Story and photos by Jeff Kardas
Coming off arguably the best race for the win this season, the 2013 AMA Supercross Series heads down the home stretch and back to the west coast for Round 15 at Seattle's CenturyLink Field. The stadium, built open-air to maximize the NFL's Seattle Seahawks' home field advantage, has a history of providing sketchy if not flat-out muddy racing conditions. At the least, it is guaranteed to be brisk, as the forecast currently calls for temps in the 50s and a good chance of rain both Friday and Saturday.
Of course we can't neglect the fact that Seattle is about as hometown as a race gets for the defending champ and current points leader Ryan Villopoto, who hails from nearby Poulsbo, which is just a short ferry ride across Puget Sound. Last year in Seattle, Villopoto injured his knee -- an injury which kept him out of the outdoor motocross series for the entire summer. However, by this time last year, the #2 had already successfully defended his Supercross title and had been crowned 2012 champ the previous weekend in Houston. Following last weekend's miraculous hometown victory by Ryan Dungey, this weekend's it's Villopoto's turn to maximize his advantage and come out with another win.
Who can forget last year's Seattle Supercross (beyond the Villopoto injury), when privateer and fan favorite Andrew Short ran away with the win. Plus, his best buddy and part-timer in the 450 class Ken Roczen finishing second after a great battle in the main event? It was an amazing evening, chilly but dry with a great crowd and Seattle blazing in the background. AMA Supercross at CenturyLink field is always a great one.
We cannot go another line without a few words about the amazing Battle of the Ryans that went down at the Metrodome last weekend. Both riders put in truly inspired rides in what was (possibly?) their first truly head-to-head battle in the entire series. After Villopoto got into the lead early during lap one, Dungey followed and as they say -- it was on. Dungey kept making fractions of a second here and there every lap until he was just close enough to sneak a wheel in on the defending champ.
Needless to say, the Minnesota Dungey-centric crowd was going absolutely bonkers the whole time. Quite literally every person in the stadium (OK, we can't verify that, but we'll run with it) was on their feet cheering for a Minnesota win. Dungey's pursuit was relentless, and with five laps to go he was there knocking on the door. Villopoto battled back the best he could, switching up his lines, blocking the obvious passing points, but it was to no avail -- Dungey would not be denied the win. Following Musquin's perfect night in the 250 class, it was another KTM sweep of both top spots in 2013 AMA Supercross and Dungey's second win of the season. Going into Seattle, 22 points now separate him from Villopoto, and with the next two rounds outdoors in notoriously weather-effected stadiums (Seattle and Salt Lake City), it goes without saying that this title race is far from over. If you're a fan of AMA Supercross, this is what it's all about -- the cream of the crop rising for a battle to the final round. It's all here, folks, just tune in and watch it unfold.
In other news, what an outstanding revival of former 450 class winner Josh Hill. The last couple of weekends (since the Easter break), Hill has been coming alive. With an eigth in Houston, Hill followed up with an almost unbelievable heat race win in Minneapolis, much to the delight of everyone in the industry, in the stands, and no doubt everyone watching at home. He followed it up with a great start in the main and running up front before eventually fading to eight, tying his finish from the previous weekend. Look for another great one from Hill in Seattle, as it's as close to his home of Yoncalla, Oregon as this season gets too, and you can bet that after last weekend every single one of his family and friends will be there to support him.
Welcome back to Chad Reed, who made his re-appearance in the series after a few weeks off for minor knee surgery. Reed's knee had been causing him issues all season and he took the Easter break to get a scope and a few snips before beginning therapy. It must have gone very smoothly, since he now says the knee is great and his riding in Minneapolis proved it -- he came from mid-pack to a solid fifth place finish. It must be very high on Reedy's priority list to try and steal a win before this season is up, so look for improvement over the next few weeks and of course don't forget -- there are few riders better in the mud than Chad Reed.
The Dark Horse for a Seattle podium appearance must be Andrew Short, last year's main event winner. With a great start, Short may just have the speed necessary to keep faster riders behind him long enough to pull off another one, and he'll certainly be motivated after coming off his best finish yet on the KTM last weekend with a sixth.
As if all of that wasn't enough to get you excited for Seattle how about the return of the West Regional 250 class riders? Points leader Ken Roczen (above) will be chased around by defending champ Eli Tomac (below) with what is sure to be a renewed vigor. To call these two super-talents a pair of hungry lions would be an understatement, as each are touted as "The Next Big Thing" by just about anyone you ask who's a fan of the sport. While Tomac was able to compete in several east rounds in the 450 class, his results certainly were not what he and everyone had expected - which means he's going to have a couple of chips on his shoulder coming into Seattle. He MUST win to make up the 15 point deficit to Roczen, and he MUST win to defend his honor. Let's face it, Tomac's in a drought and he needs to fix it quickly. Roczen, not so much. He came over for Daytona on the KTM350 and put in a respectable ride, he's sitting pretty with a fair points lead, and he's proven all season that he's one of the fastest two 250 riders on the west coast every weekend. At this point, the west title is his to lose.
One of several possible spoilers for west podiums or even a win is Troy Lee Designs' Cole Seely. Cole's won a couple in the past, and he's certainly hungry for more. The list of riders who have potential to get between the two championship contenders is long, and not limited to Seely, his teammates Christian Craig and Jessy Nelson, Jason Anderson, Ryan Sipes, Jake Canada, Malcolm Stewart, Martin Davalos and Zach Osborne. With a list like that, the 250 class in Seattle is sure to please.
On that promising note, we'll leave it to last weekend's podium to provide you with the motivation necessary to follow this weekend's round right here on AMASupercross.com. Here you'll find Live Timing & Scoring, plus check our Facebook page for photos of the track, practice and racing. Seattle's TV schedule is next-day coverage, available at 1PM EDT Sunday on CBS for the 450 class and 5:30PM on SPEED for the 250's. You won't want to miss any of the action.