Las Vegas is known to be a locale where anything is possible, where some find new beginnings and others meet their end; but, no matter your experience, you will at least have an entertaining ride. The 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship embodies much of this character, making Vegas' Sam Boyd Stadium the ideal venue to end the season, crown the Champions, award the trophies, announce the next year's schedule, and give the sport's most dedicated fans a show they will long remember.
The events held within Sam Boyd Stadium encompassed a range of important aspects. Not least among these were the final Lites class standings, decided this night for both regions, the always popular Lites East/West Shootout, and the final points standings for the premier 450cc Supercross Class. It was a vital night for those Lites Class riders within reach of the title, and it is safe to assume that they did not spend much time thinking of anything else. However, it was also significant to competitors and teams looking to finish their season on a high and those who were preparing for the upcoming 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship season. This May day in Nevada was the culmination of four long months of hard work, determination, and seemingly endless effort for the men and women who make this sport great.
Our MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing Team took to the dirt with two riders this night, West Lites rider Ricky Dietrich and newcomer Rhys Dorreen, who could only hope to take on the Shootout due to his late arrival in Supercross. Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki pulled in their full Lites contingent - consisting of Lites East rider Blake Wharton and Lites West riders Jason Anderson and Ryan Sipes - and, of course, veteran Supercross competitor and Supercross phenom Davi Millsaps. They all lined up in the dirt and put forth their best efforts against the heightened competition of a series finale in a FIM World Championship, and each came away with something to stand on for the outdoor work ahead or the next season. Let's see how it all went down.
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
A week ago, inside Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Davi Millsaps witnessed the premier Supercross class name its Champion for the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross series, Ryan Villopoto. For the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team, this was difficult as Millsaps had a break-out season - one in which he sat atop the points chart for nearly half the duration - and was constantly at the front, and the results which he earned all season long kept him competitive right up until the end. The finale in Las Vegas was his last chance to put on a show and, as you will see, Millsaps did that in style. His teammates in the Lites classes, though, had more to play for this weekend. East Lites rider Blake Wharton was in the hunt for the crown and had a - admittedly remote - chance to earn it here. Lites West riders Jason Anderson and Ryan Sipes, unfortunately, did not have the points required to be in the running for their Championship, but they did have plenty to ride for; Anderson to prove his mantle and settle his final standing, and Sipes to show he had continued to recover from injuries sustained earlier in his season. So much to be decided in one, single event and the Rockstar Energy Suzuki Team had to do everything they could to have it come out in their favor. Let's see how it all went down...
Davi Millsaps could not have won the Championship this weekend, unfortunately, but he still had plenty of work to finish. Here, in Sam Boyd Stadium, he needed to earn enough points to hold the runner-up slot for the Rockstar Energy Racing team, something which he seemed destined to do but was by no means a foregone conclusion. Rest assured, the competition did not sit back and let this happen. Millsaps took to Qualifying Practice with the same grit and skill with which we have all known from him. In the first time out, he claimed the fourth quickest lap. The second run was slightly better for Millsaps, and he was one of the few riders to improve his lap times in this session. This was good enough to make him the third fastest in Qualifying, thus setting him up for an excellent gate choice in his Heat.
Millsaps had the unenviable honor of lining up in this event with the man who took his 2013 SX Championship, Kawasaki-mounted Ryan Villopoto in Heat 2. When the gates finally dropped on the race, Millsaps found himself right behind Villopoto, who grabbed the holeshot, in 2nd place. He held right to Villopoto's fender, too, giving the newly crowned Champion a difficult time in the first few laps. At the half-way mark, Millsaps held a comfortable 2nd position but remained in sight of the leader. Nothing changed at the front throughout the event, and Millsaps held on to stand in 2nd place when the checkered flag dropped. His high finish guaranteed him a prime gate choice for the Main.
In the night's Main Event, the chief competition for Millsaps was KTM rider Ryan Dungey. Both had a mathematical chance to take 2nd place overall in the 2013 SX Championship. Off the line at the start of the race, Millsaps was down in the order as he did not jump out with the top five. By the second lap, the best Millsaps could do was to hold onto 8th position, a full four astern of Dungey. As will happen when the best of the best compete against one another, this order changed often, and Millsaps had gained two spots to move into 5th by the end of lap four, but Dungey was now in 2nd. It was now up to Millsaps to pass Honda rider Chad Reed. This turned into an on-track duel that Millsaps eventually won, giving him 4th behind Villopoto's teammate Jake Weimer. And, again, this was another entertaining contest which lasted for more than a lap. Millsaps finally passed into 3rd, though it wasn't pretty, right at the end of lap 6. This order - Villopoto, then Dungey, then Millsaps - held steady through the remainder of the event. Only further down the field was there any real movement.
