The AMA Monster Energy Supercross returns to Angel Stadium of Anaheim on Saturday for the second time this season and will feature a retro look, the same layout from 2001 when Ricky Carmichael won his first 450SX event and took the spotlight from Jeremy McGrath. It’s all part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the sport at the venue,
Since 1976 when Marty Smith won the initial Supercross event, Anaheim has hosted 61 races in the 450SX Class and 52 Western Regional 250SX Class races. Since 1999, when the series started making multiple stops, there have been 26 sellouts, including the 2014 season opener earlier this month.
McGrath, Carmichael and James Stewart are the all-time winners in Orange County with eight main-event victories.
Saturday’s event will feature a tight battle for the series lead. Kawasaki rider Ryan Villopoto, who passed eight riders to take the checkered flag in Phoenix last week, has a one-point lead over KTM’s Ryan Dungey, who was third in the latest race.
Rookie Ken Roczen of Murrieta, who stunned a sellout crowd earlier in last month’s season opener, is third with 40 points, three behind Villopoto. In fact, 11 points separate the leader from Chad Reed (Kawasaki) and Justin Barcia (Honda), who are tied for fifth at 32 points. Yamaha’s Justin Brayton is fourth, three points behind Roczen.
Villopoto, the reigning three-time champion, started in ninth at Chase Field in the 20-lap finale. It was a tight battle but Villopoto was third by lap 7 and second after five more laps. Villopoto, who crashed while leading the opener at Anaheim, finally took the lead on lap 13 by moving around Brayton and then held off the field.
It was his 35th Supercross career win and first in Phoenix.
“Justin was riding a hell of a race. I have to give it to him, he made it tough,” Villopoto said. “I didn’t get the start I wanted because the (starting) gate was slippery, but I just needed to be patient. The Phoenix track gets really slick, so I had to take my time and make sure my passes stuck.”
James Stewart, riding for the Chino-based Yoshimura Suzuki, finished fourth despite not feeling well and having his bike rebuilt after a practice mishap. Stewart, who also crashed while running up front in Anaheim, is ninth in the standings, 21 points behind Villopoto.
“Considering how bad I felt, to still get a top five was nice,” Stewart said. “And I’m glad to walk out with some valuable points.
“I knew two bad weekends in a row wouldn’t be good for any title hopes, so I did what I had to do.”