This week’s Atlanta Supercross featured the racing action that we actually expected to see at Anaheim 1, a head-to-head battle between defending champ Ryan Villopoto and his archrival James Stewart. Instead, the dynamic duo has languished in mediocrity for most of the series, except for a few of breakout performances by Villopoto at Anaheim 2, Oakland and Dallas.
However, in the Georgia Dome, at round eight of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, both riders got off the line at the front, Stewart grabbing the holeshot on his Yoshimura Suzuki and Villopoto in second on his Monster Energy Kawasaki, giving the nearly 70,000 fans and a live television audience exactly what it’s been craving.
And while Stewart and Villopoto were impressive, the clash most of us anticipated never materialized and Stewart came away with his first win of the season with Villopoto one-and-a-half seconds back at the finish. Remarkably, it was Stewart’s first podium of the year as well.
“I don’t even know what to say,” said Stewart. “I didn’t get the greatest jump and I was stuck on the inside but I came out with the lead, which surprised me. The track was easy to over-ride and go down, so I was just trying to put in smooth laps. I was running 53s and 52s and when Ryan would catch up I was able to push it and drop it back down. During the last couple of laps, like lap 17 and 18, I had some good laps, but then lap 19 I was thinking, ‘dude, I can win this thing,’ and I kind of slowed down and made sure I did it.”
After seventh-fastest time in morning qualifying, Villopoto got off to a shaky start to the evening show when he bobbled in the first turn of his heat race. The Kawasaki rider was seventh at the end of the opening lap, but moved up to third behind Stewart and Justin Barcia by the end of the race.
“I had a great start in the heat and just went in there a little hot and James ran me high,” said Villopoto. “I would have been alright, but Chisholm got his front wheel hung up in my wheel and it kind of stalled me a little. If that hadn’t happened I probably would have come out behind James.”
In the main, after getting off in second behind Stewart, Villopoto closed in on Stewart early in the race, but could not get close enough to make a pass. After the race, RV1 seemed okay with second.
“We gained some points in the championship, and that’s the main thing,” said Villopoto. “We’re not really focusing on James. For sure, we want to win, but the focus is on Davi and the championship.”
All of a sudden, Davi Millsaps has become Mr. Consistency. In eight races, the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki rider has missed landing on the podium only once, and at that race he finished fourth. In the Georgia Dome, Millsaps moved into third on lap three and spent the race battling with Justin Barcia.
“I didn’t get a great start in the main, but I moved up pretty fast and got into third,” said Millsaps. “Barcia was right there, though, and I was making a lot of mistakes. I was worried about everyone else and not about myself and that’s where I was running into trouble. I need to quit doing that and just worry about myself. But all in all, it was a good night. I’m just trying to put myself in good position to end up on the box each race.”
Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Barcia gave Millsaps a good race, but came up a little short in his bid for a podium.
“I didn’t get the best start and had to make a lot of passes,” said Barcia. “I got behind Davi and then I made a mistake and had to catch him again. That’s pretty much how my whole race went, trying to catch Davi. I ended up fourth, which is better than last weekend; I need to keep moving forward. That Phoenix win is still in the back of my mind, that was unbelievable and I need to keep working to do it again.”
Andrew Short made his debut ride for BTO Sports at the Georgia Dome. The Texas rider finished second in his heat and then ran inside the top 10 early in the main, however, a crash left with a 14th place finish when all was said and done.
“Anybody that has followed my season knows that it’s been extremely challenging and for me I’ve been trying to stay on the track, so I’m happy to join BTO Sports KTM for the rest of the season and I’m really excited to see what the future has in store,” Shorty said before the race. “This first weekend is going to be the toughest, but each week will get better and I think we’ll be more and more competitive.”
With the series moving east, Eli Tomac took the opportunity to ride a 450 in the premiere class, although he didn’t have quite the success he had at this year’s Monster Energy Cup in Las Vegas.
“I guess you could say it was an average night for me; it wasn’t good but it wasn’t bad,” said Tomac. “I didn’t get a good start, and I blame that on my heat race finish. I got off in the middle and had to pick off a few guys. So I guess for me, it’s just good experience, to learn what kind of beasts these 450s are.”
Wil Hahn was a surprise winner of the 250 main, the GEICO Honda rider grabbing his first-ever 250-class supercross win after leading Dean Wilson for the full 15 laps of the race.
“I can’t tell you how great this feels,” said Hahn. “I just tried to maintain composure but that was the longest 15 laps I’ve done in a long time. But I just relied on my fitness. I knew Wilson was closing and I was making a few mistakes in the end because lappers were coming into play. I just stayed calm and hit my lines.”
Wilson was disappointed with second but still holds onto the 250 points lead heading into St. Louis. “I got a pretty good start and I got behind Wil and I was just waiting for a mistake, but it didn’t really happened,” said Wilson. “I’m not that happy with my ride but I’ll take the points.”
Red Bull KTM rider Marvin Musquin rounded out the podium in third, closing on Wilson in the late stages of the race, but it was a mater of too little, too late.
“I was fastest in practice, and that was really good,” said Musquin. “In the main, I started about fifth place and came back up to third behind Wilson. I got close enough to pass him, but then he pulled away. There were places we was faster than me, so I will just try to be stronger next week.”
Kyle Chisholm filled in for the injured Josh Grant on the Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX Team at the Atlanta round, but failed to make the main after finishing fourth in the LCQ. Grant was injured at the third Anaheim round of the tour suffering a broken ankle and a shoulder contusionUpon reevaluation by his doctors it was found that a rare condition was present within the shoulder that requires surgery to correct. Grant will return to racing once he is fully recovered and fit for competition.
Rookie Pro Zach Bell showed his speed once again in the 250 class, leading his heat until making a mistake on the final lap that allowed teammate Wil Hahn to take the lead. After that, his front wheel locked up over a jump and Musquin went by. The GEICO Honda rider was 10th in the main.
Michael Waddell, a.k.a. the Bone Collector, and star of the Bone Collector TV show, was on hand at the Atlanta race and in Ryan Villopoto’s corner. The Bone Collector series is based out of Atlanta, and since Waddell is a huge dirt bike fan, he was a bike sponsor for the Atlanta race for Villopoto and Jake Weimer.
1. James Stewart (Suz)
2. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw)
3. Davi Millsaps (Suz)
4. Justin Barcia (Hon)
5. Trey Canard (Hon)
6. Ryan Dungey (KTM)
7. Eli Tomac (Hon)
8. Chad Reed (Hon)
9. Jake Weimer (Kaw)
10. Mike Alessi (Suz)
Eastern Regional 250SX Class
1. Wil Hahn, Decatur (Hon)
2. Dean Wilson (Kaw)
3. Marvin Musquin (KTM)
4. Blake Wharton (Suz)
5. Jeremy Martin (Yam)
6. Justin Hill (Kaw)
7. Gavin Faith (Hon)
8. Kyle Peters (Hon)
9. Vince Friese (Hon)
10. Zach Bell (Hon)