Millsaps worked hard but could not catch up to Dungey in the end, and had no choice but to settle for 3rd in the Main. It was enough, though, and it became an important finish that rewarded the Rockstar Energy Racing rider with an additional 20 points, just enough to put Davi Millsaps in 2nd place overall for the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. What a year it was for him! Make no mistake, Davi Millsaps is one tough guy; he fought through an incorrectly healed and twisted femur, and the stress fractures and serious contusions it led to, in order to race at the highest level in the world and he walks away with 2nd overall. Amazing! Unfortunately Millsaps, being a smart rider, has decided to take the summer off to fix his left leg. It will consist of having his bone re-broken, set properly and then bolted together with metal plates and surgical screws. We will miss him in the 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, but we can be certain that every one of his fans will be looking towards the 2014 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship and the next opportunity for Davi Millsaps to take the crown.
We last saw Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki's Blake Wharton at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There he was able to finish in third place in the Main which brought him into a very solid third overall in the Supercross Lites East Championship points race. With only the visit to Sam Boyd remaining for the rider, there were not enough chances for him to make up any of that until he arrived in Las Vegas. There, in his first outing during Qualifying Practice, Wharton put in the fifth quickest lap. His second trip out was just about the same, with his time slightly slower due to changing conditions, and he finished Qualifying in fifth overall providing him with a very nice gate choice for the night's Main Event. With the crammed schedule at this stop, there are no Lites Heat races; Qualifying is all that counted.
When the gates finally dropped on the Lites East Main, Wharton shot off the line with the leading group of riders and sat in 5th place. He was right behind Championship leader and Honda-mounted rider Wil Hahn when they crossed the Finish for the first time. In the third lap, Wharton held steady, but the rider ahead of him was now KTM rider Lance Vincent. Lap 4 brought another change in order as Wharton was now ahead of Vincent, but Marvin Musquin now had his KTM in 4th. With a third of the race done, Wharton seemed to have settled into his 5th place slot as the leading four riders had begun to run away, but he was also comfortably ahead of 6th. As the middle of the race arrived, he held on to 5th and only the rider up ahead of him changed, now it was a Honda ridden by Gavin Faith. Slowly, lap by lap, Wharton pulled closer and closer to that 4th position, and near the end of the ninth lap, Wharton took over the slot in front of him, relegating Faith to 5th. Very little changed from this point for Wharton as he was too far away to catch up to 3rd, though he did keep adding to his gap between 5th place and himself. When he took the Finish line jump, this was where he ended his final 2013 250SX race, in 4th. Another 18 points were then added to his overall number and Blake Wharton finished the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Lites East Championship with 171 points and 3rd place overall for the year.
Wharton was not completely finished for the season at the end of this race. He had also qualified high enough, like his teammates, to earn a spot in the annual end-of-season 250SX Lites East/West Shootout. This was to be a short, 10-lap race pitting the best of each region against one another. Wharton lined up with 19 other 250cc riders and got ready to start. When the gates dropped, Wharton was off the line quick and ran with the lead group heading into the first corner. The second lap found Wharton holding a tightly contested 4th place. One lap later, though, and he had been passed and was in 5th. His teammate at Rockstar Energy had managed to advance as well, and this put Wharton right in front of Sipes, who was now holding 6th. In the end teammate Anderson got by Sipes, but Wharton held his own and led the final 5th, 6th, and 7th place finishes the team achieved in the Shootout. The performance was on par with what we have seen all year, even if it was little more than some extra cash and great entertainment value. After running at the front, or very close, for much of the season, Wharton turned in a remarkable performance for the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team during the indoor series, but now his mind must turn to the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship, which begins in less than two weeks, and he must focus on doing even better there.
Over in the Supercross Lites West series, Rockstar Energy Suzuki rider Jason Anderson arrived with serious momentum in Las Vegas after having secured his first ever class win in Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City at the previous round. This had earned him a tentative 4th overall in the standings coming into the finale; thus, he could not have won it all, but he certainly had opportunity to solidify his final position in a high slot. When he went out for his first ride around in Qualifying Practice, Anderson pulled in the sixth quickest lap. It was slightly better in his second Qualifying run, even with slippery track conditions, and Anderson finished up as fourth quickest around the circuit. However, almost everyone had been faster earlier, so his first time was used as the reference, and he made it to sixth overall, setting him up for prime position in the Main. At the finale, there are no Lites Heat races, so a good Qualifying run is a must; Anderson accomplished this task and then lined up for the Main.
