Phoenix Supercross Redux

They say that Anaheim rarely provides a realistic gauge of what is to come the rest of the series due to the hype and anticipation leading up to the opener, and that Phoenix is truly the start of the season. True or not, the points scored and missed at Anaheim I are very real, and every one one of them counts. Preseason favorite and defending champ Ryan Villopoto had trouble keeping it on two wheels in Anaheim, and left the door open for the rest of the field to capitalize. Heading into Phoenix, it was still anyone’s guess as to who would emerge victorious, but as it turned out, A1 was indeed a good indicator as to how things would pan out. Just as with Anaheim, James Stewart continued to “survive,” while Chad Reed quietly cruised around the top five. Meanwhile, Millsaps, Barcia, and Canard continued where they left off, displaying blazing speed and solid starts. The x-factor again was Villopoto, who rebounded from his dismal first-round ride to finish second, although from the looks of it, RV2 still has some adjustments to address.

PHOENIX SUPERCROSS RACE REPORT

POST-RACE INTERVIEWS

PHOENIX PRACTICE PHOTOS

BEHIND BARS: MILLSAPS’ ROCKSTAR ENERGY RACING SUZUKI

Chase Field almost always hosts one of the most technical tracks on the circuit, and this year did not disappoint. Techy rhythm sections gave way to a sand sweeper, a big sweeper out of a flat turn, and tacky dirt that continued to evolve and change as the night transpired.

15 rounds of Supercross stack the months ahead, and we couldn’t be happier. After just two rounds, it appears to be a pretty wide open 450 chase amongst an incredible field of riders. In the Lites class, however, things may prove more predicable. Eli Tomac may just run away with another championship, unless Ken Roczen can reel him in a stack some points against him.

Much like the track in Anaheim the previous weekend, the Phoenix track featured an abrupt wall/single-type obstacle after the sand sweeper, no doubt a part of Feld and Dirt Wurx's effort to slow down and equalize the racing. Despite the effort, however, lap times are still dipping into the 51-second mark.

The Honda Muscle Milk crew, along with Timmy Ferry, help Trey Canard dial in the track mentally before practice. Trey had no trouble with the circuit all day, but his one mistake all night cost him dearly. Trey washed his front end on the last lap while riding in third place. Had he finished on the podium, he would have taken over the points lead, but his miscue helped Millsaps retain the red plate.

Geico Honda's Eli Tomac continued to reassure everyone that he has no plans of giving up with red number plate. After logging the fastest race lap time of either class at Anaheim I, he ripped the fastest Lites lap in practice, won his heat race, then dominated the main event. Ken Roczen is likely the only West Coast 250 racer that can match speed with him, but being able to do it out front for fifteen laps without Tomac making a charge will be the big challenge for the Red Bull KTM racer.

Rock River’s Nick Paluzzi crashed in his heat race early in the evening, fracturing his C7 vertebrae. He remains in the hospital due to some residual numbness in a few of his fingers, but early medical speculation says he should make a full recovery. Get well soon, Lil’ Swap!

Troy Lee's Cole Seely and Jessy Nelson both finished inside the top five of their heat race, and are quickly establishing themselves as the most consistent teammates in the 250 class. Nelson has already shown encouraging speed in his rookie supercross season, while Seely continues to build on his veteran status on the Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs/Honda team.

JDR/KTM rookie Joey Savatgy raised some eyebrows in his heat race, leading the entire race, before getting pushed aside by Eli Tomac just before the final turn. But while Tomac took the checkered flag, Savatgy showed great speed and confidence. Keep an eye on Savatgy in the coming weeks…he may just bring JDR KTM a podium.

Ryan Dungey had a tough day in Phoenix. In the opening lap of the heat race, Dungey found himself the bystander victim of a Josh Grant/Antonio Balbi collision, which sent him to the dirt. Although he did remount and continue racing, he could not make it back into qualifying position before the checkers flew. A forgettable start in the LCQ forced Dungey to fight through traffic again, but he managed to qualify behind Jimmy Albertson. The main event didn't go much better for the KTM rider, and he settled for eighth place. No doubt, RD5 will forget about this race as soon as possible and look ahead to A2.

Three the Hard Way: Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Martin Davalos was running a great heat race when disaster struck. As he skipped through a rhythm section, Davalos found himself sailing through the air with his weight shifted to far forward. His front end touched down too early, and his bike ejected him head first into a set of tuff blocks, then cartwheeled past him. The sensational crash, however, didn't end his night. Instead, he qualified through the LCQ, then charged hard in the main event to capture third. Hats off to the Ecuadorian.

The Yoshimura Suzuki crew clearly has Stewart's RM-Z450 dialed in. Even with a clearly damaged knee, Stewart is gliding around the track effortlessly. The truth is, however, every moment on that bike has to be excruciating. We haven't ever seen Stewart ride with this much calculated calmness and deliberate reserve. We only hope that his knee is not as bad as speculation infers, and that he will be able to rebound soon.

