2012 Daytona Supercross Preview

The Daytona Supercross by Honda is a special race. Since it's inception 42 years ago, the race has always been billed as the toughest of the season, featuring a hybrid course of Supercross and motocross that is notoriously rough and unforgiving. If a rider wins at Daytona, their name is permanently etched into the record books with some of the sport's greatest riders to ever swing a leg over a dirt bike.
For the past five years now, five-time Daytona Supercross winner Ricky Carmichael has played a pivotal role in designing the track, and taken pride in creating a course that he would enjoy racing on. This year's track will share many of the same features as last year's race, and the starting gate will once again be located on pit row, giving fans a better view of the action. "It's fun to sit down at the drawing board and to think of a design that will be fun and challenging for the riders, as well as exciting for the fans and people watching on television," RC said in a release from Daytona Speedway.
Coming into this year's race, both classes have seen some of the best racing action in years, but as previous seasons have shown, Daytona can truly shake things up. Whether it's a torrential downpour, the rough course, or the hybrid aspect of the track, Daytona likely won't disappoint. But just so you know what to look for during this weekend's live broadcast on SPEED, we've thrown together some information about the riders, track, and a few sleepers. This is a multi-page post so be sure to click through all the pages.

TRACK FACTS:

For five years in a row now, five-time Daytona Supercross winner Ricky Carmichael has designed the track. (Photo by Brendan Lutes)

It takes a lot to build a Supercross track in the middle of Daytona International Speedway. After the race is over, new grass is laid down and the infield is returned to its original pristine condition.

Four: Number of tractors working to spread the dirt (one front loader, one crawler, and two skid steers)

Eight: Number of dump trucks used to transport loads of dirt.

29: Number of jumps on the track. It's up three from last year.

204: Number of dump truck loads used to build the course on the infield grass.

128: Number of man-hours needed to complete the construction of the course.

420: Number of 2×9 Styrofoam Tuff Blox used throughout the course.

3,200: Mileage (in feet) of the SX course.

4,500: Yards of dirt needed to build the SX track.

PAGE ONE: Track Info | PAGE TWO: Supercross Class | PAGE THREE: Supercross Lites Class | PAGE FOUR: Sleepers 

SUPERCROSS CLASS:

The Daytona Supercross by Honda marks the halfway point of the 2012 series, and so far things have been playing out and proving to live up to the amazing 2011 season. Unfortunately TwoTwo Motosports/Honda's Chad Reed is currently injured on the sidelines after crashing hard in Dallas, but the points race is still tight between defending Champion Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto and former Champion Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey.

Ryan Villopoto:

Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto will be going for his third consecutive Daytona Supercross win this weekend. (Photo by Jordan Powell)

Monster Energy Kawasaki's Ryan Villopoto has always been fast at Daytona, and his record of two Supercross class wins is proof positive that he will be up front tomorrow. Last year, RV was the only rider that was able to keep James Stewart in site, and in the end capitalized on a huge crash by Stewart to take his second win at the brutal event. If RV can win again this year, he will be the fourth rider in history to win three Daytona Supercross races in a row.
Since then, RV has been spending a lot of time at his home in Florida and goes into the Daytona race with a 13-point lead over Dungey. And with Dungey withdrawing from the race due to a broken collarbone—more on that below—it looks like the championship is now RV's to lose.

Ryan Dungey:

Last year, Ryan Dungey finished third behind Villopoto and Chad Reed. This year, though, after withdrawing from the series due to a broken collarbone, Dungey won't be lining up. (Photo by Jordan Powell)

When you look at Red Bull KTM's Ryan Dungey and his championship record, it would be easy to assume that he has won at Daytona, but he hasn't—not even in the Lites class. With that said, it goes without saying that a win for Dungey and his team would be huge. Sadly, though, Dungey has withdrawn from the race due to a broken collarbone that he sustained prior to the St. Louis Supercross where he still managed to finish second. This week, Dungey decided to get surgery to plate his collarbone. There is no word yet on when he will return to action, but CLICK HERE for the official press release.

James Stewart:

JDR/Toyota/Yamaha's James Stewart has won the Daytona Supercross once in 2007, but has crashed while leading every other Daytona he has entered since. Here, he takes a soil sample during practice in 2009. (Photo by Brendan Lutes)

JGR/Toyota/Yamaha's James Stewart has always been fast at Daytona and won the race in 2007. Last year, Stewart was amazingly fast on the challenging course, jumping up and over a 10-foot-tall wall in the main event that no one else even thought of attempting and thereby giving himself a four-second lead after only four laps. A few laps later, though, Stewart went down hard after miss-judging a seatbouce. The crash spit him violently over the bars and onto his head. In a valiant ride, Stewart then remounted and charged back up to ninth. Two years before that, James crashed in a massive first turn pile up, and in 2006, he again crashed violently over the top of a berm while leading, nearly taking out a camera operator. Needless to say, if Stewart can keep his bike on two wheels at Daytona, he will be a major threat for the win. And with Dungey out of the title chase, it looks new life may have been breathed back into Stewart's season.

