Story and photos by Jeff Kardas
With 16 of 17 rounds of the 2012 AMA Supercross Series in the books, the crew makes its final run of the season down to fabulous Las Vegas, Nevada and Sam Boyd Stadium on the campus of UNLV. With all three champions already crowned, this final race may seem anti-climactic on the surface, yet the drama and excitement is ongoing as the best racers in the world square off one last time before heading to the outdoor national series for the summer. The Vegas track itself is always a big draw for fans, as it is always a sun-baked, super fast speedway of a course with huge hits and great racing. Add to that the extra length which comes by way of trimming the track out into the parking lot and the sold out crowd will have plenty to cheer about. Not to mention this will also be the first time the east and west regional Lites riders get together on the same track at the same time, and the makings for a great night of racing are all accounted for.
Following another great night of racing at Salt Lake City's Rice-Eccles stadium on the University of Utah (U of U), this season just keeps delivering despite all of the injuries that have accumulated. The venue itself is unique on the tour and definitely has a different feel and atmosphere to it than any other.
Typically a cold, wet and/or snowy event, this year the weather was much better, with temps in the upper 50s and bright sun throughout the day. The track surface itself was quite hard packed with a stone-filled loose surface, which may have led to several riders being injured throughout the day. The highlight was the five triples immediately following the start, which generally meant the difference between making and not making the main event. The pit area was massive as well, and gave the nearly 55,000 fans plenty of space to move around and get their favorite riders' autographs.
The latest champion to be crowned was Geico Powersports Honda's Eli Tomac. Coming in with a four point lead over rival Dean Wilson, Tomac was clearly the rider to beat starting with the first practice session. He chased down the front runners in his heat race to take a convincing win, and did the same in the main event.
But simply getting the win wasn't enough to lock up the title. Tomac needed to have at least a 25 point gap over Wilson to get the #1 plate, and with Wilson running in the top 3, it looked like the title was going to go down to the wire in Vegas.
That's when. The unthinkable happened: Wilson went down in a heap, crashing hard after cross rutting in a whoop section and pile-driving himself into the face of the finish line jump. Slow to get up and clearly dazed, Dean slowly gathered himself and rode off the track and back to the pits, his championship hopes now finished. With that crash, Tomac now had a 29 point lead going into the final round and mathematically eliminated all of his competition in the title chase.
Rockstar Energy Suzuki Lites rider Jason Anderson finally lived up to the lofty expectations placed upon him by many pundits, and this after a disastrous parade lap crash nearly ended his (and Ryan Sipes') nights before they began. After snagging the main event holeshots, Anderson put in twelve perfect laps before getting passed by eventual winner Tomac. Remarkably, othe opening lap over the first big triple, Anderson removed his neck brace while in the air, pulling it off because of a failed latch. That's the first time we've seen that done with such style and grace, that's for sure. Look for Anderson to be a player from he on out, as thats probably just the injection of confidence he needed to take the next step.
Ryan Dungey's second race back since injury was a dramatic step forward to him regaining his prior speed. Clearly the fastest rider on the track during the main event, his day too was filled with drama after a practice crash and continuing bike problems. It was only after banging bars with Jake Weimer in the main event and hitting the ground that Dungey woke up the fire inside by running down both Weimer and race leader Davi Millsaps in champion's fashion and taking the win. Dungey looks to be a sure-fire winner for Vegas this weekend which, if he can pull it off, will mark his fourth win this season and KTM's fourth Supercross win in history.
JGR Toyota Yamaha's David Millsaps was another rider with a remarkable performance in Salt Lake. Millsaps has moved into the top dog role on the team after the repeated injuries and/or mysteries surrounding teammate James Stewart lately, and in doing so has effectively nailed down 2nd place in the 2012 Supercross series. After leading nineteen of twenty laps of the main, Davi fell victim to the invigorated Ryan Dungey on the final lap after being slowed by a lapped rider. Clearly devastated with the loss, Millsaps should find solace in the fact that not only did he make it through the entire series uninjured, but finished behind only one other rider in points.
With Millsaps in the lead role at JGR, Jake Weimer finds himself in a similar situation with the Monster Energy Kawasaki team after the team's star Ryan Villopoto suffered a season-ending knee injury last weekend in Seattle. Weimer's speed has been pretty solid all year, but his consistency as remained iffy. I Salt Lake, Weimer displayed the speed and aggression that led to his Lites Supercross title a couple of years back by forcibly passing Dungey back in the main event before ultimately giving it up again a few laps later. Weimer held on for 3rd.
Last weekend's winner Andrew Short had a forgettable night in SLC, mustering only a 7th place after a truly lackluster night for his new sponsor, Chaparral Motorsports. Clearly displeased with his performance, Shorty was said to not be granting interviews after the race he was so disgusted with his ride. No worries for Short, though, as he's sure to rebound in Vegas.
That about does it for this week. With the Vegas finale upon us, you'll want to check your local television listings to see when to catch the three hours of LIVE coverage on Speed Channel. Until next week, be sure to check back he at amasupercross.com for the live timing and scoring, as well as photos from the race and practice.