Ryan Villopoto seems unstoppable as he grinds out one win after another in the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series, and in Houston’s Reliant Stadium, in front of 49,438 fans, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider claimed a personal-best fifth consecutive victory, extending his lead in the series standings to a seemingly safe 21 points over Davi Millsaps, who was fifth in Houston on his Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki.
After displacing holeshot winner Mike Alessi midway into the opening lap, Villopoto quickly pulled away to a relatively safe lead and then put his Kawi on cruise control as he coasted in for a better than five-second margin of victory at the end of 20 laps.
“I was just trying to get out to a fast lead and then try to avoid any problems with the lappers,” said Villopoto, who admits that he wants to get to the Vegas finale with a reasonably secure lead in the standings. “We have two outdoor stadiums coming up and anything can happen at those races, depending on the weather.”
If there was one place in particular on the track that was giving the riders fits it was the whoops, which were bigger than usual. And even Villopoto had problems in the early part of the race.
“The whoops were breaking down, and there wasn’t much traction in them,” said Villopoto. “On the first couple of laps, I was going kind of to the left and I got kicked up a couple of times so I changed my line a bit and was able to get good drives in there every time. Being able to change up your line during a race is important and that seemed to be a good option.”
Ryan Dungey ended the night in second, moving up from fourth after the start of the race. The Red Bull KTM rider passed Mike Alessi and Trey Canard over the course of the first nine laps to move into the runner-up spot. At the same time, the Minnesota rider was forced to cover his flank while holding off a modest challenge from James Stewart; however, the Yoshimura Suzuki rider took himself out of contention with a crash on lap 10. This was one of Dungey’s best performances of the year, and while he moved closer to overtaking Millsaps for the runner-up slot in the series standings, he lost a bit of ground to Villopoto.
“The ultimate goal is a title, but right now we’re thinking about one race at a time,” said Dungey. “Losing these points isn’t ideal, but the ride and the performances are going really well and I just want to build on that and let things play out.”
Taking advantage of Stewart’s lap-10 crash, Trey Canard put his Muscle Milk Honda on the podium with a popular third-place finish. The Oklahoma rider, who was making his return to the series after suffering a concussion in a nasty crash at the Indy round, was clearly a crowd favorite, along with Andrew Short, who lives in the Houston area.
“I finally got good starts tonight, which was a big relief,” said Canard. “I tried to latch onto RV as much as I could, but Dungey and Stewart got around me right away. I wasn’t great in that rhythm all night, and Dungey got through there clean and got around me. I tried to stick with Stewart too, but I got a little bit tired tonight. But overall, I’m just happy to be racing and come away healthy.”
After getting a win at the Phoenix round earlier in the year, Justin Barcia has struggled to return to the podium in the 450 class, doing so only three more times in the next 11 races. In Houston, the Muscle Milk Honda rider missed it by one spot. “I didn’t get the best of starts and I had to fight through the pack a little bit and the lappers were a little sketchy,” said Barcia. “But in the end I didn’t ride a very good race, I was a little tight. I have been struggling a little lately. It bike was good, I just didn’t ride that good, so I have to work on some stuff at home and just keep trying.”
After crashing out on the final lap of an almost sure win at Indy, Blake Wharton took an assertive approach in Houston, riding an aggressive race after making a forceful pass on Marvin Musquin on the first lap of the race to claim his first win of the year. “It was what I needed to do, I you can’t wait around for something to happen,” Wharton said of the pass. Wharton led every lap of the 15-lap 250 final, and held firm when series point leader Wil Hahn moved close enough to challenge for the lead near the end of the race. Wharton never faltered, however, and was seven-tenths of a second clear of the Honda rider when he took the checkers. “There were a few lappers on the last lap and I was concerned about that, but I just kept my head down and drove to the finish.”
Wil Hahn moved another step closer to the 250 East Regional 250 title, the GEICO Honda rider taking a well-deserved second to Wharton, which widened the gap between himself and Marvin Musquin to two points in the championship chase. “I tried to be very patient and take my time, I knew it was going to be a tough track,” said Hahn. “I made some mistakes and I felt like without those I had the win.”
Marvin Musquin looked very capable of walking away with a fourth consecutive main event win after a dominate performance in his heat race, however, the aggressive pass by Wharton on the first lap of the main seemed to frustrate the Red Bull KTM rider and throw him off his game. “That was really aggressive racing from Wharton,” said Musquin. “We almost went down but I kind of let him go by. After that, I cannot do my own race. He was fast but I knew I was faster. Unfortunately, later I went down in the whoops; they were good but they were tough – slick and rough – and I went down. In Supercross, you’ve got to get a good start and not crash to win, so we will go to the next race and see what happens.”
1. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw)
2. Ryan Dungey (KTM)
3. Trey Canard (Hon)
4. Justin Barcia (Hon)
5. Davi Millsaps (Suz)
6. Justin Brayton (Yam)
7. Andrew Short (KTM)
8. Josh Hill (Suz)
9. Jake Weimer (Kaw)
10. Broc Tickle (Suz)
1. Blake Wharton (Suz)
2. Wil Hahn (Hon)
3. Marvin Musquin (KTM)
4. Tyler Bowers (Kaw)
5. Gavin Faith (Hon)
6. Cole Thompson (Hon)
7. Peter Larsen (Hon)
8. Lance Vincent (Hon)
9. Daniel Herrlein (Hon)
10. Steven Clarke (KTM)
Houston SX Notes:
Three-time AMSOIL Arenacross Champion Tyler Bowers was a last minute replacement rider for the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team, filling in for the injured Dean Wilson and Justin Hill. Bowers finished a career-best fourth place in his debut ride for the team.
Steve Stackable, the 1975 AMA Motocross champ, was honored before the race by Legends and Heroes of Motocross, for his accomplishments and contributions to the sport. Stackable is from nearby Austin.
Country singer Lyle Lovett was seen shooting photos from the floor of Reliant Stadium. The music legend is an avid off-road motorcycle rider and race in his younger days.