Round 12 of Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, an FIM World Championship, is set to get underway Saturday in Toronto. Last weekend’s race in Jacksonville was run under not just a full moon, but a “super” moon. It was closest the moon had been to the earth in nearly 20 years.
And the night’s activities on the track showed it! The top two in the series point standings at the start of the day had disastrous nights! Series points leader Ryan Villopoto didn’t even qualify for the Main Event, because of two crashes in the LCQ. And number two in points at the time, James Stewart’s Main Event lasted about 10 seconds until a crash, of which he did not re-enter the race.
That left the door wide open for other title contenders to put themselves in a prime position.
The 250 East Supercross Lites class was not exempt from the lunacy either. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett, who stood second in points behind GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia, failed to qualify for the East Main Event. What a season 2011 has been! After all the excitement to this point, what more can we possibly expect in Toronto?
Here are a few things I see going down at Saturday’s Supercross:
1. The Battle in Supercross Heats Up Even More
Blood is in the water for Chad Reed, Ryan Dungey, James Stewart and Trey Canard. After Villopoto failed to qualify for the Supercross Main Event in Jacksonville, those guys started licking their chops. Reed is within easy striking distance of his third Supercross championship, and Dungey is in a pretty decent position to defend his Supercross title. Stewart and Canard both have a little more work to do, but both have proven themselves more than capable. Canard overcame a huge deficit to Christophe Pourcel in 2010 Outdoor National Motocross Series to take the 250cc MX Championship at the very last race of the year
2. A Return to Dominance?
While the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team has dominated the Lites West region, the results have not been the same in the Lites East region. Dean Wilson won in Atlanta, then fell off the pace for a couple of weeks. He got himself back together with second in Jacksonville, but did so while team mate Blake Baggett could only watch after not qualifying for the Main Event. Both Pro Circuit riders have shown they can win races, but will they make the rest of their season resemble their team’s dominance on the left coast?
GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia, along with MotoConcepts Yamaha’s Ryan Sipes, may have other plans. I look for either Wilson or Baggett, if not both, to be on the podium Saturday night.
3. Bad Blood in the Pits?
Things seemed a bit heated at more than one rig in Jacksonville. No one is certain exactly what happened in any instance, but I’m pretty sure there are some charged up riders ready to hit the track in Toronto. Is it all good now that everyone has had a chance to cool off? Or will what seemed to be isolated incidents play itself out on the track Saturday, or even during the rest of the season? Things could get interesting in Toronto if heads are still hot. It may inject itself into the championship hunt as well.
4. Brayton’s Break-through.
I talked to JGR’s Justin Brayton last Saturday before the race, and he seemed pleased with how he was progressing. Who could argue? He was sixth in points going in to Jacksonville and had won a heat race, showing that he can run up front with the “Fast Five”. He said he had been a little banged up all season as a result of some crashes, but he was good with that because he felt he was pushing a lot harder this year.
He then went out for his heat race and crashed while running right up front. He was just outside of Villopoto in the LCQ when the Kawasaki rider was pushed wide in the first turn. Both Brayton and Villopoto ended up crashing off the track. Somehow, Brayton managed to race his way into third place, coming up just short of qualifying for the Main Event. Given another quarter of a lap, he could have made the pass for second. Everything he is doing points to a guy who is going to find himself on the top step at any given race. Look for him to keep pushing in Toronto. He came up a little gimpy Saturday night in Jacksonville, but word is that he is fine and riding well. I look for big things from Justin Brayton, and they may just begin at Saturday night’s Supercross.
5. Some Return to Normalcy
… if such a thing exists this Supercross season. I cannot remember another time where two top ten riders did not qualify for the Main Event and a third crashed out after the first turn. The whole season turned upside down for many in one crazy night. There will not be a full moon so maybe we can expect that everyone in the top ten in points will be riding 20 laps.
Of course, one thing returned to normal in Jacksonville – Mike Alessi took the hole shot in both his heat race and the Main Event. He ‘went backwards’ in both races, but he reminded us all why his name became synonymous with the words “hole shot”. Another guy known for nailing hole shots – Andrew Short, had the hole shot in the other Supercross heat race. It was good to see both of them out front in the first turn again. It seems that the Red Bull KTM team is putting the pieces together for these two guys aboard their revolutionary 350cc machine.
I can’t wait for another exciting round of AMA Supercross!