Monday Kickstart: Salt Lake City 2012

By Michael Antonovich

Photos by Jeff Kardas and Michael Antonovich

Just when we think the season cannot have anymore happen, it does. In Salt Lake City, we saw a slew of riders join the injured list, two thrilling main events, and the crowning of a champion. Read on to see what went down in Utah.

The weather this year was sunny and warm, a stark contrast to years past in SLC. Residents that we spoke to said that the temperature has repeatedly hit the 80 degree mark this spring.

After 16 rounds of racing, we have to say that the fans at Salt Lake were the most polite and welcoming of the season. Could it be because of the lack of alcohol and black socks? Tough call.

The smells from this roasted pig made up for the sight of it.

Dunlop is the tire of choice by most teams and while many are comfortable with the tire in typical trim, such as Wil Hahn and Travis Baker, some still alter the rubber to fit their needs.

Dean Wilson prefers to have small grooves and holes cut into the side knobs. This is the same model Dunlop as the one shown in the previous picture.

Marvin Musquin notched the fastest overall lap in Lites qualifying, but was unable to produce the same results when the night show came. Musquin was bumped and banged by Martin Davalos and finished fifth in the main event.

Christian Craig made the trip to SLC and was on hand to sign autographs at the Troy Lee Designs rig. Craig stated that he was supposed to be cleared to begin riding this past week but his doctors are still hesitant and advised against it, as one strong impact to the wrist could restart the process.

We are suckers for a custom painted helmet, like Justin Brayton's Skullcandy inspired Tagger Designs lid. Brayton has had a few one-off paint jobs in addition to his stock Gamma helmets this year, and ran this as a nod to the headphone giant's nearby location in Park City.

The Monster Energy Kawasaki team joined the growing number of one man teams with Ryan Villopoto's injury caused departure. The team is looking at a list of replacement riders for the coming outdoor Nationals.

Villopoto tore his ACL and meniscus in the Seattle fall and required an ACL replacement, the second to his left knee. The surgeons used a ligament from a 200 pound person, as it will be able to absorb more stress from RV's 150 pound body. As morbid as it is to say, the injury could not have come at a better time for Villopoto, as spring is known as "The Harvesting Season" by doctors due to the high rate of deaths by young high school and college students.

Earlier in the year, we mentioned these trick engraved master cylinder caps on the factory Kawasakis. The team as now gone one step further and anodized them blue to match the bike's accent color.

We also liked the purple in Weimer's Thor helmet.

After losing their title sponsor while Andrew Short was injured, L&Mc Racing has acquired a new sponsor in Chaparral Motorsports. This will be the second time the SoCal superstore, McGrath, and Larry Brooks have worked together, as Chaparral sponsored McGrath's Yamaha team for years in the late 90's and early 2000's.

The team also had new crew shirts after wearing simple FLY Racing button-ups for the past two weeks.

Riders had to pass through a small door and a tunnel to enter staging at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The stadium is located on campus at the University of Utah, and is one of the most scenic areas the tour visits.

The Utah soil was somewhat rocky and required throttle control to avoid spinning on the marbles. While it was not overly technical or creative, riders complained about the transitions between and into the jumps being different than what they are used to.

Some years ago, Ricky Carmichael and Feld presented this helmet to the stadium staff. It is encased below a collage of photographs of Supercross events that have taken place at the venue over the years. Supercross made its first appearance to SLC in 2001 but it was dropped from the schedule for a handful of seasons before returning just years ago.

We want nothing to do with this monster.

Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/ Honda busted out these small space heaters to warm the cases on their race bikes just before first practice, as it makes the bikes easier to start.

With the heat and humidity of the summer just weeks away, trainer Charles Dao has altered his athlete's programs by working in Icon Sports Alliance's hot yoga room.

After last weekend's contact and crash with Eli Tomac, Dean Wilson was all business in Salt Lake. Wilson said that he spent the week rehabbing his injured shoulder and questioned racing up until practice.

After making numerous mistakes in the main event due to his shoulder, Wilson lost second place to Eli Tomac and settled into third. Disaster struck with only laps to go when Wilson's line in the rutted whoops kicked his bike from underneath him and drove him into the face of the finish line jump, injured shoulder first. This marked the end of Wilson's night and possibly his season, as it is still unclear if Wilson furthered the injury.

Wilson's DNF and Tomac main event win added another 25 points to the difference in the overall standings. With Wilson being 27 markers down with only one round to go, Tomac clinched the West Coast Lites championship.

For a few moments, it was unclear if Eli Tomac had actually won the title, but once the official word came in the area around the podium erupted in celebration. Tomac's win gave the GEICO Powersports team its second Lites Championship of the season.