PAGE ONE: Track Info | PAGE TWO: Supercross Class | PAGE THREE: Supercross Lites Class | PAGE FOUR: Sleepers 

LITES CLASS:

Justin Barcia:

Geico Honda's Justin Barcia is the man to beat in the East Coast Lites series, winning all three races run so far. (Photo by Jordan Powell)

So far Geico Honda's Justin Barcia has won every East Coast Lites race of the season and has easily established himself as the fastest rider. For Barcia, this will mark his third Daytona Supercross and he has yet to garner a win. With the momentum of three consecutive wins on his side, though, it's looking good for the defending champion to take home a victory. Barcia is also famous for his prowess in the sand and Daytona has plenty of it. Last year, Barcia finished second behind Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Blake Baggett. It's also worth mentioning that Barcia rode with a broken wrist last year, so one can only imagine that his results will improve now that he is 100-percent healthy.

Ken Roczen:

This year will be Ken Roczen's second trip to Daytona. Can his experience in the Supercross class last year help him win in the Lites class this year? (Photo by Jordan Powell)

This isn't Ken Roczen's first time visiting Daytona, as the Red Bull KTM rider competed in the Supercross class last year aboard a KTM 350SX-F, finishing eighth. This year, Roczen is the reigning MX2 World Motocross Champion and returning aboard a KTM 250SX-F in the Lites class. With an 18-point deficit to make up, Roczen is no doubt hoping that his World Championship experience will help him make up some points on series leader Barcia.

Darryn Durham:

Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Darryn Durham has been putting in some time practice on outdoor tracks this week. (Photo by Jeff Kardas)

New to the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki team for 2012, Darryn Durham has enjoyed the best finishes of his career so far this season. Currently third in points, he has been practicing this week on some outdoor-style tracks to hone his skills for the hybrid SX/MX Daytona track.

PAGE ONE: Track Info | PAGE TWO: Supercross Class | PAGE THREE: Supercross Lites Class | PAGE FOUR: Sleepers 

SLEEPERS:

If there is one thing that is for certain at Daytona, it's that nothing can be counted on. Over the years, there have been numerous instances where the unexpected has happened.

Jason Lawrence nearly won the 2009 Daytona Supercross, leading until the closing laps of the race and surprising everyone in attendance. (Photo by Brendan Lutes)

In 2009, Jason Lawrence led all but the last few laps of the race after getting out to the early lead and opening up a sizeable gap over second place Chad Reed. In the end, Lawrence finished second, but it was proof positive that anything can and will happen on the rough, sandy Daytona course. One year before that race, Geico Honda's Kevin Windham took home a solid win, but like J-Law's performance it wasn't expected. The 2008 race was one of the muddiest and wettest races in the history of the sport, and after leading the entire race—and nearly lapping the whole field—Chad Reed's bike quit running on the last lap, handing the lead and victory over to Windham.
For this year, there are a few riders to keep an eye on who might shake things up in either class.

Kevin Windham:

Geico Honda's Kevin Windham held tough to take the win in 2008 in one of the muddiest races in the history of the sport. (Photo by Brendan Lutes)

We've already mentioned K-Dub's amazing performance during the horribly muddy '08 race, but after 201 main event starts, the Mississippi native is still a frontrunner and is currently coming off of two back-to-back fourth-place finishes in the highly competitive SX class. Can he get another win at Daytona or at the very least land on the podium for the first time this season? Only time will tell.

Justin Brayton:

Muscle Milk Honda's Justin Brayton is coming off his first podium of the season in St. Louis. Can it be what he needs to put in a great ride at Daytona? (Photo by Brendan Lutes)

Team Muscle Milk Honda's Justin Brayton has had an up and down season. He started off strong, but went through a low point that saw him crash hard and get injured. Since recovering from injury—and racing the entire time—Brayton found himself on the podium last week in St. Louis and is likely looking to improve upon that. Well known for his high level of fitness, Brayton will likely use that to his advantage. Last year, he finished sixth in the main event.

Blake Baggett:

Blake Baggett led last year's race from start to finish to take home his first Daytona Supercross win. (Photo by Jordan Powell)

Last year, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Blake Baggett won the Daytona Supercross after taking the early lead and checking out. This season, though, hasn't gone as Baggett would have liked and he currently sits seventh in points, well out of the championship hunt. His win and experience from last year, though, will prove to be invaluable for him and just might be the missing piece to the puzzle that he needs to get back on top of the box.

Malcolm Stewart:

JDR/J-Star/KTM's Malcolm Stewart has had a rough season so far. Could Daytona mark the beginning of an upswing for him? (Photo by Jeff Kardas)

JDR/J-Star/KTM's Malcolm Stewart has had a rough year so far, as his race results have been plagued with crashes and bike problems. Be that as it may, however, Stewart still has shown tons of speed, and it just so happens that he has grown up in Florida and is comfortable riding the deep sand that is found at Daytona. If Stewart can turn things around at Daytona, it might be the stepping-stone that he needs to boost his confidence and propel him to the front on a regular basis.

PAGE ONE: Track Info | PAGE TWO: Supercross Class | PAGE THREE: Supercross Lites Class | PAGE FOUR: Sleepers