Villopoto Claims First Supercross Title
May 8, 2011 | 2:02 A.M. EST
Ryan Villopoto won six races en route to the championship. (Photo: Hoppenworld.com)
The greatest season ever of Monster Energy AMA Supercross came to an exciting conclusion on Saturday night in front of a capacity crowd of 39,506 fans inside Sam Boyd Stadium.
After 17 rounds of the most competitive racing in supercross history, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto secured his inaugural Supercross class title thanks to a third-place finish in the 20-lap main event. In the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites class championship, GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia captured his first career title after a strong third-place finish. In the final race of the Western Regional Supercross Lites class championship, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle also secured his first career title after a runner-up effort in his main event.
Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi kicked off the final race of the 2011 season in the Supercross class by capturing the Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot, with GEICO Honda’s Kevin Windham and San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart in tow. Windham quickly moved out front before the conclusion of the first lap, but was passed by Stewart on Lap 3.
Three laps later on Lap 6, Stewart lost control in the whoops and went down in front of Windham, who subsequently fell after trying to avoid his rival. Villopoto then moved into the lead, with Reed on his rear fender. Villopoto fended off Reed’s advances for another five laps before Reed made the winning pass on Lap 11. Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey moved by Villopoto shortly after and over the final five laps of the main event, Reed and Dungey brought the crowd to its feet with a close battle to the finish.
In the end, Reed secured his second win of the season while Dungey brought home his series-leading 13th podium finish of the season with a runner-up effort. Villopoto rounded out the podium in third.
“We gave it all we had,” Reed said. “I feel totally blessed this season. Congrats to Ryan (Villopoto). He earned (the championship). He had the most wins this season and to come back form what he went through last year, he has my respect. We did all we can and sometimes, you come up short.”
“I just have to thank everyone at Kawasaki,” Villopoto said. “The team believed in me through thick and thin. We’ll enjoy this. It was a hard-fought battle. I saw James and Kevin go down – the whoops were tough tonight. We all had to run the same line and you couldn’t avoid it. Luckily I got around (the crash). I wasn’t pulling away form Chad, so I just let him by and Ryan (Dungey) was right behind him so then I let him by. I just cruised from there.”
As the gates dropped on the final Eastern Regional Supercross Lites class main event of the season, Barcia grabbed the early lead and quickly opened up a gap over the rest of the field. Behind him, DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha’s Ryan Sipes and Monster Energy//Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett engaged in battle for second and after Barcia crashed out of the lead on Lap 3, put on a bar-to-bar showdown for the win. The duo traded the top spot on several occasions before Baggett made the winning pass on the final lap to secure his second win of the season.
“It was great to go out with a win," Baggett said. “I had such a crazy season that it’s good to know I’m capable of being patient and having a good final round.”
Sipes finished second, just one bike length behind Baggett, while Barcia recovered from his mishap to finish off his championship season with a podium finish in all nine races.
“I’m lost for words right now,” Barcia said. “It hasn’t set in yet that I’ve won the championship. It’s been an awesome season. The racing has been crazy all year and I’ve had a lot of fun. I have an awesome team behind me that have given me 100-percent support every race. This is a moment I will remember forever.”
In the Western Region Supercross Lites class finale, Red Bull KTM’s Ken Roczen, of Germany, was the first out of the gates with Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Cole Seely right behind him. As the pair of riders pulled away from the field, several other competitors, including championship contenders Tickle and GEICO Honda’s Eli Tomac traded positions throughout the top five. On Lap 4, Roczen crashed out of the lead, allowing Seely to assume the position. Just two laps later, Seely crashed in the same spot and Roczen reclaimed the spot, carrying it on to his first career victory in his rookie supercross season.
“This is awesome,” Roczen said. “I’ve had so much fun racing supercross this season and competing in front of the U.S. fans. It feels great to finish the year off with a win. I feel like I’ve learned so much this (year) and I have a great team behind me. The best part about all of this is seeing how happy (Team Manager) Roger DeCoster is.”
With just two points separating them coming into the evening, Tickle and Tomac kept one another in sight throughout all 15 laps of the main event. Tomac held the upper hand for the majority of the race, until Tickle slipped by on Lap 13 and held off his rival to take the hard-earned championship with a runner-up effort.
“It really is a dream come true,” Tickle said. “I still don’t think it’s real. I know it happened but I still can’t believe it. The past few weeks have been pretty bad for me. I’ve struggled in practice and in the races. I am so happy right now and hope I don’t wake up from this dream.”
DNA Shred Stix/Star Racing Yamaha’s Kyle Cunningham finished third, with Tomac following in fourth.
Following the respective regional Supercross Lites class main events, the stars from both coasts competed one final time in the Dave Coombs Sr. East/West Shootout. Fresh off his championship win, Barcia grabbed the Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot, but crashed out of the lead on Lap 2, allowing Sipes to move into the lead. From there, the veteran rider never looked back, dominating en route to his second win of the 2011 season.
“(This is) cool,” Sipes said. “After losing the east main the way I did, it’s nice to come back and get this (win). I feel good and I feel that was the best way to end the season.”
Seely secured second while Roczen grabbed the final spot on the podium in third.
Earlier in the evening, the Bret Michaels “Rock Hard-Ride Hard” Award was handed out for the first time. The distinction honors the hardest charging, comeback supercross rider who ultimately proves to push the limits in a quest towards winning the Monster Energy Supercross championship. The award was given to Chad Reed, after the former champion came just four points shy of his third title in his inaugural foray into the world of team ownership.