This Week in Monster Energy Supercross: Houston
AURORA, Ill, (February 11, 2011) -- On the eve of the 45th Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, race in Houston, James Stewart has his sights set on a fourth win this season and the 41st of his career. Last weekend in Anaheim, Stewart joined an elite group of supercross racers in the 40-win club by leading all 20 laps of the main event, joining Ricky Carmichael and Jeremy McGrath in this exclusive group.
"I couldn't be happier with my performance in Anaheim," Stewart said.b^0x001cI'm back home this week for training and will be back strong for Houston.As the season goes on, I keep on improving and am happy to be stepping back up to where I hoped to be."
Stewart's win in Anaheim came with an exclamation point as he was the only rider to master the double 'quad' section of the technical track. Heading into Reliant Stadium tomorrow night, Stewart leads Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto by five points and has led 66% of the laps this season.
Last year in Houston, Villopoto led every lap of the main event after pulling the holeshot and hopes to repeat that feat this weekend. Through the first five races of the season, Villopoto has two wins and an additional pair of podium finishes.
"I like Houston and the track is usually really fun," said Villopoto. "This will be our first track in a football stadium so we'll see how it turns out. I worked hard during the week and I hope it pays off this weekend."
Defending Supercross class champion Ryan Dungey started the day in Anaheim with a strong practice and finished first in timed qualifying on his RM-Z. He grabbed the holeshot in his heat race and finished with a convincing win. A mid-pack start in the main put him in 10th after the first lap. Dungey kept his head down and was able to work his way through the pack up to sixth place by Lap 7. Unfortunately, on Lap 8, the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki rider threw the chain on his RM-Z and ended with a DNF in the main event. Based on initial observations, his Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team concurs that the chain loss was a result of a rock or other foreign object in the sprocket or possible contact with another rider.
"Well, obviously the main event didn't go our way in Anaheim," said Dungey. "The bad part is that we had a really good day; a good practice and a really great bike setup. We won the heat and then ran into some bad luck in the main. It's a pretty tough pill to swallow because the entire Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team has been working really, really hard. I don't know the last time we've had a DNF, which is pretty amazing in itself. This is a tough one and I'll take the week to blow off some steam for sure because we aren't going to quit and we aren't going to let this keep us down. The goals are still the same. We will be there at Houston."
American Honda Racing's Trey Canard is well-placed in championship points, sitting fourth behind fellow Honda rider, TwoTwo Motorsports' Chad Reed, who is in third after five rounds of Supercross class racing.
"I'm really looking forward to racing my first-ever Houston supercross race on the Honda CRF450R," said Canard. "I've ridden the CRF250R there but never the big bike at Houston supercross. I've had a good week of training and testing in preparation for this weekend's event and I'm feeling good about the upcoming race. I think the team is well-overdue for a podium result so that's my goal for this weekend."
GEICO Honda's Kevin Windham is looking to earn valuable championship points and better his eighth overall in the point standings this weekend.
"Houston is always a good one," said Windham. "I'm always excited to be racing close to friends and family. I'm just trying to find the podium. We've got a lot of work cut out for us. This GEICO Honda team ready to get there, I just let them down the last couple of weekends."
Red Bull KTM's Andrew Short finished a season-best sixth place in Anaheim and is seventh in championship points aboard the KTM 350 motorcycle.
"Everything came together this weekend," said Short. "The track really suited the 350 bike and I felt the most comfortable on that course than any other this season. I was able to get pretty decent starts and put down some solid laps to finish sixth place overall. I'm still off from where I would like to be but if we keep making progress at this rate we will be moving into the top five soon."
Team Rockstar/Makita Suzuki's Brett Metcalfe powered his Yoshimura-equipped Suzuki RM-Z450 to a ninth-place finish at Angel Stadium. Metcalfe piloted his Suzuki to a fourth-place finish in the first 450 heat race. After a tough 13th-place start in the main, Metcalfe worked his Suzuki through the pack to score a ninth-place finish.
