2011 has come and gone and we're now looking 2012 straight in the face. Well, maybe we're actually inside its face since it's already January. Hmm... anyways, silly season rumors have been laid to rest, and old and new race teams alike are gearing up for the big one, and I'm not talking about the end of the Mayan calendar doomsday predictions. I'm talking about the first round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series at Angels Stadium in Anaheim, CA this coming Saturday, January 7.
The Supercross Class Players
James Stewart #7
Is James Stewart ready to take on another championship run? No one doubts his speed, but turning speed into wins is another story. Stewart's 2011 highlight reel unfortunately would include more crashes than flames and checkered flags, but the latest rider to join the JGR squadron still has incredible potential even as he heads into his 11th season of professional racing. With Davi Millsaps racing alongside as his teammate, and his old mechanic from his Kawasaki days, Jeremy Albrecht, as the team manager, the pieces seem to be falling into place for two-time champ to have a positive season of Supercross racing. If he can ride as well as he did in 2011 (or better), minus all of the crashes, there is no reason why Stewart couldn't take the fight all the way to Vegas.
Ryan Dungey #5
Ryan Dungey had a fairy tale season back in 2010 capturing both the indoor and outdoor titles; the first rookie to do so. But it wasn't complete.
Why? Because the air surrounding Dungey was rank with caveats. Both Stewart and Chad Reed got hurt at Phoenix, and were out for the indoor season (although Reed did come back for the last five rounds). Villopoto had some serious momentum going and was clicking off wins until he crashed something awful at St. Louis and broke his leg, taking him out for the rest of the year. It was suggested time and time again that if anyone of these riders had been healthy, Dungey would not have had it so easy.
In 2011, the opposite happened. If not for three major mechanical failures, namely a damaged sprocket at Anaheim Part Deux, depleted gas at Freestone, and ignition woes at Southwick, the Dunge could have been the 2011 SX and MX champ. Villopoto did miss qualifying at Jacksonville, but that was not due to mechanical failure.
2010: Against Dungey
2011: For Dungey
For 2012, Dungey has switched teams and brands and will once again be working under the tutelage of Roger DeCoster on the Red Bull/KTM team. Despite this being a new venture for Ryan in both team and machinery, let's hope he can get through the year without any ifs, ands, or buts.
Chad Reed #22
In 2010, Chad Reed was a veteran, factory-backed playboy who was losing favor with critics and fans alike. In 2011, Reed went from largely self-funded, former factory star, to underdog hero with his Supercross title hunt as a privateer and his harrowing Spring Creek National crash and subsequent redemption. What a difference a year makes.
Now TwoTwo Motorsports has official Honda Racing support, (with pretty works parts), a reinvigorated fan base, and some of the coolest duds in the sport. At the ripe old age of 29, Chad is nearly a decade older than some of his competition, but by no means does that imply he is out matched. With the addition of the MoSTE (Most Successful Technician Ever [no idea if that's true, but it sounds good]), Mike Gosselaar, to the program there is nothing standing in the way. Reed certainly still has victories left in him, and will be a frontrunner.
Ryan Villopoto #1
Villopoto was supposed to come out swinging as a 450 rider back in 2009. It didn't happen (aside from his first win in Seattle). Then he was supposed to have put his demons aside for 2010. It almost happened. Would he finally become the moto prophet everyone expected for 2011? It happened big time.
Villopoto hit the ground running, taking Anaheim I convincingly. Then he, gasp, showed he could run with Stewart at Phoenix until a small crash set him back. But as the series continued on, so did Ryan's momentum, taking several wins and doing what he needed to do for the ultimate Supercross prize (despite not qualifying at Jacksonville). Then he captured the outdoor championship. Then he helped Team USA win the Motocross of Nations in France. Then he took an extra million smackers from one of his biggest sponsors, Monster Energy, when he conquered the inaugural Monster Energy Cup in Vegas.
Will Villopoto be ready for the Big A on Saturday? You bet your butt. Coming off of one of the most successful seasons ever for a pro racer, the Poulsbo, WA ginger will be a force in 2012 aboard his Kawasaki.
Okay, why don't these "others" get their own dedicated paragraphs? Because none of them have Supercross Class titles to their credit. That and I've already gone over my word limit.
Trey Canard undoubtedly would have been a championship contender had he not broken his collarbone a few weeks ago. When the Honda Racing Muscle Milk rider returns to action, as the only other rider to win a race last season aside from the big four, he could still play into the title chase.
Riders such as veteran talent, Kevin Windham of Geico Powersports/Honda, along with Yoshimura/Suzuki's Brett Metcalfe, Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jake Weimer, and Honda Racing's latest acquisition, Justin Brayton, will all be regulars within in the top ten and could very well land on the podium.
Then there are about 15 other racers who will be fighting for every inch of dirt in the nations stadiums. With only 20 spots available in for the main events, every race will be more intense than the last. Get ready moto heads, A1 is almost here.