just returned from a major injury - so look forward to next week as he will surely hold this momentum.
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki pulled through the Seattle stop in good shape with premier class rider Millsaps moving up one position in the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, and with Lites West riders Jason Anderson and Ryan Sipes earning points and managing to move up in their series as well. We won't be seeing Blake Wharton again until that last stop of 2013 at Sam Boyd Stadium on May 4th. The oncoming round, to be held at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, UT, next weekend, is the final regular round of both series - the penultimate race of the premier class and the final race of the Lites West series before their finale. Much is on the line now, Championships are to be decided and final rankings will be set, so expect the racing to become even more intense, the "bumping" on the track to get serious, and the riders to become more focused on winning at any cost. Tune in on April 27th and be ready for the best off-road racing anywhere!
There's a lot to say about the level of talent in the 450 class and Cody Gilmore is no exception. Fairly new to the big bikes, 2013 marks the first full season competing in the premier class. Cody has been finishing just outside a transfer spot from his heat all season long without much luck in the LCQ. Last week Cody was just edged out and was the closest he's been to making it into the Main Event for 2013. Seattle was much different and whether it was new found confidence or the track's condition - Cody had a great start to his heat and battled his way to 7th among some of the most talented riders to throw a leg over a dirt bike. Without having to worry about whether or not he would make it out of the LCQ alive, this helped Cody prepare for the Main where he rode to a very solid 15th place. We are looking forward to seeing Cody carry this new found speed into the final rounds of the season with the next stop in Salt Lake City.
Russell and Mullins Battle to the End - Again
The Kailub Russell and Charlie Mullins epic finishes are making the 2013 AMSOIL GNCC Championship the race series to watch. This weekend at Big Buck Farms in Union, SC both riders (and Factory FMF/KTM teammates) finished second and first, respectively, for the second week in a row. The win for Mullins pushes his points lead to 10 over Russell.
Russell said he settled into a good pace after sprinting the first few laps. Overall, he felt great during the race. The last race he struggled with endurance after fighting a cold the week prior. "Second again to Charlie," he said. "I don't really have any strategy changes except to make sure I have a solid last lap." Russell and Mullins quickly overtook holeshot winner Paul Whibley with Russell jumping out front first. The teammates then rode nearly side-by-side for most of the seven-lap, three-hour race until Mullins passed Russell with two-laps remaining. Russell trailed by only 10 seconds but a final push led to a washout securing the win for Mullins. "The course was awesome," Russell said. "The rain on Friday made the soil perfect for traction and the layout was fun and kept things interesting."
Round 5 takes place May 4-5 at Park Mammoth Resort in Park City, KY. Click here for more information.
Big Buck Farms GNCC Results:
1. Charlie Mullins
2. Kailub Russell
3. Thad DuVall
4. Chris Bach
5. Paul Whibley
6. Josh Strang
7. Ricky Russell
8. Takeshi Koikeda
9. Jordan Ashburn
10. Adam Bonneur
GNCC Series Standings:
1. Charlie Mullins (115)
2. Kailub Russell (105)
3. Chris Bach (70)
4. Josh Strang (63)
5. Thad DuVall (63)
6. Paul Whibley (59)
7. Ricky Russell (53)
8. Jordan Ashburn (51)
9. Takeshi Koikeda (50)
10. Adam Bonneur (44)