Even with respectable lap times in Qualifying, Anderson had a mediocre start to the Main, and this resulted in him holding 10th at the completion of the first lap. Less than one lap later, though, and he had already supplanted 9th and was on his way up. Another lap, another position - 8th at this point. Again, a short-lived situation, as KTM-mounted Joey Savatgy was overtaken and Anderson was now in 7th. At the beginning of the eighth lap, Anderson pulled around another KTM rider, Malcolm Stewart, and rode into the 6th slot right behind his teammate, Ryan Sipes. He must have wanted to get a little closer as he quickly closed the gap to 5th. However, with Sipes remaining right ahead of him, Anderson eventually seemed to settle into his slot. The distance between the 5th and 6th went up and down, but not by much, throughout this time. In the end, the race ended like this for Anderson with a 6th place showing. He picked up 15 points to make his yearly total 139, and to secure him 4th place overall in the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship.
Like the rider he shares his pit with, Anderson made the night's annual 250SX Lites East/West Shootout. He had only the eleventh gate pick, but he was not far away from his teammates. At the start, Anderson had another tough start and found himself mid-pack in the first turn. At the second corner in the second lap, Anderson was holding 12th position. He was definitely not happy to be there and he began to charge forward. In the fourth lap, he got his Suzuki into the 11th spot. One lap later and Anderson took 10th. Right about this time, Kawasaki-mounted (and 2013 Arenacross Champion) Tyler Bowers went down and handed Anderson 9th, which he quickly converted into 8th. After one more lap, Anderson got behind his teammates - now holding 5th and 6th - and grabbed 7th. And, as they say, those you share your pit with are your fiercest competitors, so a full-on fight for position started with the rider directly ahead of him, 6th place Sipes. Both riders were side-by-side in the penultimate lap, but Anderson eventually got the better of Sipes and slid into 6th. This was the final order for the Rockstar Energy team in the Shootout, with Wharton finishing ahead and Sipes finishing behind Anderson. The race held little significance as it is mainly a showcase to pit the two regions against one another, but Anderson performed like it meant points. Jason Anderson did well by his Rockstar Energy Racing team in finishing so high up the chart, and the team returned the kindness with excellent support. Hopefully, for Anderson and Rockstar Suzuki, this level of success will go even higher when things go outdoors in the 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
Ryan Sipes, Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki rider in the Supercross Lites West region, was last seen at the recent Salt Lake City round. It was only his second race back from injury and he performed admirably for someone who missed much of the season and was playing catch-up. Coming into Sam Boyd Stadium, Sipes was holding onto 15th overall in the Championship points standings, thus out of the running for the crown. However, a racer will race, and there was still much to be earned here in Vegas. Once Qualifying Practice got underway, Sipes went out and ran his fastest lap within three hundredths of a second of his teammate, Anderson, landing him seventh quickest. The second practice run, albeit a little slower due to the newly watered track conditions, placed him in the same exact spot, so he finished Qualifying with a seventh overall for a decent gate choice in the Main, as there were no Lites Heat races this round.
The gate dropped on the Main and Ryan Sipes took off immediately, almost garnering a holeshot and holding an important 2nd position as a result of his quick start. The order began to stretch out in that first lap, but Sipes still found himself in 2nd place when lap two started. Around this time, 3rd place rider Ken Roczen, riding a KTM, began to bite at the heels of Sipes' boots. It only lasted about half of a lap as Roczen craftily worked his way around and pushed Sipes into 3rd. In lap six, Sipes lost another spot, this time to Yamaha rider Kyle Cunningham, and had last season's Champion, Eli Tomac of GEICO Honda, coming on strong. Shortly afterwards, Sipes was overtaken by Tomac and was now riding in 5th place. Within another few laps, his teammate, Jason Anderson, had managed to get behind him; Sipes was now leading the Rockstar duo who held 5th and 6th. This would go on throughout the remainder of the race, with Anderson and Sipes alternately closer and then further apart, right up to the Finish. A 5th place at the final race of the year will go a long way to proving that Sipes is back in shape and ready to ride. With the 16 points this placement brought to the rider, his total for his run in the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship ended at 75; the number would have been much higher had he been healthy all season, though.
Sipes also had a place in the night's once-a-year 250SX Lites East/West Shootout, and had ninth gate choice for the race. Off the start, Sipes got away quickly and was in the lead group, and right in front of pit-mate Anderson, by the first corner. He had achieved 6th by lap two, but lost it in lap three and fell to 7th. It did not last very long as the unfortunate fall of Kawasaki rider Tyler Bowers (2013 Arenacross Champion) allowed Sipes to take 6th again. At this point, Sipes was right behind his Rockstar Energy teammate Wharton. Behind Sipes was his other Lites teammate, Anderson, and the usual team rivalry ensued with these two riders battling it out going neck-and-neck with only two laps remaining. The fight did not last but for a few corners and Sipes lost, relegating him to 7th. This is where he finished, making for a Rockstar 5th-6th-7th finishing order. The Shootout was a fun race with nothing more than bragging rights and, perhaps, some bonus money as rewards, and one which proved that these Rockstar athletes are quite well-matched. Injuries are a part of racing, unfortunately but, with this weekend's results, it does seem that Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki's Ryan Sipes is all healed and ready to do battle in the 2013 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.
