NEW ORLEANS, LA (April 16, 2012) – The Rockstar Energy Racing teams were a sight to behold as they returned to racing in the infamous Big Easy after a weekend off. Round 14 of the 2012 AMA/FIM Supercross Championship at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, LA, on Saturday night saw Star Valli Yamaha's Kyle Cunningham capture his best Supercross Lites result of the season and Rockstar's Brett Metcalfe card his fourth top-five finish of the year. Additionally, this event was the final Eastern Region Supercross Lites round until the East/West Shootout at the season finale in Las Vegas in May.
Although Cunningham is still recovering from recent injuries, the Star Valli Yamaha rider put in a heart-felt ride in New Orleans. Despite an early get-off in his six-lap heat race, Cunningham quickly remounted and carded a fifth-place result. In the 15-lap main event, Cunningham overcame a rough start and diligently worked his way through the field to capture sixth and finish the season with his best result to date.
"New Orleans was pretty good," said Cunningham. "I got a bad start, and that's kind of been a thing for me, not getting out of the gate. But I rode 15 laps good and got up to sixth, so now I'll just go from here and test Outdoors next week. I haven't been able to train the way I wanted to, and I've been off the bike after hurting my wrist at Dallas and hitting my head at Indy. So it's just going to be nice to go home, work out a little more, spend more time on the bike and get to where we need to be."
Star Valli Yamaha teammate Kyle Peters had a solid showing in his heat race, finishing seventh and transferring to the main. Unfortunately, Peters suffered some bad luck in the main and was unable to finish the race. Despite this, Peters remains optimistic about his rookie season.
"Overall, it was a decent night," said Peters. "I had a good start and I felt pretty good all night. But we had some problems on the first lap and there was nothing we could do."
For Rockstar Energy Racing's Blake Wharton, the New Orleans event was particularly significant because of a podium ceremony honoring Wharton's friend, the late Jesse Masterpool. For the entire 2012 season, Wharton is running Masterpool's number 956 in his honor. Now, in addition to that, prior to the New Orleans opening ceremonies, Wharton presented the Masterpool family with a signed jersey and a framed, autographed cover of the next issue of Racer X magazine that features Wharton.
In his heat race, Wharton was on the gas, getting a great start and finishing second. But in the main, Wharton struggled, crashing on lap one and starting from last place. Despite this, Wharton still managed to finish 14th. Rockstar Energy Racing teammate Hunter Hewitt returned from injury and put in a valiant effort, but went down in his heat race and ultimately did not make the main event.
In the Supercross class, Star Valli Yamaha's Weston Peick carded his best main event result of the year. Peick started the night by picking up a solid fifth-place result in his heat race, and then went on to bring home a well-earned seventh-place finish in the 20-lap main event.
"My night went good," said Peick. "In the heat race, I didn't have such a good start but I worked my way up to fifth, which was pretty solid. In the main, I got off to a decent start, about 11th or 12th, and just stayed consistent. Everything this year has been about consistency, so I just worked my way up and up and up, and ended up seventh overall for the night. So I was pretty pumped on that."
Star Valli Yamaha teammate Nico Izzi raced his last Supercross class race of 2012 at New Orleans. Although he's been racing the premier class during the Eastern Region rounds, Izzi officially campaigns Western Region Supercross Lites and those rounds resume next weekend. In New Orleans, Izzi put in a spirited ride in his heat race, going down in the sand section but remounting to finish ninth and transfer to the main. In the main event, he was giving it his all when he went down again and was out for the evening.
"I had a pretty tough heat," said Izzi. "I went down and came back to ninth. Then, in the main, I was doing good and running seventh. But on the 14th lap, I was pushing the edge and I swapped out so hard in the whoops, there was nothing I could do. The bike shot sideways and I had to just go for a ride. At least I'm healthy and I can move on to Supercross Lites next week, so that'll be fun to change it up and try to get a podium in the Lites class."
Also on the Star Valli Yamaha team, Bobby Kiniry had a bittersweet night. Coming off his best result of the season at the last race at Houston, Kiniry carded a notable sixth-place finish in his heat race. But in the main, he got swept up in a turn-one pile-up and never really recovered. He finished 18th.
"I got the Rockstar Yamaha to a great jump, maybe first or second," said Kiniry. "And then I got down to the first turn and another rider made a bonehead move and put us all over the berm. It was a huge pile-up – I had tuff blocks stuck in my bike – and I just tried to get up and get going as fast as I could. I was riding around mid-pack, then I hit neutral and fell on my own and got another lap down. It was just a fiasco out there. I just had a rough main, but now I'm ready to get back to work this week and put that Rockstar Yamaha in the top five next weekend at Seattle."
Also in Supercross, Rockstar's Metcalfe turned in a very respectable performance, getting the holeshot in his heat race and finishing third. In the main event, the Australian got another excellent start and rode a smart race, bringing home fourth. All in all, this marks Metcalfe's fourth top-five result of the 2012 season.
"It was nice to have a weekend off," said Metcalfe. "We came back with a fresh start and I was happy with the way I was riding. In the heat race, we ripped the holeshot, but then I went back a couple of spots when I made a mistake. But I still got third and was able to get a good gate pick for the main. I got another great start in the main, but on that first lap I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and I got slammed around and dropped back a few places. But once I got going, I was able to click off some good laps and I got back up to fourth. Now, I'm looking forward to Seattle. We'll be working hard this week to come out next weekend and keep this momentum going."
Rounding out the Supercross class, Rockstar's Nick Wey returned to racing after missing the last three events due to injury. Although Wey was still recuperating, he managed to finish seventh in his heat race and 11th in the main event.
"The New Orleans Supercross went OK for me," said Wey. "I wasn't really ready to come out and race, but I did my best. I was ninth in practice and I did OK in the heat race. In the main, I should have finished well inside the top 10, but from being off the bike and not being able to train like I want to, I got a bit tired out there and I ended up 11th. It was definitely better to be out there riding than to be on the couch. I think every weekend's going to get better and I appreciate everybody's support."
The next event for the Rockstar Energy Racing teams is the 15th round of the 2012 AMA/FIM Supercross Championship on Saturday, April 21st, at CenturyLink Field in Seattle, WA. You can meet the Rockstar Energy Racing Suzuki riders on Friday, April 20th from 6 to 7 PM at Hinshaw's Motorcycle store, 1611 West Valley Highway South, Auburn, WA.
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