TWMX Race Report: Green Storm Sweeps Through Seattle

Stewart and Langston dominate Qwest Field Quagmire

In spite of an afternoon storm that swept through the area and made an absolute mess of the Qwest Field track, 46,896 enthusiastic Supercross fans turned out for the penultimate round of the 2006 Amp’d Mobile Supercross Championship Series. On a track that started out as soft, loose dirt that was filled with rocks, gravel and even chunks of brick, Team Kawasaki’s James Stewart slithered and slipped through the eventual muddy conditions aboard his Jeremy Albrecht-tuned KX450F and earned his seventh win of the season and drew within five points of the series championship with one round remaining. Runner-up Chad Reed of the Yamaha squad and third-place finisher Ricky Carmichael now sit in an almost-too-good-to-be-true tie for the championship title entering the final round in Las Vegas.

In the Western Regional Supercross Lites series finale, it was all Team Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Grant Langston. After taking over the lead on lap two of the abbreviated 12-lap final, the highly decorated South African cruised to what looked like an easy win aboard his Dan Rambert-tuned Kawasaki KX250F. Entering the final, Langston sat four points behind Team Honda’s Andrew Short in the series point standings, and needed to win and hope that his rival finished no better than third in order to win his fourth major Lites class title. In the end, an early crash by Short set him back to an eventual eighth at the checkered flag, giving GL an eight-point advantage in the final championship standings. Langston’s Pro Circuit teammate crossed the finish line second, while Team Rockstar Energy/Bill’s Pipes/Suzuki rider Jason Lawrence rounded out the podium positions.

SUPERCROSS LITES

When the gate dropped at the start of the Lites main event, it was holeshot artist Michael Alessi leading the way aboard his Paul DeLaurier-tuned KTM 250SX-F. Making Alessi’s holeshot all the more amazing was the fact that he chose to start on the furthest outside gate, even though he had first choice on the starting line, thanks to his fastest heat race win.

“I figured that I could hold it wide open through the first turn,” said the fast-starting teen. “My plan worked out, but in the first rhythm section the right side of the track was super soft and it bogged me down.”

Chasing Alessi through turn one and capitalizing on the bog Alessi spoke of was local hero Villopoto. The youngster’s lead was short-lived, however, as he quickly noted that his teammate Langston had moved into second and waved the championship contender past in the finish line jump area.

“I didn’t want to get in Grant’s way since he was battling for the championship and all,” said last week’s winner Villopoto. “Once he got past, he checked out pretty quickly so I don’t know if I would have been able to hold him off, anyway.”

Once into the point position, Langston had the race well under control as he rode a masterful race without so much as a bobble. “Compared to the San Francisco mud race this year where I rode like a spode, the track tonight almost seemed dream-like,” said Langston. “I was actually having a lot of fun out there; more fun than I have ever had on any other muddy race day. Knowing that I had Ryan back there in second allowed me to relax and concentrate on riding, instead of worrying where Short was at.”

Sadly, a great battle between the championship contenders was not meant to be. After running as high as fourth, Short took a splash sample in the murky conditions and dropped well out of contention. The factory Honda rider struggled in the mud and crossed the finish line an eventual eighth.

After letting Langston past, Villipoto’s ride was also relatively uneventful, save for a late race charge put on by Rockstar rider Jason Lawrence. After suffering a mediocre, yet self-admitted typical start aboard his Matt Taylor-tuned Suzuki RM-Z250, Lawrence carved thugh the field with reckless abandon, riding as if the track were dry and ideal. “Growing up in New Jersey, “I’ve got plenty of mud riding experience,” said Lawrence. “I got a crappy start and just rode as fast as I could, and the next thing I knew my mechanic held up a pit board that said I was in fourth,” said Lawrence. “That was only in a couple laps, so I looked ahead and saw third place up ahead and just kept pushing.”

Third for the first half of the race was held down my Australian Brett Metcalfe, the Boost Mobile/Troy Racing/Yamaha pilot. Lawrence and Metcalfe traded the position a couple of times before Lawrence assumed control of it for good and set out after second-placed Villopoto. Though he did close plenty in the closing laps of the final, a few bike-lengths was as close as Lawrence would get. Still, the long-haired youngster and the brand new Rockstar Energy/Bill’s Pipes/Suzuki team had plenty to be happy about, as Lawrence’s performance marked the squad’s first trip to the podium.

