Tuesday Race Update - 19 February 2013
Valentine's Day is over now; if you forgot that certain someone special in your life, the weekend that followed it might have been a good time to spend quality time with that person, as long as you both not only love one another but also love off-road motorcycle racing. Otherwise, well, we can't help you there.
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship made the change from West to East and took up temporary residence at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Meanwhile, in the AMSOIL Arenacross series, racing came back to the West again and the Race to the Championship finally kicked off at the Verizon Arena in Little Rock, Arkansas. A weekend of change, to be sure, and a busy one as we have come to expect, so let's take our weekly look into the fortunes of the riders supported by MotoSport.com:
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
As the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship made its way East to Cowboys Stadium in Arlignton, Texas, the crew at Rockstar Energy Racing arrived on the scene carrying the Championship lead and the accompanying Red Plate on rider Davi Millsaps's Suzuki. And, now that the Lites class has moved from West to East, they also had rider Blake Wharton all amped up and ready to finally see time on the race track. Once again, the Rockstar Energy team was ready to impress even their fans.
Davi Millsaps is having an incredible season in 2013, and he would be hard-pressed to turn in a performance more impressive than what he has done so far. It was a bit worrying when Millsaps reported that he was under the weather coming into Dallas, though, but the audience there that night would never know it. As everyone who follows the AMA Supercross series knows by now, he is carrying the Red Plate indicating his position atop the championship points chart. It does make the season more interesting as that red decal is like carrying a target on your back - everyone wants to beat you. Well, at Cowboys Stadium, even fighting illness, almost no one could even catch Millsaps.
In Qualifying Practice, he set the pace early by dominating both sessions from end to end, and it continued. In his Heat 2 event, he lined up at the first gate alongside former champion Ryan Dungey. When the flag dropped, it was all Millsaps again as he took the lead by the second lap and held it all the way through to the checkered flag in dominating fashion, thus securing his place on the front row in the Main Event and a prime spot among the fastest. In the Main Event, Millsaps started out the quickest, grabbed the holeshot, and then lost some footing coming out of the gates. Fast man Ryan Villopoto and his Kawasaki took advantage and the lead away from Millsaps and held it over him until the end. In what was a mostly uneventful, but hard fought, race, Davi Millsaps rounded the final turn and flew over the finish in second place to log yet another podium for this year. This added a precious 22 points to his already large total and gives him a total to date of 154 points, leaving a wide 21 point lead above second place. The Millsaps story persists in adding new highlights!
Now that the AMA Supercross Championship has finally moved East, Rockstar Energy Suzuki rider Blake Wharton has his chance to rack up some points for the team. Though finishing Qualifying Practice in an overall 7th slot, Wharton managed to improve on his times at each outing, and this set him up well for his Heat. He lined up for Heat 2 at fourth position and was on track to have a good race. However, it would not play out so nice. First, he came into contact with another rider at the start, then he got tangled up in a crowded first turn pile-up which dropped him back in the order somewhat. This may have been a deterrent, but it did nothing to slow him down once he was up and running again. Then, a rider went down hard and it brought out the red flag. On the restart, Wharton quickly picked his way back through traffic and was in a transfer slot right at the finish line when he got tangled up with another rider and went down mere feet from the end. Unfortunately, this crash forced him to take on the LCQ to qualify for the night's Main Event.
The earlier Heat had him in 13th place at the start of the LCQ, but this did not last far beyond the start. Within one lap, Wharton charged ahead and took the lead, and he held it to the checkered flag taking victory and advancing to the big show. Making the Main Event through the LCQ places a rider at the back of the starting grid making it difficult to drive through traffic to the front. Apparently, Wharton is among the people who see opportunity in challenge, and it was not long before he had swerved and carved his way into a solid second place. After exploding from near last place to take a podium and the important 22 points that came with it, Wharton signaled that he is more than ready to compete and his 2nd overall in the Lites East backs him up like nothing else can.
