NEW BERLIN, N.Y. (July 21, 2008) -- As expected, the Unadilla Valley Sports Center in New Berlin, N.Y. provided a memorable eighth round of the 2008 Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF. Mother Nature gave the world's best motocross...
NEW BERLIN, N.Y. (July 21, 2008) -- As expected, the Unadilla Valley Sports Center in New Berlin, N.Y. provided a memorable eighth round of the 2008 Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF. Mother Nature gave the world's best motocross riders all they could handle at the Monster Energy National at Unadilla Presented by Renegade Haulers. Rain, thunder, and dangerously close lightning interrupted partly cloudy skies, forcing the AMA to adapt the ever-changing conditions and presenting a new challenge to the series competitors. In the end, Monster Energy Kawasaki's James Stewart and Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto prevailed in the AMA Motocross and AMA Motocross Lites classes.
Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Ryan Dungey earned the BTOsports.com Holeshot Award in the opening AMA Motocross Lites moto, barely edging out MDK/KTM rider Martin Davalos. Hot on their heels was the point leader Villopoto and GEICO Powersports Honda's Josh Grant. Dungey did his best to pull away but Villopoto patiently lurked, waiting for the right moment to make a pass for the lead. The two-time defending champion was able to do just that and pull away to a wide margin over Dungey to win the moto. Davalos gradually began to fade, dropping through the standings and eventually out of the race with apparent mechanical issues. The racing behind the top two was intense with GEICO Powersports Trey Canard, DNA Energy Drink/BTO Sports Honda's Kyle Cunningham, MDK/KTM's Matt Goerke, and the aforementioned Grant, racing hard all the way to the checkered flag. Grant hung on for third, while Cunningham completed the best moto of his pro career, finishing fourth. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Brett Metcalfe completed the top five.
In AMA Motocross, Monster Energy Kawasaki's James Stewart edged out Red Bull Honda's Andrew Short to earn the BTOSports.com Holeshot Award in the first moto. Stewart quickly established a large lead while some great racing broke out behind him. Surging Rockstar/Makita Suzuki rider Michael Byrne raced his way into second place and was able to hold off a hard charging Timmy Ferry all the way to the checkered flag. The Monster Energy Kawasaki backed Ferry came from a trademark mid-pack start and caught the front pack, but ran out of tear-offs with time running out. Short finished the moto fourth while privateer Suzuki City Biloxi, MS/OTSFF Suzuki rider Cody Cooper rounded out the top five. It was another eye brow raising performance from the New Zealand new comer.
The plot definitely thickened in the overall standings battle during the deciding second moto in the AMA Motocross Lites class. Motosport Xtreme Kawasaki mounted Tommy Hahn pulled the BTOSports.com Holeshot Award and was chased by Dungey and Villopoto. The number one plated Villopoto was able to pass Hahn and Dungey to take the lead and was beginning to pull away around the 10-minute mark. Just then, the skies opened up and lightning began to strike very close to the track. The AMA wasted little time in throwing the red flag and getting the riders safely off the track and into cover.
After some discussion, the decision was made to restart the race and run another full 30-minute plus two lap moto. As the gate dropped for the second time on moto two, Dungey seized a golden opportunity to make good on the muddy conditions and grabbed the BTOSports.com Holeshot Award to sweep the day. Villopoto had gated well again and was in second place at the conclusion of lap one. However, this time Dungey was able to hold the defending champion at bay and actually opened up a comfortable margin. It was not to be though as Dungey lost control over a jump heading into the mechanics straight and hit the deck. He was able to remount, but the damage was done. Villopoto won the moto completing his seventh sweep in a row, while Dungey and Metcalfe rounded out the podium.
With the rain continuing to saturate the racetrack, there was another meeting between AMA officials and team managers as what the second moto would or wouldn't hold. The call was made to run as scheduled and provide the thousands of faithful Unadilla fans with a full show. The track was now severely muddy and the overall win was up in the air.
