What Really Happened: Houston SX

Villopoto Bounces Back, Anderson Keeps It Going

By Pete Peterson and Chris Denison

With another round of the AMA Monster Energy Supercross series in the books, both championships are far from over. This week, we take you inside the action from the 14th race of the season, where there was plenty to talk about. Let’s begin!

The Houston course inside of the covered Reliant stadium was described by KTM's Ken Roczen as being "simple, but difficult". The track provided multiple options, with the first whoop section appearing to be the nastiest spot on the course. In the track walk, it was apparent that the fifth and sixth whoops were noticeably bigger than the others, with a large gap between them that made the middle of the section irregular and tricky. Later on in the day, the whoops were cut down slightly but remained a difficult obstacle throughout the night.

There were numerous crashes in practice, with Ryan Villopoto swapping out and hitting the ground hard and Justin Brayton crashing twice (suffering a minor fracture his hand in the latter crash that would force him to pull out for the evening). Zach Osbourne looked fast but had a tough run as well, while fellow 250F racer Cole Seely failed to reach the top five in the first practice, although he found his mojo later on in the day. James Stewart secured the top time in the first practice, then opted to skip the second practice due to what was said to be a stomach illness that started on Wednesday, sidelining the Yoshimura Suzuki racer with flu-like symptoms. Stewart's camp noted that James was not nearly at 100%, and yet his skipping the second practice still cemented Stewart in the top five fasted by the time all of the qualifiers were completed.

Kevin Windham was injured on Friday practicing his famous opening ceremonies transfer jump from the second triple's take off to the finish line jump's landing two lanes over (a massive gap in person). He came up short, landing hard on the top of the jump and apparently slammed his throat/neck into the bar, with residual pains in his back. He went to the hospital in an ambulance but fortunately ended up not having any major injuries, returning to the track later just banged up. Windham later posted the video of the jump on his Instagram account.

The night's racing got started with a Troy Lee Designs Jesse Nelson holeshot, with Cooper Webb, Dean Wilson and Justin Hill close behind. Wilson took the lead and things were looking good for the tall rider who could use his height advantage in the tricky whoops that were all the riders trouble in practice. Unfortunately the whoops bit Wilson on lap two and Webb was left to battle with Justin Hill for the lead. Hill slowly closed the small gap on Webb. On lap 5 Hill made his move and the riders came together and touched bars in the air over the double before the whoops. Webb accelerated away, Hill stayed up but lost time and Webb went on to take his first heat race win, whipping the bike and looking as though he was having a blast in the process. During the in-stadium interview, Webb stated that he was actually fairly nervous during what was his first ever heat race win. Back in the Pro Circuit Kawasaki truck, Wilson received some quick work on what turned out to be a minor shoulder separation, then prepared for the main.

Between heats, Kevin Windham did some floor announcing and interviewed a recovering Davi Millsaps, who stated that he has been back on the bike for a few weeks and is feeling better and better. Millsaps was smiling and mentioned that if possible, he might try to come back and race the last few rounds, but will wait to make the call until he gets closer.

As predicted, TLD/ Lucas Oil/ Honda's Cole Seely came out swinging in Heat #2 with a convincing holeshot, while GEICO Factory Connection Honda's Zach Osbourne moved into second. After starting outside of the top five, Jason Anderson put a charge in on lap one to move into third. On lap three, Anderson made an aggressive move to get around Osbourne, scooting very close on the inside line. What followed were a series of frantic laps with Malcolm Stewart attacking Osbourne for third, Osbourne pushing back and plenty of "almost bad" moments as the two riders swapped paint (in possible retaliation for some aggressive practice laps earlier in the day). When the checkered flag flew, Seely held the lead followed by Anderson, Stewart, Osbourne and Shane McElrath.

450 Heat #1 saw James Stewart pulling a massive holeshot, proving that the fifth gate pick was no disadvantage. Crossing the line behind Stewart on the first lap was JGR's Josh Grant, followed by Ryan Dungey, Trey Canard and Justin Barcia. A mistake on lap two forced Stewart to double the backside triple jump, moving him to third place and handing Grant the lead. The four rider battle that followed was intense; Stewart grabbed the lead again, and received pressure from Dungey—a moment that almost had Dungey on the ground when Stewart came oh-so-close to cleaning out the KTM racer's front wheel after cutting over. Stewart rode a wide bike as Dungey and Barcia both pressured, but despite a few wild attempts the two were unable to make a pass for the lead stick. At the finish, Stewart held the lead (making a strong statement that he was well enough to race), but Barcia actually carded the fastest lap of the main at 48.414.