The indoor season is now over, the races done, and the stadiums will not hear the noise of Supercross competition again until 2014. The level of competition in all classes was intense at all levels on this May day in Las Vega' Sam Boyd Stadium with the premier class crowning a runner up, but it was especially extreme in the Lites Classes where Championships were decided this night. The riders, crew, and even the management of the 2013 Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team performed exceptionally well at what is the highest level of off-road motorcycle racing in the world. They ended the 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship season with an enviable collection of results and have set themselves up well for the outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship to come. Davi Millsaps will be dearly missed over the summer, but we all wish him a safe and easy surgery and an amazingly fast recovery - with his level of health, it should be well within reason to expect it to be just that. At least we will have the talents of the genuinely impressive Lites Class riders this team now fields to watch and enjoy. I bet you can't wait to cheer on Blake Wharton, Jason Anderson and Ryan Sipes in less than two weeks time, so pay attention and be ready - the competition will be!
MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing:
The MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing team has had to fight adversity all year long. It began with the rushed formation of the team and the ensuing organizational and personnel chemistry issues which come from it, continued through injuries to the team's riders, and even included international visa travel issues keeping one rider off the continent. However, these barriers could not hold back the desire to race that this team's members possess. They came to Sam Boyd with a singular mission - to ride in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship - and that is exactly what they did.
As he is the rider with the most seniority on the MotoSport.com/ADR team, Lites West rider Ricky Dietrich is where this begins. Coming into Sam Boyd Stadium, Dietrich had yet to make a Main event in the 2013 season. He had come close, actually missing the big show by only one spot back in February, and he improved on his Qualifying Practice results almost every time he rode a track. It was a series of problems combined with fierce competition that held him out, but that is racing and everyone which exists there knows this. Dietrich was anxious to get back in the seat in Vegas, to say the least, after waiting for two months without racing. In his first ride out in Qualifying Practice, Dietrich was off the pace, the time off showing in his lap times, and could only manage to be the ninth quickest of his group. The second outing held up better for the MotoSport.com/ADR rider, and he sliced over two seconds off his quickest lap to this point, coming in as seventh quickest in his group. Unfortunately, the final list placed him in 30th overall in Qualifying. This meant that Dietrich's night was over. After putting in so much work against what are the best riders on the planet, Dietrich has surely picked up important knowledge and experience which will pay off handsomely when he next sees off-road competition. Competing at this level requires the best effort and a deep desire to be victorious, so one thing is certain about Dietrich now - he will be back!
New to the team, and new to MotoSport.com/ADR fans, Lites rider Rhys Dorreen did not have a season to reflect on at this point, so not much was known about how well he compared to those he rode with in Las Vegas - until now. Dorreen could only ride in the 250SX East/West Shootout at best and had to ride in the Group C Qualifier as he had not taken part in any of the regional rounds. His first Group C Qualifying Practice had him come in with a lap time that gave him 16th overall position against the other Group C riders for a trip to the Shootout Main. When compared to his teammate in the Lites West Qualifying, Dorreen was only a few places behind Dietrich's time in his first practice run. The second time around was better, with Dorreen taking more than seven seconds off his quickest lap. This was an excellent performance, with only a half-second separating Dorreen from his teammate's best time in the second Lites West Qualifying Practice. However, only the 20 quickest Lites riders from all Qualifying groups could advance to the Shootout Main Event, thus Dorreen's 24th place overall finish in Group C forced him to be a spectator for the race. Even so, his rather incredibly quick adaptation to a track on which he had not ever ridden was most impressive and speaks volumes to what he is capable of in the future. Now that he has transplanted himself to California from his home in Queensland, Australia, we will be hearing a lot more from Rhys Dorreen - Welcome to America, mate!
The inaugural 2013 Monster Energy AMA Supercross season for the MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing Team presented them with obstacles and setbacks, but it was also filled with fine performances, continual improvement, and the dedication to go out and put everything on the line for the win. This is something the results don't show, and those who only see it from the outside may be blind to it, but the team worked very hard to put together a team which can compete each and every weekend. Next for the MotoSport.com/ADR crew is the team's return to the AMA Pro Road Racing series, where the team will begin turning wheels again during the 31 May to 2 June weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Keep checking back here to get your update on the fortunes of the MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing team and we'll do everything possible to keep you informed.