With his past history at the track, the odds were against Stewart. In spite of that, he was still able to pull the all important BTOSports.com Holeshot Award for the fifth-straight moto and lead the pack through the slop. Amazingly, Cooper passed him in the second corner, bringing the crowd to its feet and straddling the fence line. Stewart fired back immediately and secured the lead once again as he flew out of Gravity Cavity taking the green flag. But the race was on. Cooper, a virtual unknown, was able to keep Stewart in his sights and maintained his second place position through the halfway mark. Despite giving up a small margin, Cooper was biding his time, just waiting for a mistake to make his move. That opportunity presented itself when Stewart lost his front wheel and went down. James was able to remount just as the New Zealand rider neared his rear fender, but the race for the win was neck and neck. The thousands of spectators that had braced the rain were running fence line to fence line anticipating what could have been the biggest upset in recent motocross history. But Stewart remained steadfast and was able to fight his way to moto win number 14 and overall victory number eight to remain perfect. Byrne would finish a stellar second in the final moto to quietly grab second overall while Cooper's second moto heroics vaulted him to his first career podium.
Cody Cooper, Suzuki City Biloxi, MS/OTSFF Suzuki, AMA Motocross, Third Overall
"It's pretty cool to be up here. I didn't see James tip over. He had quite a gap (on me). The next thing I knew I'm right behind him. But then he opened it up again. I got a good start. I needed one and first or second (out of the gate) works fine for me. (James and I) swapped positions but then he got by and got away from me. I'm new to all these tracks. Advice I receive doesn't do much until I get out on the track."
Michael Byrne, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki, AMA Motocross, Second Overall
"It's not the first time James (Stewart) has gotten by me (out of the gate). It's been like that the last couple races. I just tried to put in some good laps and go as fast as I could at the start to hang with him. I've just been trying to keep the ball rolling (recently). Keep training and keep getting results every weekend. I've always enjoyed this track aside from the rocks. It's like what I'm used to back home (in Australia). I feel like I'm back to 100% (healthy) now. I've had a lot of time to think about what I wanted to achieve and I'm satisfied with how things have been going so far."
James Stewart, Monster Energy Kawasaki, AMA Motocross, Overall Winner
"This track has always been tough for me, especially the last three years. This is the first moto I've finished since 2004. I stuck with it in the second moto, so you have no idea how excited I am right now. I had to pull my goggles off like five laps into the moto. At home (in Florida), since its so hot I have to do the same thing so it's weird how things turn out sometimes. I got roost in my face and then spun (my tire) off the face of a jump and went down. I had to spin the mud off (my tires) and as soon as I got going I knew I needed to push because Cody (Cooper) was going to be right there. I've always felt as though this track was good, it was just bad luck in the past. I just need to keep going race by race. If I keep that mindset I'll be better off (towards the championship)."
Brett Metcalfe, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, AMA Motocross Lites, Third Overall
"This weekend I actually knew I was third (overall). Last week I didn't know and it was a frantic run to get me to the press conference. Every year I'm still improving a lot. Right now I'm riding at the top of my game, getting better each week. I'll be riding Lites again next year and it will be good. The first moto, the track was pretty good, but it had a one line thing going on. In the second moto it started out nice but the rain washed that away. By the time (moto two) got to the end the track was getting really good. Each week I expect myself to get a little bit better and pass (my competitors) and get a little extra speed. I haven't finished on the podium in a moto the last couple rounds and that's what I want to do."
Ryan Dungey, Rockstar/Makita Suzuki, AMA Motocross Lites, Second Overall
"I saw the red flag and was surprised. It was good to get the holeshot the second time around. I swapped right before the mechanics straight and fell in the mud. Luckily I kept my bike running. Ryan (Villopoto) got by me (early) in the second moto and I was able to get back by him and it felt good. I hate that I crashed but I rode my best and that's all I can ask for. The bike setup is really good and I keep figuring some things out. In the first moto, the lappers held (Villopoto) up and helped me get close, but then they held me up. I just tried to settle into my own pace and wait for the second moto."
Ryan Villopoto, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki, AMA Motocross Lites, Overall Winner
"This weekend was one of the toughest with the rain coming in. You didn't know what to expect. The track was good before the red flag. (The rain) blew in really quick and next thing we know the red flag was out. When we restarted, I just tried to get out front and make a break for it. The biggest problem with restarting is having the ball rolling (before the restart) and then having to stop and do that all over again in different conditions. Next week is my home race (in Washington) and I'd like to get an overall in the lites class and leave Washougal with a win."