To win both titles in one season is an accomplishment for any team, but for the GEICO squad it comes after a busy offseason. After years of Pro Circuit support, the team brought all motor work in-house, switched to Yoshimura exhaust, began using Pro Taper bars and sprockets, and helped launch the newly founded gear company Alias.

Wil Hahn's Alpinestars Tech 10's were outfitted with this sano graphics kit. Look for an in-depth look at Hahn's gear bag later in the week.

We noticed that Robert Kiniry ops to use the entry level frame from Smith Optics. Kiniry stated that he likes the feel and minimalistic style of the goggle.

More than a few riders suffered injuries on Saturday, including TLD's Travis Baker, who received a concussion after a practice crash. Baker and teammate Cole Seely both sat out the event with injury, leaving the TLD rig quiet for the entire day. Nick Paluzzi joined the long list of riders after he broke his shoulder in the final practice of the day.

Cole Seely went over the bars during the day's untimed practice session, and the situation turned dramatic quickly. Seely complained about abdominal issues early and headed to the local hospital for further evaluation, but upon arrival it was revealed that he had lacerated his kidney in the accident. Doctors feared that the kidney would be lost and kept Seely overnight for further evaluation.

Nico Izzi clocked the third fastest time of the first 450 qualifier, but his day came to a quick end after he cased a massive triple. Izzi slammed his face into the his handlebars upon impact, which broke his nose and injured his lip as well. Unable to breathe or get the bleeding to stop, he withdrew from the event.

The red is a nice change of pace...

Billy Laninovich's grip wraps are different than the run-of-the-mill covers anyone can order. "Lano" raced to a seventh place main event finish.

Josh Grant and Unit Clothing are stoked on their new found partnership, and both have mentioned it as much as possible. We have said it before, but look for big things from the Australian brand in the coming months as they grow stateside.

Ryan Dungey's autograph line was once again the longest in the pits. If you are one of the many hoping for a signature or picture, be sure to swing by the rig early as the tickets required go quickly.

Salt Lake is considered Jake Weimer's hometown race, as he hails from nearby Idaho. Weimer was aggressive all evening and caused Ryan Dungey to go down in the main event after he killed the eventual main event winner's forward momentum in a bowl turn. Dungey's response was a clean and calculated pass in a 90 degree left hand turn before a triple.

Salt Lake City was Dungey's third main event win of the year and came in just his second post-injury race. While many speculated if Dungey would return to Supercross, including himself, the team commented that it is necessary to gain all the information they can for the new bike in race conditions.

The only positive thing that has come out of this injury riddled season is that it has been refreshing to see new faces on the podium of the 450 class nearly every week.

After being a standout amateur racer, Jason Anderson's professional career as been shaky, to say the least. Anderson has been near the front numerous times this season, but until SLC had not been able to hold on until the end. After grabbing the holeshot, the Suzuki racer led the majority of the main event before being passed by Tomac, but that did little to damper his first podium appearance of the year.

Martin Davalos was another racer who had a noteworthy night in Utah. Davalos forced his way by Marvin Musquin and rounded out the podium in the Lites class.

Justin Brayton and Davi Millsaps battled for the lead early in their heat race, with Millsaps earning the spot by tripling onto the tabletop of one rhythm section, a much fast line than Brayton's double-double.

We thought about saying something about Weston Pieck channeling his inner "Rambo," but decided not to. Homeboy is burly.

After leading 18 laps of the main event, it looked like Davi Millsaps had the win locked up. But while cutting through lapped traffic, Millsaps made two mistakes in two different rhythm sections and allowed Ryan Dungey to steal the lead. Millsaps was visibly disheartened but still happy with his results, as he and Dungey compete for second place in the championship standings.

There was a shortage of new color ways and gear in Salt Lake, as many brands are saving their latest creations for the Vegas final. We have, however, seen samples of what to expect and can say that next year's catalog offerings from all brands will be slick.

Trey Canard's presence in the pits drew numerous supporters, and nearly everyone asked when he would be back. American Honda Muscle Milk is another team looking for a fill-in rider to compete in the 450 Nationals.

Justin Brayton has impressed many this year with his desire to compete at the front despite a broken leg. It has been a long season for Brayton, but his efforts have paid off in terms of fan and industry support.

Feld is ramping up awareness of this fall's Monster Energy Cup. All weekend we heard commercial spots and videos of how the riders are looking forward to the October payday.

It's odd how some small details, like these tire stickers, help make a bike look trick. These are much easier to apply than to fill each letter with a paint pen.

See you in Vegas...