After winning his first race of the 2012 Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, season in Oakland six weeks ago, Toyota/Yamaha/JGRMX’s James Stewart returned to the top step of the podium last Saturday in Daytona, gaining nine points on Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Ryan Villopoto’s championship lead. This weekend, the schedule returns to the Midwest and the Circle City of Indianapolis, with the 11th race of the season from Lucas Oil Stadium.
Last weekend’s stop in Daytona presented an extremely wet night of action for all riders. Heavy rain resulted in a difficult track, placing an even greater emphasis on the start and line selection as the surface continued to deteriorate. Stewart was fast throughout the afternoon practice and carried it into the night program.
After a strong heat race performance in which he outran Villopoto, Stewart slotted into second behind teammate Davi Millsaps in the main event. After following Millsaps for a couple laps, Stewart carefully picked his spot on the track to make a move, assuming the lead on Lap 3 and gradually pulling away from the field for a seven-and-a-half second advantage at the finish.
Stewart’s victory was significant in that it allowed the former Monster Energy Supercross Champion to show the progress he and his Joe Gibbs Racing team have made in recent weeks. For the past two races, Stewart has shown tremendous speed, but encountered misfortune at both Atlanta and St. Louis, ultimately limiting his results. In Daytona, Stewart was able to secure the start he needed and put together 16 strong laps for a much-needed win. The triumphant effort highlighted a perfect night for the JGRMX effort, which celebrated its first ever 1-2 finish after Millsaps fended off GEICO Honda’s Kevin Windham for the runner-up spot.
For Villopoto, the difficult conditions almost resulted in a disastrous night for his hopes of capturing back-to-back titles. After news broke Friday afternoon that Red Bull KTM’s Ryan Dungey was going to be out of the championship indefinitely due to injury, Villopoto’s closest championship challenger became Stewart. As a result, Villopoto entered Saturday with a 53-point cushion.
In the main event, Villopoto became entangled in a set of tuff blocks while fighting for position on the opening lap. As freed himself and attempted to remount his Kawasaki, the wet, muddy conditions forced him to lose control of his motorcycle and ultimately fall into the ground. Villopoto crossed the line in 17th and could have lost as many as 21 points to Stewart out front.
The reigning Supercross Class Champion fought valiantly through the field in the most challenging conditions of the season, working his way into the top 10 by Lap 5. By the time the checkered flag flew, Villopoto had moved into fifth, his worst effort of the season, but just his second finish off the podium in 2012. In the end, Villopoto lost just nine points to Stewart, and carries a 44-point advantage into Indianapolis.
Dungey’s unfortunate departure from the championship comes just one week after he posted a come-from-behind runner-up finish to Villopoto in St. Louis. An official announcement from Red Bull KTM revealed a broken collarbone that Dungey suffered prior to St. Louis, but was ultimately severe enough to require surgery this past week, eliminating him from competition in Daytona and for an estimated four to six weeks. While a championship is no longer in his sights, Dungey does have hopes of returning to competition before the conclusion of the Monster Energy Supercross season.
With a two-rider battle in store for the final seven races of the championship, Villopoto and Stewart will lead the field into Lucas Oil Stadium. Behind them, GEICO Honda’s Kevin Windham, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer, and Millsaps will engage in battle for the final spot on the championship podium.
Last season’s Monster Energy Supercross visit to Lucas Oil Stadium produced one of Villopoto’s most dominant efforts of the entire 2011 championship. The Kawasaki rider led all 20 laps of the main event, marking his fifth win of the season and generating a three-race winning streak at a pivotal point on the schedule.
The first Supercross race in Indianapolis was held on March 21, 1992, and Jeff Stanton won a Honda. This will be the 21st time the gates will drop in Indianapolis and the fourth time that Lucas Oil Stadium has been the host of the race. The first Lites class race was held March 21, 1992, and Jimmy Button won on a Yamaha.
SPEED will broadcast the Supercross class race LIVE at 7:30pm EST on March 17, 2012.