After a 16-year hiatus, national motocross returned to the southeastern part of the country with round three of the Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Series being held for the first time at Muddy Creek Raceway in Blountville, Tennessee, a racetrack that’s been a popular spot for amateur racing since the 1970’s.
A huge and enthusiastic crowd filled the neatly groomed facility to watch the top riders in the world do battle on the Mark Barnett-designed track, which featured the usual southern fare including loamy dirt, deeply rutted turns and hot, humid weather. There was even an off-camber or two and a massive uphill triple jump to test the nerve of the 250 guys. Speaking of 250 guys, the course was narrow and on the tight and technical side, which resulted in the 250s turning faster times than the 450s all day.
Aided in part by a mistake-filled second moto by Ryan Villopoto, Ryan Dungey broke through to claim his first win of the season, parlaying a 3-1 moto tally into the overall win. The Red Bull KTM rider suffered a poor start in moto one and was sixth at the end of the opening lap. After a short battle with James Stewart, Dungey made his way into third place on lap five, however by that time the two leaders, Villopoto and Barcia, had pulled clear of the pack, fueled by their intense battle for the lead.
In moto two, Dungey got off the line behind Barcia and Villopoto, who were going at each other again. Five turns into the contest Villopoto went down, leaving Barcia and Dungey to battle for the win. Dungey dogged Barcia for the next 10 laps before deciding it was time to take control.
“I was doing the math in my head and I knew a 3-1 would do it,” said Dungey. “I knew I needed to pass Barcia for the lead in that second moto to get the win. And I knew that hopefully I could wear him down, so I pushed him, and when I got the five-lap signal I knew I had to make the pass. After that I tried to drop the hammer and get some distance on him.”
With the win, Dungey gained a couple of points on Villopoto in the series standings, leaving the Volunteer State second in the standings, just 10 points down from the Kawasaki rider.
Honda Muscle Milk Racing’s Justin Barcia had the Muddy Creek overall win in his grasp, but couldn’t hold off Ryan Dungey’s charge in moto two. In the first moto, Barcia gave Villopoto fits during the early going. However, the intense battle may have taken its toll on Barcia for the second moto, as the New York native appeared to run out of steam near the end.
“At the end of the motos, those guys seem to still be super strong and I still feel good on the bike, but I think the fatigue thing is setting in. I don’t really feel tired, but those guys are just so strong and I need to get that,” said Barcia.
In all, Barcia led 11 laps at Muddy Creek and it’s only a matter of time before he puts it all together and gets a win.
Ryan Villopoto’s win streak ended at five motos, which is still pretty impressive considering the deep and talented 450-class field. Villopoto got a little bit ahead of himself at the start of moto two, and admitted he was following too close to Barcia when he went down.
“I got a good start in that second moto, and Justin was in front of me and I was just following him. I was following a little too close and we went into that far sweeper and it was one big long rut and I was just a little too close to Justin to be able to see what was coming and I ended up washing the front end and went down,” said Villopoto. “That made it tough because everyone is so close that a lot of people ended up going around me before I could get going.”
As far as the perfect season, Villopoto said he wasn’t “putting much time into thinking about a perfect season.”
“Sure, I wanted to keep my win-streak going, but that definitely wasn’t the top priority,” he added.
James Stewart started off the day in an ominous way by posting the 17th fastest time in qualifying. The Yoshimura Suzuki rider ran near the front in both motos, but just didn’t seem to have the speed to go head-to-head with the top three. Stewart spent much of the first moto battling with Belgian Suzuki rider Clement DeSalle, and in the end he finally prevailed, although he finished the moto some 14 seconds behind Dungey, who had passed Stewart earlier in the race. In the second moto, Stewart battled early on with Dungey for second, but then he soon started dropping back, getting passed first by Mike Alessi, and then Trey Canard and finally by Villopoto.
Trey Canard had an up and down weekend, coming from behind to finish a strong third in the second moto after finishing lap one in seventh place. In the first moto, however, the Honda Muscle Milk Racing rider was running in third on the opening lap when he went down over a jump and wasn’t able to get to his bike until almost everyone had gone by.
“I just washed the front end and the way I landed on the backside of a jump, I couldn’t get to my bike,” said Canard. “The flagger wasn’t really doing his job and everyone was landing on my bike. I had to wait until everyone went by before I could pick it up. Once I got to it, it was pretty messed up so I had to stop and get it straightened out, and by that time I was way out of it. The second moto was good, though. I was a little nervous about the start, but I got a good jump and came out decent, better than I expected. I think I was in the top-10 and I just started making passes and worked my way up into third. After that, I just tried to hold on. I knew Villopoto was coming and even though he crashed twice he was still going for it.”
Mavin Musquin says he likes technical tracks, and the Muddy Creek course was definitely technical. “I’m really happy because in the first two rounds I had all fourths in my motos and fourth overall,” said Musquin. “I didn’t win a moto today, but I am pleased with my start and I had a good feeling on the track and I got the win. I like the technical tracks, for sure. Hangtown and Lakewood are fast tracks and they are not the best for me. But this track had lots of jumps and it was very technical and that’s what I like.”
As his starts go, so goes Eli Tomac. The GEICO Honda rider seems to win (or do well) when he gets the holeshot. But when he’s buried in the pack, he has trouble moving to the front.
“I have to say it’s my starts,” said Tomac. “In the second moto I got the start and I won. In the first moto, I had a big ole’ squirrely moment and kind of wheelied and ended up getting hit on my swingarm and got pushed across into a couple of guys. I was very close to going down. So I got a really bad start in the first moto and when you get buried off the start in this class, it’s really hard to wirk back up. It was pretty warm, so I wasn’t easy to work up.”
Second motos have been a problem for Roczen the last two weeks. After taking a strong win in the opening moto, the Red Bull KTM rider got off to a bad start in moto two and then later went down.
“Actually, I felt pretty good in the second moto, I just didn’t get a good start,” said Roczen. “I was about mid-pack after the start and I was working my way up, but them I think it was on the second lap I went down on the top of that hill and it unbuckled my boot and it was kind of weird trying to ride like that. My boot was filling with rocks and dirt and it was really a strange feeling. It was definitely a distraction but I’m not going to use that as an excuse. I worked back up to third, but right before the end I made a mistake and went off the track and that’s why Blake Baggett went by.”
1. Ryan Dungey (KTM) 3-1
2. Justin Barcia (Hon) 2-2
3. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw) 1-4
4. James Stewart (Suz) 4-6
5. Mike Alessi (Suz) 6-5
6. Clement Desalle (Suz) 5-9
7. Kevin Strijbos (Suz) 14-7
8. Trey Canard (Hon) 20-3
9. Andrew Short (KTM) 12-10
10. Broc Tickle (Suz) 13-11
1. Marvin Musquin (KTM) 2-2
2. Eli Tomac 4-1 (Hon) 4-1
3. Ken Roczen (KTM) 1-4
4. Blake Baggett (Kaw) 3-3
5. Zach Osborne (Hon) 6-5
6. Jason Anderson (Suz) 7-7
7. Justin Bogle (Hon) 12-6
8. Kyle Cunningham (Yam) 8-11
9. Blake Wharton (Suz) 11-9
10. Cooper Webb (Yam) 5-15