“I’m super pumped to be here finally,” said Lawrence. “I gooned out at a few races and had some forgettable races in my first Supercross season, but this is a good confidence booster heading into the Nationals.”

No one, however, was more thrilled than Langston and his crew. “I really wanted this championship badly,” he said. “I was probably more nervous about this race than I have ever been about any other championship, but when the skies opened up and it began to rain I was okay with it. I had a feeling that things would go my way this evening, and the whole race unfolded like a dream.”

SUPERCROSS LITES MAIN EVENT: 1. Grant Langston (Kaw); 2. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw); 3. Jason Lawrence (Suz); 4. Brett Metcalfe (Yam); 5. Mike Alessi (KTM); 6. Ryan Morais (Suz); 7. Billy Laninovich (Hon); 8. Andrew Short (Hon); 9. Ryan Mills (Suz); 10. Adam Chatfield (Suz); 11. Kyle Partridge (Yam); 12. Justin Brayton (Yam); 13. Ryan Abrigo (Hon); 14. Rodrog Thain (Kaw); 15. Danny Smith (Hon); 16. Eric Nye (Yam); 17. Richard Dietrich (Kaw); 18. Justin Keeney (Hon); 19. Eric Sorby (Hon); 20. Darcy Lange (Kaw); 21. Saniel Sani (Hon); 22. Nathan Ramsey (KTM).

FINAL WEST SUPERCROSS LITES CHAMPIONSHIP STANDINGS: 1. Grant Langston (161); 2. Andrew Short (153); 3. Ryan Villopoto (Kaw); 4. Mike Alessi (KTM); 5. Billy Laninovich (Hon); 6. Nathan Ramsey (KTM); 7. Brett Metcalfe (Yam); 8. Paul Carpenter (Hon); 9. Ryan Morais (Suz); 10. Darcy Lange (Kaw).

SUPERCROSS MAIN

Speaking of dreams, the 2006 Supercross class has certainly been a dream season for the fans. Last year, much hype was made about the “perfect storm” in the premier Supercross division between Carmichael, Reed and Stewart, but it took until this year for the battle to finally materialize. Few, however, would argue that it was not worth the wait, as leaving Seattle we find the championship battle going right down to the wire with a three-way battle for the lead that included a tie between RC and Reed. Hollywood couldn’t have scripted it any better…

Privateer hero Nick Wey snagged the holeshot aboard his MDK Motorsports/MS Racing Honda at the start of the shortened 15-lap Supercross main, but it didn’t take long for Stewart to jet into the lead on his Jeremy Albrecht-prepared KX450F. Like Langston did in the previous race, Stewart looked as if he were riding in perfect conditions as he gapped the field almost immediately. Within two laps, he enjoyed a commanding lead and settled into a pace.

“When I saw that I was 14 seconds ahead, I figured that was good enough and I settled down,” said Stewart. “The track was really fun tonight. I enjoyed the ruts and the mud actually was easy for me. After Anaheim 1 last year I didn’t consider myself a great mud rider, but so far I am undefeated in the mud this season so I guess I’m learning!”

With the number-seven Kawasaki rapidly vanishing up front, Reed assumed control over the runner-up position and maintained it to the finish with no challenges from his rivals. “I felt good tonight, but James really had it dialed in,” said Reed. “I rode as best I could and that is all I expect of myself. To find myself in the position to win the championship next week makes me very happy, and as long as I go into that race and ride the way I know I can ride, that is all I can ask for.”

After starting miserably, Carmichael put on a spirited charge through the field that didn’t yield any promising results until about the halfway point. At the worst, RC circulated the deteriorated track in about 12th, but the Floridian never gave up and mustered a remarkable third at the finish, in spite of a scary off-track excursion that could have spelled the end to his title hopes. “I am so stoked to have been able to get back up and into third,” said Carmichael. “I got a terrible start and I couldn’t believe how far back I was. It took a while to get going, but once I got into the groove of things I began to move forward. Again, I can’t believe that I worked up to third in those conditions out there.”

Fourth at the finish went to Team Honda’s Travis Preston, who rode an impressive race that saw him charging to the very end. The California High Desert native rode like an East Coaster in the unfamiliar conditions, putting his long legs and smooth riding style to good use.

