Tuesday Race Update - 5 March 2013
March indicates that spring is on the way, and the winter is soon to break and allow the world to begin growing again. Perhaps its most significant trait - to us - is that it also marks the half way point of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship. The round at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri, was the ninth, meaning that nine are done and eight events remain, including the Las Vegas finale. That leaves precious little time to gain points, especially for the Lites riders.
The AMSOIL AMA Arenacross Championship is winding down and had its penultimate round, the season's ninth, inside the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, just a drive west down the highway from the SX show. This only served to give the activities on the circuit more importance due to the ever shrinking opportunities to earn points. Only one more trip for the Arenacross riders, only two more chances to earn points for the Race to the Championship, and then the trophies are awarded.
With all of this in mind, let's run through how the MotoSport.com sponsored teams came through this weekend's events:
Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki:
Though the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki team arrived in a rather chilly St. Louis, MO, to do their work in the Edward Jones Dome, fans of the team would be forgiven for thinking that spring had already arrived. Such is the heat given off from this team in 2013. Premier class rider Davi Millsaps continues to fly the Red Plate indicating his spot atop the AMA Supercross Championship points race, and Lites East competitor Blake Wharton continues to add points to his impressive total with his performances placing him at the forefront of the 250 class. Should any of his early critics - those who thought Millsaps would fade - still not find themselves believers, they never will. As for Wharton, well his results will also stand in well enough for any arguments about his abilities...
Since the first event of the season, which was also when Davi Millsaps took his first win in 2013, the Rockstar Energy Suzuki veteran rider has held the Red Plate indicating his lead atop the AMA Supercross Championship. Coming into St. Louis, he certainly had momentum on his side having taken a third at the last stop at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta and second place the week before that in Dallas. With this, he took to Qualifying Practice and was immediately among the top three fastest on the track. When the overall results were calculated, Millsaps came out in third place and that gave him the second slot in his Heat 2 race. Out of the gates in Heat 2, fellow Suzuki rider James Stewart managed the holeshot, but Millsaps was right behind him and held the second spot into the second turn. Throughout the event, Millsaps seemed relaxed and comfortable on the bike, and this kept him right on the heels of Stewart. This is how the results played out as well, with Stewart taking the win only about 2 seconds ahead of Millsaps, who took second place.
This finish put Millsaps and his Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki in the fourth spot for the Main Event start. And, after a nasty crash which brought out the red flag in the first start, this Main Event was like no other before it; the riders lined up in a single line at the Start/Finish and re-started the shortened 17-lap race in the order they were in when the red flag came out. This meant that Millsaps started in 10th as he had a terrible start in the first Main attempt.
Despite this mid-pack position, he rode hard in the first few laps, and made it to 7th place by the seventh lap. Two laps later, Millsaps had 6th and the fastest lap of the race to that point. Much of his time was spent alone in 6th while the top five went at each other hard, but Millsaps continually made up time to 5th, gaining a little each lap. It was not to be a trip to the podium this night, though, and he crossed the Finish in 6th place - only the second time this year that he finished off of the podium. Even with this uncharacteristic race result, Millsaps continues as AMA Supercross Championship leader as he picked up an important 15 points for a total of 189, a full 12 ahead of second position. He will carry the Red Plate into the next race, and with only 8 rounds remaining, he continues to enjoy an enviable position where any of his competitors would love to be.
Blake Wharton, Rockstar Energy Suzuki rider in the Supercross Lites East, narrowly missed out on stepping up to his second podium of 2013 last weekend, a feat he did succeed at in his first race this season. Nevertheless, he was able to hold a place in the top 3 overall when he arrived in St. Louis, thus preserving precious momentum. This carried him into Qualifying Practice where he ran consistently in the top 6 and held up as the highest placed Suzuki rider against fierce competition. This hard work garnered him a nice starting slot in his Heat event, and he lined up in 3rd.
At the start, Wharton gets of quick and grabs credit for the event holeshot, but gives up the lead to Honda rider Zach Bell coming out of the second bend. However, within a few corners, Wharton quickly moves back to the front, and that was the last time he was challenged on his way to taking the win in his Heat 1 race - an uneventful and dominating run when all was said and done. Running at the front has advantages and Wharton received just that with a starting slot in 2nd for the 250 Main Event, which he entered a mere 7 points away from holding second overall. After getting off the line safely and in control, Wharton moved into 5th place once past the first turn. He didn't stay there for long, though, and when the second lap began, he was in 2nd place.
By the fifth lap, points leader and Kawasaki rider Dean Wilson had worked himself up from back in the pack and was beginning to challenge Wharton; three laps later, Wilson took second and then spent the remaining laps battling with leader Wil Hahn right up to the finish. Third was where Wharton spent the remainder of the race, never being challenged by anyone, and where he finished. With another 20 points from his ride in the Edward Jones Dome, Wharton maintains a solid grip on 3rd overall in the Lites East championship, with only 10 points keeping him from taking the top spot now held by new championship leader Hahn.
The Monster Energy AMA Supercross Championship will now move on to the world-famous Daytona, Florida, where the series will open Daytona Bike Week by hosting ceremonies on the beach in what is the most unique stop in the series. The track there has been designed by multi-time World Championship winner Ricky Carmichael, and so will make this one not to miss for those who love the sport. With Blake Wharton continuing to run at the front, and keeping every race he is in an exciting ride, the 250 Lites East should easily hold the fans' attention.
Thus far, though, the man to watch has been Davi Millsaps, who has stood as consistency personified, and Daytona is just another round on his way to the Supercross Championship. Will things look the same after the March 9th event is complete? Only watching it and cheering on your favorite riders through to the end will tell, so get to Daytona or make sure you have your TV turned on, the 2013 AMA Supercross is certain to bring more nail-biting, end-to-end enjoyment to us all next weekend!
MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing:
Round 9 at St. Louis, Missouri, meant another trip within the East Lites region for the MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing Team. This brought out rider Gareth Swanepoel for his third potential points-earning trip to the track, but kept West region riders Ricky Dietrich and Kade Mosig working on fitness in preparation for their return to action in Seattle. Since Swanepoel started his season, he has been riding very well and bringing points back with him at the end of each event. However, each and every race weekend can be completely different from a previous event, so fickle is Supercross, and anything can happen.
Something did happen in the Edward Jones Dome, and it happened all over Lites East rider Gareth Swanepoel. Qualifying Practice ran just about on par with Swanepoel's previous rides with the big group; he finished in an overall 20th position, placing him with the evening's top third on the 250 machines. Of course, this easily set him up for a Heat race and even allowed him a top ten starting grid spot. What happened at the start, though, would cause him to lose his valuable position. A first lap fall dropped him back in the order to 19th position right at the beginning of the fight and handed him a 12-second gap to the next rider.
By the last lap, rider attrition and one other's fall had Swanepoel up to 17th, but he was one lap down on the leader. And, when it was all over, 17th is where he finished, leading Swanepoel into a ride in the night's LCQ, where only the top two riders advance to the Main. The spot he finished in when the Heat was complete slotted Swanepoel into 16th position for this final chance for points. The LCQ is often a race of desperation, and this event was no different. Swanepoel pushed very hard, fought against his rivals, but was unable to move into one of the top two positions. He finished in 9th place, good enough to transfer in one of the previous Heats but not here, thus he missed the Main Event and picked up no points for his trip to St. Louis. Swanepoel now holds 15th position overall in the Championship chase with 13 points, 9 back of 14th on the sheet.
A rough weekend for the MotoSport.com/Aussie Dave Racing team, to be sure, but one never learns anything by succeeding all the time. All it takes is a small problem to keep even a great rider from making the Main Event, and Gareth Swanepoel encountered several this weekend. What we can count on is that this showing will only strengthen the resolve of the team, and the valuable lessons will be learned and used for the next event. That next stop is the famed Daytona round which will feature a track designed by multi-time World Champion Ricky Carmichael and a crowd of bike-mad fans who show up every year for the world-famous Daytona Bike Week, for which the AMA Supercross event serves as an unofficial opening event. Tune in for the continued chaos of the AMA Supercross Lites East series on March 9, or miss out on the talented riding of MotoSport.com/ADR rider Gareth Swanepoel - and all the fun!
MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing Arenacross Team:
For the penultimate round of the AMSOIL AMA Arenacross Championship, the show took on the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri, for another round in the West region. Only one more stop is on the calendar for the series, and the new-for-this-season Race to the Championship only has two more races after this stop, so the riders vying for the crown have very little time to earn points. The MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Race team has had a respectable season, with many riders seeing consistent performances, but they needed to come away from Kansas City with a significant points haul if they are to bring home a trophy or two. The only riders in action for the team were captain Nathan Skaggs and Willy Browning since Steven Mages suffered injury at the last round and sat out this night.
Coming into AMA Arenacross Round 9 at the Sprint Center, the captain of the MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers team, Nathan Skaggs, held 7th overall in the Race to the Championship right behind his teammate, Willy Browning. For him to advance, he had to finish ahead of Browning. After running through Qualifying Practice and netting his usual trip to the Heat races, Skaggs again made the cut and advanced to the night's Main Event. In Main 1, he was slotted about mid-pack with some of his usual competition. When the gates dropped and he pulled away, he held on and ran with the upper half of the order.
At the finish, Skaggs had his KTM in 9th and he finished right behind Suzuki-mounted rider Daniel Blair. Main 2 was up next, and he again found himself with essentially the same group of riders. By the end of the race, he had put himself in front of the man he finished behind in the first go-round, Blair, and Skaggs secured a 6th place. This added up to an overall 6th and 19 more points for the Ohio native. With this, Skaggs again sits in 7th position overall in the Race to the Championship, now right ahead of Browning and only one point away from the 6th slot. Staying in place is far better than going down, but with only two more chances to earn points, Skaggs has a big hill in front of him for the final races in Denver.
Willy Browning put on a great show two weeks back, and landed a 9th overall at the previous stop, both of which held him in 6th place overall in the Race to the Championship when he arrived in Kansas City. His Qualifying Practice performance was once again good enough to land him in the Main Event alongside his team captain, so his night started off with promise and possibility. In Main 1, this continued and Browning ran a good race, mixing it up with the lead group, and finally passed the checkered flag in 5th place. It was a solid result, but Main 2 had something which Browning would not find enjoyable.
When the flag dropped on the final lap of the night's final Arenacross race, he could only manage to haul in his KTM in the 15th slot. With these two results, Browning ended proceedings in 10th overall. This only earned him 14 points, and he dropped in the overall Race to the Championship standings from 6th to 8th. Browning now has 53 points, 3 back from his teammate, Skaggs, and the sixth place he occupies. Since there is only one stop left, and just two premier Arenacross races remaining, he also has some work to do if he is to improve on his standings.
We do not have any reporting from Tanner Sisson, the MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing Arenacross Lites West rider, nor do we have any information for Zach Easter or Caleb Rhoads, both running in the hotly contested - and regional - SuperMini series. Hopefully, there will be an update from them soon. Right now, though, all eyes are on the AMSOIL AMA Arenacross Race to the Championship, and MotoSport.com/JBR/Spinechillers riders Nathan Skaggs and Willy Browning. The next round will be at Denver Coliseum in Denver, Colorado, in about two weeks; this is the final event of the season, will be a double-header, and will decide who will be our 2013 Champions. Don't miss it; tune in during the 15 - 17 March weekend and see history made for another year!