This is now the third time in 2013 - and ever - that the Rockstar Energy Racing team has had two riders bringing home a podium in each class, and it seems to be a pattern now. That this was accomplished after the team moved from West to East Lites, thus starting the season of another rider, speaks very highly of the team backing up these stars. Next week, the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship will remain in the East and will take the enormous operation to Georgia and the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for their 23 February date. With the Red Plate in Davi Millsaps capable hands and a Lites rider looking to continue at the front in Wharton, the other teams had better watch out and they had better be ready to race!
MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing:
Coming into round 7 of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship, the MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing team has two riders at rest, those being Lites West competitors Ricky Dietrich and Kade Mosig, as the series moves East for the next several events. Not to be left out of the action, though, MotoSport.com/ADR had a rider ready for this move - Gareth Swanepoel - and he began his attack on the Lites East title in fine style.
The dirt in Cowboys Stadium could probably be better described as ground clay - when it gets compressed as race bikes ride over and over it, the surface gets harder and harder, as well as smoother - and this makes for entertaining racing, if not for the riders, for the fans anyway. MotoSport.com/ADR Lites East rider Gareth Swanepoel managed quite well, though, and throughout his two Qualifying Practice runs improved each time around eventually taking more than 1.3 seconds off his lap time. This landed him in the top third of riders qualifying for the Heat races. When Heat 1 began, Swanepoel was slotted right in the middle next to the rider who would battle with him until the finish, Honda-mounted Ryan Zimmer.
In the Heat races, only the top 9 finishers advance to the Main. As Swanepoel started in 10th, there was work to do. After spending much of the six lap event holding steady, it was the final lap where Swanepoel pulled in his quickest go-round of the night so far and jumped up into 9th to take the final transfer slot to the Main. His results landed him in the 18th starting gate for the night's big race; but, when the race started, he moved up one right away. Though there were moments in the Main which caught some riders off guard, Swanepoel pushed through it all, maintained a steady pace, and executed smooth passes on his way to finishing in 13th. In only his first event of 2013, Gareth Swanepoel earned 8 championship points and, after just one race, sits in 13th overall with the bulk of the Lites East championship ahead.
It is only the first East Lites event and already the MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing team has secured important points towards the 2013 championship. Even though the team has had to change up riders for the West - East Lites region change, they are continuing their upward trend in the standings. Perhaps this is more evidence of a hastily assembled team coming to grips with what they have before them this year, or it could be that the riders are beginning to warm up and work out the kinks of new machinery and the myriad changes required to dial-in a bike for a track. Either way, fans would do themselves a major disservice to ignore this group. The MotoSport.com/ADR team has already struck camp and is on the way to the next round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross to be held in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. It's round two of the East Lites, so keep those eyes on #45, Gareth Swanepoel will ride for it all under the hot Georgia lights.
MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing Arenacross Team:
The teams running in the AMSOIL AMA Arenacross moved back across the country and set up at the Verizon Arena in Little Rock, Arkansas, for round 7. This meant another region switch back to the West, and this weekend only had one day of professional racing instead of the standard double-header format. MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing brought along their impressive contingent but, with the region change, SuperMini riders Zach Easter and Caleb Rhoads would not be making it to the track this weekend. No damping spirits here, though, as riders Nathan Skaggs, Willy Browning and Steven Mages woke everyone up at this event - even finishing 1, 2, 3 in their Arenacross Heat race!
The MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing team captain, Nathan Skaggs, had a solid run through the first six rounds and thus landed a coveted spot in the AMA Arenacross Race to the Championship. This new, and new to the series, phase of the Arenacross season is where only the top 10 riders from all previous rounds may now earn points towards the eventual series crown. After running through Qualifying Practice at speed and dominating proceedings there with the quickest lap time of the event, it was on to his Heat. Skaggs took to Heat 2 with his momentum intact and immediately went to the front at the start grabbing the holeshot. Right behind him, though, were his teammates, Willy Browning and Steven Mages. Browning and Skaggs were with each other all race long and, when Mages made a mid-Heat pass, all three would run together through the last few laps with Browning passing Skaggs in the final lap to take first, putting Skaggs second and Mages in a solid third. Time for the Main Event, and Skaggs runs quick with the lead group to start Main 1, but as the race went on, he found himself in a comfortable 6th right behind Kawasaki-mounted Zach Ames. Main Event 2 was not to be even that kind, as Skaggs ran into trouble getting around fallen riders and this landed him in 12th. Overall, with those finishes, Skaggs registers an 11th for the evening and picks up 16 points for the Race to the Championship, giving him a total of 19 points and 8th overall in the new-format standings.
Steven Mages, riding for the MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers team in both the premier Arenacross and Arenacross Lites West series, again had a great ride in Arkansas. Starting with his work in the Lites Class, Mages ran through Qualifying Practice by consistently improving his lap times and he easily advanced to the Lites Heat. Once more fans witnessed an impressive performance as he triumphed and guaranteed himself a spot in the Lites Main Event. There was then yet another example of the talent Mages brings to the series as he brought home another victory in the Lites class. This added 16 points to his championship points total and placed him in second, only three points adrift of holding first overall in the standings. Though Mages is certainly setting the Lites class on fire this season, he is not exactly holding back in the premier class.
After qualifying for his heat in the Arenacross Qualifying Practice, he ended up in the same Heat as his teammates, something not always beneficial. This night, though, it turned out to be very positive as he finished the Heat in third place right behind the racers with which he shares a pit, Browning and Skaggs. When the Main Event flag dropped, Mages quickly pulled into the back of the front pack in Main 1. Here he mixed it up with many of the riders competing in the Race to the Championship, including teammate Skaggs, and he crossed the finish in 8th. Main 2 was a better ride with less mid-pack work and more dicing it up with the lead group, and Mages pushed ahead to bring his KTM home in 5th place. This was enough for an overall 8th place, and he earned 21 points, but they will not count towards the championship as he is not in the Race to the Championship group. Even so, Mages has a very secure spot in the Lites standings now, and there is more to come.
Willy Browning arrived in Arkansas carrying a great deal of momentum from his great outing in Pennsylvania, and continued his streak of incredible performances. Browning's Qualifying Practice was a standout among the many riders there, even with his teammate Skaggs running away with it, and he once again cruised to the Heat race. The Heat, as many have surmised by this point, was almost all MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers with Browning taking the win over teammates Skaggs and Mages in a 1, 2, 3 finish of KTM machinery. This, of course, led Browning to the Main Event and a chance to add to his Ride to the Championship points total. Before this, though, his top-4 finish in Qualifying gave him the chance to earn one more championship point in the new Head-to-Head Bracket event.
After knocking off his friend Skaggs on his way to the final two-lap race, he was knocked down as his final lap began in the final race and he lost out to fellow KTM rider Kelly Smith. In Main 1, though, all of this relative good fortune seemed to come to an end when Browning went down in a first lap pile-up and could only make it home in 12th. Main 2 was wholly different; Browning snagged the lead right as the gates dropped and, though he was threatened once or twice, no one could catch his KTM and he took victory and top step on the podium. Combined with his Main 1 finish, Browning earned an overall 7th place and added 21 points for his Race to the Championship, thus placing him in a virtual tie for 6th overall, only two points away from top-5.
With no results to report for Tanner Sisson, riding in the Arenacross West Lites series, Zach Easter or Caleb Rhoads, both taking on the SuperMini series in multiple regions, this is all we have to report. The next round of the AMSOIL AMA Arenacross series will travel up the road a bit to Wichita, Kansas, at the INTRUST Bank Arena. This is a West region round again, and one of only three more stops on the Race to the Championship, leaving little time to rack up points. However, with weekends like the one the MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers team had in Arkansas, we can see that the 2012 season is far from over. Nathan Skaggs, Steven Mages and Willy Browning will again burn up the track this coming weekend, be sure you tune in!