The second 450 heat win went to Josh Hill, who posted fast times in practice and carried the momentum into the heat. The win came after inheriting the lead from Ryan Villopoto, who worked his way through the pack and into the lead, then had a crash exiting the whoops that slammed his head and shoulder into the ground. From the press box it looked like Villopoto simply rolled the shoulder knobs off the tire and washed out in the wet dirt; RV was slow to get up, appeared to lose his balance and fall back on his bike, and then got up slowly. He got going again, looked for two laps like he might pull off, but after fiddling with his goggles forged ahead to finish the heat, finishing 15th and heading to the Semi. Weston Peick nabbed second and Ken Roczen, after moving up slowly through the pack, rounded out the race in third. Andrew Short finished in fourth after a strong heat race ride.

The 90-degree, left-hand first turn was called out by many racers as being a bit treacherous, but the 250 LCQ participants got through it cleanly, with Dakota Tedder grabbing a commanding lead (and the eventual win by a 13-second margin). Chad Gores ran in qualifying position the entire race, but a last-corner meltdown handed MotoConcepts' Colton Aeck the final spot.

Ronnie Stewart overcame a hard heat race crash to run third place off the start in the first semi behind Mike Alessi and Nick Wey. Alessi appeared eager to charge the course, riding much looser than we've seen at previous rounds and opening up a huge lead. Behind him, Chris Blose and Jimmy Decotis moved up into second and third, respectively, and began a dogfight that lasted until the finish. By this time, the track was looking fairly beat, with the soft Texas loam beginning to show some slick spots beneath the top layer. The already-vicious whoops had developed some sizable kickers, with plenty of ruts in the rhythm sections.

There was some question going into Semi #2 whether or not Villopoto's head would be clear enough to race, but a solid third off the start showed that the Kawasaki racer was ready to race. GEICO Honda's Eli Tomac owned the lead while Villopoto worked past Josh Grant for second. Ben Lamay and Vince Friese rounded out the top five. Villopoto did not look particularly fast initially, but began picking up speed on lap three and gained on Tomac by busting out a quad and a triple that Tomac was not doing (although Tomac later did the triple). With one turn to go, Villopoto jumped the quad and snuck inside on Tomac, taking the lead. On the podium, Villopoto commented that in the heat race he washed out and hit his shoulder on the ground pretty hard. He seemed to have shaken off the earlier crash.

Following the semis, Chad Reed came out and said a few words to the crowd, stating that he would be back on the bike in about three weeks after his wicked hard crash in San Diego earlier in the season. Reed said if a miracle happened he'd be racing in Vegas, but he's shooting to be back on the bike when the Outdoor series starts. The Texan crowd was certainly stoked to see the popular Aussie back on the podium and smiling.

The 450 Last Chance Qualifier was not full of the drama some LCQs have brought. Albertson grabbed the lead early and never got challenged. Behind him, the riders filed into position before the white flag and the final lap showed no challenges for positions. It was Cody Gilmore, Kyle Regal, then Ronnie Stewart rounding out the top four. This was a nice turnaround for Ronnie Stewart's night who just made his first main earlier this season, and since has been on a qualifying streak. His night started with a crash before the first turn in his heat, but he got it done to keep up his string of main event qualifications.

Jason Anderson did not holeshot the 250 main, but he pulled into the lead so quickly you'd think that he had. Behind him was Dean Wilson and Justin Hill, followed by a string of five Hondas (Malcolm Stewart, Jessy Nelson, Zach Osborne, and Cole Seely). As Anderson opened up a bigger and bigger lead, both Wilson and Hill churned out some wicked fast lap times. Hill showed promise of sticking a wheel on Wilson, but was caught on lap three by Stewart (Hill threw it away exiting the whoops one lap later, handing third over to Stewart). Cooper Webb hung back in seventh as the top Yamaha, just outside of the Honda pack.

With 9 laps the go, the field was fairly spread out, with Anderson starting to get into lappers, ostensibly giving Anderson a chance to catch up. Wilson appeared to be crazy fast in the whoops, but inherited some bad luck by way of a handful of lappers that simply refused to give way to the blue flag. Out front, Anderson clicked off a series of very quick laps, making quick work of the traffic that he hit. Then, out of nowhere, a few small mistakes on Anderson's behalf brought Wilson to within one second of the leader at the white flag. It was a tight last lap, but the Pro Circuit Kawasaki racer was unable to make anything stick, and Anderson took the win. Wilson was visibly disappointed and commented that his shoulder was still bothering him. Malcolm Stewart landed on the final step of the podium (giving a very candid and fun speech that had him giving props to "the rednecks in the big trucks" in the process), with Seely, Osborne, Webb, McElrath, Jake Canada, Justin Hill (who suffered yet another crash in the whoops, this time on the last lap) and Jessy Nelson rounding out the top 10.