James Stewart did show up for track walk, but chose to stay off the dirt and obstacles. Instead, he walked the outer radius of the course. While he could very well have been just trying to keep his shoes clean, one has to wonder if he chose to avoid exercising his knee too much.

With having a helmet sponsor, it can be difficult for a rider to get a custom painted helmet at times. Fortunately for Josh Grant, Kyle Chisholm, and Austin Politelli, their sponsors allow them to have these bad ass lids. Unit has always been known to have some of the best looking custom painted helmets on the circuit, but obviously, they wouldn’t be able to get it done without the help of Tagger Designs. Pictured here is Josh Grant’s Shoei helmet.

Kyle Chisholm’s HJC/Unit/Tagger Design’s helmet.

Austin Politelli’s Bell/Unit/Tagger Designs lid.

Fender has been one of Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil/Honda’s sponsors since the beginning, and with their corporate headquarters based out of Scottsdale, Arizona, they wanted to do something extra special for the team. So, Mike Eldred, Vice President of Fender, presented the crew with this custom painted guitar.

Rockstar Energy Racing's Davi Millsaps may not have backed up his A1 win with another victory, but he definitely solidified his status as an early front-runner and viable championship candidate. If he maintains his motivation and focus, DM18 will be a force all season. Although he has had his share of injuries, Millsaps has been good throughout his Supercross career at keeping it on two wheels and the crashes to a minimum.

Honda Muscle Milk's Justin Barcia is riding like he has something to prove. If it weren't for a missed shift/false neutral in Angel Stadium, Barcia's win in Phoenix may have been his second straight podium. BamBam clicked off fast laps consistently from his holeshot to the checkered flag, only backing it off on the last lap when he knew he had the win. Honda has to be pleased with their young star; Barcia is clearly driven to win, and has no intention of veering from his goals.

Ricky Carmichael, aside RCH wrench Kyle Bentley, observed the entire field of riders during track walk. His commentary on the broadcasts has been quite insightful, so we can only imagine how much of an asset he is to Broc Tickle and Josh Hill.

BTO Sports has taken a cue from the energy drinks, hosting promo models at many, if not most, of the events they attend. These young (ish) ladies braced the chilly Phoenix weather all day next to the BTO race truck.

Jeff Emig and Ralph Sheheen chose to broadcast in front of the curious crowd in the Phoenix pits Saturday afternoon to film their pre-show analyses. We came over to heckle, but decided they had enough distractions to deal with.

Ryan Villopoto crashed three times at Anaheim I, which was not only uncharacteristic, but also devastating to momentum. RV2 really needed to rebound in Phoenix in order to reestablish himself as the man to beat. While he was fast in practice, he still had some miscues during racing. He did manage to scrape out second place, despite what looks to be some disagreement between rider and machine. Is it just us, or did RV2 have a tough time keeping that front end planted?

Good sportmans RV2 and Justin Barcia exchanged pleasantries after Barcia’s win in the main event. It’s good to see in a time where riders keep their cards so close to the chest.

Keepin’ it clean. Chad Reed’s tour bus is absent of opulent graphics, and we are kinda into it. Maybe needs some neon undercarriage lighting, though…

Avid motorsports enthusiast and baseball pitching legend “The Big Unit” Randy Johnson can usually be spotted at Phoenix Supercross snapping photos. He may have thrown heaters in Major League Baseball for years, but now he snaps photos to keep busy.

Ryan Villopoto, James Stewart, and Ryan Dungey may be off to some shaky starts for a variety of reasons, but Chad Reed is quietly lurking with two fourth-place finishes. He claims to be careful not to “peak early in the season,” so if he continues to build, he should be in good shape for a peak mid-series.

What’s your name?

FMF’s Donny Emler showed off some of the new DM18 line of clothing. Its release couldn’t have come at a better time. Davi is off to the best start of his career and his fanbase is growing quickly. Check it out at fmfracing.com

If you saw racing on Saturday, you were witness to Martin Davalos’ spectacular crash. Luckily, he was not seriously hurt, nor was his flaked AP Designs-painted Thor helmet.

Josh Grant and his son, Wyatt, enjoyed some father-son time before gearing up for racing. Cute kid.

Josh Hansen was fined $4K and put on probation by the AMA, then the team suspended him for Phoenix and asked him to go to anger management class. We should see his return at Anaheim 2, undoubtedly cool, calm, and collected. (We realize this caption does not correspond to the photo, but does anyone really mind? We doubt it).

Have you seen this? Eli Tomac is smooth as butter on a race track, but keep that guy away from the dance floor!

Speaking of Tomac, he is running the new Oakley Airbrake MX goggle, and we are getting excited to try it out. We talked to ET1 about it earlier in the week, and he is pretty stoked on the performance. Stay tuned for more on the new design.

Nick Wey has parlayed his quick wit into trackside commentary and seems to be settling in nicely. Let’s get him into the booth for TV color commentary asap!

See you at Anaheim 2!