“How could I ever consider myself a mud specialist?” joked Preston. “There’s no mud in California!”

Preston was the last rider to find his way past early leader Wey, who held on to fifth at the finish and maintains fifth in the series point standings as top privateer. “I spent a little more time out there than I would have liked,” said Wey, who won the second semi. “I felt good out there and I got a great start, but I began to make some little mistakes as the race wore on and they cost me.”

SUPERCROSS MAIN EVENT: 1. James Stewart (Kaw); 2. Chad Reed (Yam); 3. Ricky Carmichael (Suz); 4. Travis Preston (Hon); 5. Nick Wey (Hon); 6. Michael Byrne (Kaw); 7. Ivan Tedesco (Suz); 8. Kevin Windham (Hon); 9. Brock Sellards (Hon); 10. Heath Voss (Yam); 11. Jiri Dostal (Yam); 12. Josh Demuth (Hon); 13. Jacob Marsack (Yam); 14. Josh Woods (Suz); 15. Kyle Lewis (Hon); 16. Doug Dehann (Hon); 17. Jeff Dement (Suz); 18. Jason Thomas (Hon); 19. Gregory Crater (Hon); 20. Jeff Gibson (Hon).

AMA SUPERCROSS SERIES POINT STANDINGS: 1. (Tie) Ricky Carmichael/Chad Reed (316); 2. James Stewart (311); 4. Ivan Tedesco (241); 5. Nick Wey (234); 6. Michael Byrne (228); 7. Travis Preston (191); 8. Ernesto Fonseca (125); 9. Ryan Clark (Hon); 10. Mike LaRocco (108).

ssumed control over the runner-up position and maintained it to the finish with no challenges from his rivals. “I felt good tonight, but James really had it dialed in,” said Reed. “I rode as best I could and that is all I expect of myself. To find myself in the position to win the championship next week makes me very happy, and as long as I go into that race and ride the way I know I can ride, that is all I can ask for.”

After starting miserably, Carmichael put on a spirited charge through the field that didn’t yield any promising results until about the halfway point. At the worst, RC circulated the deteriorated track in about 12th, but the Floridian never gave up and mustered a remarkable third at the finish, in spite of a scary off-track excursion that could have spelled the end to his title hopes. “I am so stoked to have been able to get back up and into third,” said Carmichael. “I got a terrible start and I couldn’t believe how far back I was. It took a while to get going, but once I got into the groove of things I began to move forward. Again, I can’t believe that I worked up to third in those conditions out there.”

Fourth at the finish went to Team Honda’s Travis Preston, who rode an impressive race that saw him charging to the very end. The California High Desert native rode like an East Coaster in the unfamiliar conditions, putting his long legs and smooth riding style to good use.

“How could I ever consider myself a mud specialist?” joked Preston. “There’s no mud in California!”

Preston was the last rider to find his way past early leader Wey, who held on to fifth at the finish and maintains fifth in the series point standings as top privateer. “I spent a little more time out there than I would have liked,” said Wey, who won the second semi. “I felt good out there and I got a great start, but I began to make some little mistakes as the race wore on and they cost me.”

SUPERCROSS MAIN EVENT: 1. James Stewart (Kaw); 2. Chad Reed (Yam); 3. Ricky Carmichael (Suz); 4. Travis Preston (Hon); 5. Nick Wey (Hon); 6. Michael Byrne (Kaw); 7. Ivan Tedesco (Suz); 8. Kevin Windham (Hon); 9. Brock Sellards (Hon); 10. Heath Voss (Yam); 11. Jiri Dostal (Yam); 12. Josh Demuth (Hon); 13. Jacob Marsack (Yam); 14. Josh Woods (Suz); 15. Kyle Lewis (Hon); 16. Doug Dehann (Hon); 17. Jeff Dement (Suz); 18. Jason Thomas (Hon); 19. Gregory Crater (Hon); 20. Jeff Gibson (Hon).

AMA SUPERCROSS SERIES POINT STANDINGS: 1. (Tie) Ricky Carmichael/Chad Reed (316); 2. James Stewart (311); 4. Ivan Tedesco (241); 5. Nick Wey (234); 6. Michael Byrne (228); 7. Travis Preston (191); 8. Ernesto Fonseca (125); 9. Ryan Clark (Hon); 10. Mike LaRocco (108).