Tense excitement filled the air as the 450 racers took to the track for the parade lap. Between Stewart's illness, Villopoto's heat race crash, Dungey's hard charging aggression, and Hill's solid heat race result, as well as with Ken Roczen, Justin Barcia, Trey Canard, Andrew Short, Eli Tomac, Josh Grant, and Weston Peick looking good, it was anybody's game. When the gate dropped, huge drama unfolded with Josh Hill hitting the dirt before the first turn, followed by a nasty crash that broght Ryan Dungey, Weston Peick and Josh Grant to the ground before they reached the second corner. Meanwhile, holeshot artist Mike Alessi challenged Villopoto for the off the start, but RV quickly began to check out as Barcia, Roczen, Canard, Short and Stewart settled into the top six (an early mistake relegated Alessi back to eighth).

Both Canard—in just his second race back from injury—and Stewart began jumping the giant quad jump on lap two that Villopoto was hitting out front and using to help pull away, although Tomac soon snuck by Stewart and began pulling away. Stewart appeared to just be on cruise control, presumably feeling under the weather, but then wicked it back up and found some fight when Tomac spun out and landed on a tough block for a brief moment. At the halfway point, Villopoto's lead was 2.7 seconds over Barcia. Roczen had some wild moments but was running in third. Meanwhile, Dungey reached up to 10th position, with Stewart sitting in seventh. As with the 250F class, the 450 main event challengers began to spread out and settle in as the laps ticked off.

With six to go, Ryan Dungey pulled into ninth as Tomac fell back to 10th place. Stewart picked through the pack to 5th, and from there the top five remained the same. Out front, Villopoto showed no signs of the confusion that he'd displayed following his heat race crash, as the reigning champ worked methodically through lapped traffic and displayed wicked corner speed. His bike setup appeared flawless, and there were multiple points where Villopoto was turning inside tighter than anyone else on the track (including the ultra-tight cornering Suzukis). The Kawasaki racer continued to click off hot laps, and with a sick James Stewart and a coming-from-behind Ryan Dungey, it was Villopoto's race from the first lap until the checkers. The victory marked Villopoto's fourth win of the season, as Barcia, Roczen, Canard, Stewart and Short filed in for the top six. Ryan Dungey put in a great ride for seventh ahead of Alessi, Tomac, and Blose. Hill worked his way back up to 12th following the tough first turn crash.

There’s three rounds left in the series, and while it’s looking the respective titles now belong to Villopoto and Anderson, nothing is done until it’s done! Stay tuned to dirtrider.com for more info from future rounds.

450SX Class Results: Houston

1.     Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki

2.     Justin Barcia, Pinetta, Fla., Honda

3.     Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM

4.     Trey Canard, Shawnee, Okla., Honda

5.     James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki

6.     Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM

7.     Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM

8.     Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Fla., Suzuki

9.     Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda

10.  Chris Blose, Phoenix, Ariz., Honda

450SX Class Season Standings

1.     Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki, 293

2.     James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Suzuki, 248

3.     Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 247

4.     Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 235

5.     Justin Barcia, Pinetta, Fla., Honda, 198

6.     Justin Brayton, Cornelius, N.C., Yamaha, 196

7.     Andrew Short, Smithville, Texas, KTM, 181

8.     Broc Tickle, Holly, Mich., Suzuki, 126

9.     Wil Hahn, Menifee, Calif., Honda, 122

10.  Josh Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Suzuki, 112

Western Regional 250SX Class Results: Houston

1.     Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., KTM

2.     Dean Wilson, Wesley Chapel, Fla., Kawasaki

3.     Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Honda

4.     Cole Seely, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Honda

5.     Zach Osborne, Chesterfield, S.C., Honda

6.     Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha

7.     Shane McElrath, Chesterfield, S.C., Honda

8.     Jake Canada, Sun City, Calif., Honda

9.     Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki

10.  Jessy Nelson, Paso Robles, Calif., Honda

Western Regional 250SX Class Season Standings

1.     Jason Anderson, Rio Rancho, N.M., KTM, 156

2.     Cole Seely, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Honda, 145

3.     Dean Wilson, Wesley Chapel, Fla., Kawasaki, 120

4.     Justin Hill, Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki, 119

5.     Malcolm Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Honda, 109

6.     Cooper Webb, Newport, N.C., Yamaha, 107

7.     Jessy Nelson, Paso Robles, Calif., Honda, 87

8.     Zach Osborne, Chesterfield, S.C., Honda, 85

9.     Shane McElrath, Chesterfield, S.C., Honda, 85

10.  Dean Ferris, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 63