Story and photos by Jeff Kardas
In what’s being heralded as the most competitive field of racers in the sport’s history, the 2013 AMA Supercross Season didn’t fail to live up to expectations during the season opener in Anaheim, Calif., this past weekend.
Round one of 17 started off with a bang at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, with a sellout crowd of more than 45,000 fans and a live television audience that was no doubt on the edge of its seat for the duration of the show.
With a premier class field of riders that includes four past and current 450SX class champions and a few more 250SX class champs, the odds makers were at their wit’s ends trying to predict the outcome of either main event. One thing was certain though: Any starting gate that included defending champ Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed, James Stewart, Ryan Dungey, Trey Canard and Justin Barcia was going to produce some high-intensity action.
With so many championship-proven racers lining up, it seemed certain that one of them would run away with the win -- whether it was James Stewart making his much-hyped return, or RV2 putting an exclamation point on last year’s runaway title, Ryan Dungey proving he has what it takes to beat the best, or Justin Barcia showing he’s all grown up and ready for the 450 class.
Then Davi Millsaps came out of nowhere and beat them all. His fourth career 450 class win did not come easy, however, as he and Trey Canard played cat and mouse for the entire main event, with Canard actually making a pass for the lead at four laps to go. Millsaps fought back, though, making it back around Canard in the very corner that he’d lost the lead in and sprinting to the win at the biggest race of the year.
And what of the favorites? James Stewart was in limp-home mode after severely straining his knee in practice and was happy to get eighth place points.
Villopoto, after suffering a poor start and riding off the track early in the race, crashed hard while pursuing Stewart, then crashed again shortly after. He ended up 16th. Barcia ran much of the race in third, with heavy pressure from Dungey, before crashing and ending up seventh. It was a crazy night and, beyond predictions of unpredictable craziness, nobody foresaw what ended up happening last Saturday night.
The 250 class was essentially a riding school by Eli Tomac, the defending West champ. After the holeshot, Tomac ran away and hid from Ken Roczen and, eventually, Cole Seely who made it past Malcolm Stewart for third.
Favorite Blake Baggett reportedly suffered a broken hand after coming in contact with the spinning rear wheel of Jessy Nelson after Nelson and his bike went flipping down the second straightaway on the first lap of the main.
The question marks heading into round two in Phoenix are plentiful and will likely have a bearing on the championship at the end of the season. How bad is Stewart's injury? His media relations people say the injury was only a strain of the ligament, not a tear, so he plans on showing up at least for practice this weekend. And Villopoto? He was limping heavily when heading to remount his bike after the first crash in Anaheim, but according to his team he is OK and just banged up and is otherwise ready to go for Phoenix. He'd better be if he is to begin making up for the huge points hole he dug for himself at round one. With the points lead and red plate for the first time in his career, David Millsaps seems to be in the driver's seat, with Canard the anxious, nail-biting front-seat passenger. Perhaps the most interesting thing to watch for in Phoenix is how both of these riders react to being in the top spots with all eyes on them.
Be sure to check the brand new AMA Supercross Facebook page for timely updates throughout the race weekend, and right here on www.amasupercross.com for Live Timing and Scoring, as well as post-race photos. Phoenix also will be broadcast LIVE on SPEED, so check your local listings for times.