"It wasn't one of my better days," said Metcalfe. "Everything for me in Anaheim was just difficult. But you learn a lot from these days and we'll take it and move forward. I want to thank the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team for sticking by me and we'll just concentrate on Houston. I've always liked Houston and have generally done pretty well there. I'm looking forward to it."
Newest Monster Energy Kawasaki team member Fabien Izoird will line-up for his second race with the team in Houston. He qualified straight to the main in Anaheim and hopes to improve on his finish from last weekend.
"I am really lucky to be given a chance to ride on the team and I am trying to learn the different style of racing that is here in the U.S.," said Izoird. "The tracks are much different where I am from, but it helps me become a better rider. I hope I can improve this weekend."
Stewart's teammate, Kyle Regal, finished 11th at Anaheim and has been training hard to work his way up. This week Regal is looking forward to going back home to Texas and showing his family, friends, and fans what he can do.
"I'm really excited to go to Houston, since it's so close to home for me," Regal said. "I've got a lot to prove to my fans and hopefully I can do that."
Mike Alessi, who rides for the Red Bull KTM squad, found a little of the confidence in Anaheim. The #800 rider had a great start in the main event and ran within the top five for the first third of the race before falling off the pace near the end.
"This race was a step in the right direction for me," said Alessi. "After not qualifying at Oakland it was nice to get back in the mix. Being able to get a good start really gave me some motivation to ride hard. I kept the pace for a few laps but got a little tired at the end. I have brought back my old trainer to begin working with me and get me back into race shape."
With the start of the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites class championship taking place this weekend, there will be some rising stars making their debut. Team Rockstar Energy Suzuki rookies Ian Trettel and Jason Anderson will represent the factory-backed team for the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites class, with Houston being the pro supercross debut for both of the two young riders.
"I'm pretty excited now that everything is becoming real," said Trettel. "I know I've put in all the right work and feel that I'm well prepared. I know that if I ride to my full ability I'll be able to put my Suzuki RM-Z250 out front. Houston will be a great place to start and I think it will be a good track to see just where we are at. I couldn't be more excited."
"I'm very excited to get to Houston," said Anderson. "It marks the beginning of my pro career and I'm anxious to get out there racing. I've been working really hard with my trainer and my Rockstar Energy Suzuki team and I can't wait to get to Houston to see how it pays off."
GEICO Honda's Justin Barcia is ready to take on his second season in the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites class aboard his CRF250R along with teammate Blake Wharton who lines up for his third season of competition aboard a CRF250R.
"On top of me being born in Houston, it was site of my first supercross race in 2009," said Wharton. "I'm excited. It is kind of a home race; I'll have family and maybe some friends there. It has all the normal excitement of it being the first round, and I'm excited to go out there and be riding my kind of race."
The sixth stop of Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, brings new faces to the track. Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Dean Wilson and newest team member Blake Baggett start their season in Houston. Both riders are familiar with the tracks since they both rode the series as rookies last year on the Eastern Regional division. This year, the two are teammates and ready to prove they are championship worthy.
"I'm really looking forward to the first race and coming back strong," said Wilson. "I didn't get a chance to compete in every event last year and I think I can be up there (for a championship) at the end of the season. I feel good and can't wait to get out and race."
In his first year with the team, Baggett is also hoping to find success and his second-career win.
"Everyone is healthy right now and I know there is a lot of good competition out there," said Baggett. "If I race how I have been practicing, I think I will have a good chance of standing on the podium. I feel really confident with my new team and I know I am capable of being up front."
Red Bull/KTM's Ken Roczen, fresh off his first podium in the Western Regional Supercross Lites class, is excited about his progress and will be making his Supercross class debut this weekend while the Western Regional Supercross Lites class riders take a break from action.
"I loved the Anaheim track. It was fun and I felt good on it all day. I had been sick leading up to the race but had no problems with breathing or anything once I was racing. Everything flowed well for me and I felt very fast on that course. I was glad we were able to make it a good race for the fans and I got my first podium."