Close behind Durham was teammate Blake Baggett who had to work his way to the front of the pack to finish second. In the Supercross class, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle came together with another rider on lap two dropping him outside the top-15, but was able to climb back up to 10th. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jake Weimer was forced to pull out of the main event following a first lap crash.
Durham has had the speed all season, but had yet to put 15 laps together perfectly. In the lites main, he did not get the greatest jump out of the gate, rounding the first turn in sixth, but two corners later he had snuck into second. He quickly overtook the leader and never looked back, taking his first Supercross Lites victory. The win jumps Durham back up to second in points with one round remaining.
“My night actually didn’t start that good, but it ended awesome!” said Durham. “I didn’t feel that good in practice and my heat race was okay. In the main event I kept it on around the first turn and swooped by a few guys, got into the lead and took it home. It hasn’t really sunk in yet, but I’m so pumped to finally get one. I hadn’t even ridden supercross since Houston so maybe I should have been riding more outdoors! This is huge for me and I’m pumped to be able to do it for the team.”
Although Villopoto wrapped up the championship two weeks ago, his approach to the races hasn’t changed. Villopoto’s night was close to flawless as he was fastest in qualifying practice, won his heat race, ripped the holeshot in the main on his KX™450F and went on to lead every lap. Villopoto’s calculated precision on the track is unmatched by anyone else in the field, which he proves week after week.
It’s great to get my ninth win tonight,” said Villopoto. “I felt strong in practice and really put down 20 solid laps in the main event, so I’m really happy with the night. The track was really tough so it kept you on your toes. The focus is changing towards outdoors now, but if a win presents itself like it did tonight, we’ll take it.”
Baggett is known for never showing his true speed in qualifying practice, so it is often difficult to judge how he feels on track until the main event. He qualified fifth and ran a solid heat race finishing third. In the main event, he got off the gate in a decent spot and came around the first turn in the top-five. By the halfway point, Baggett had moved into second behind Durham and was looking to make a move. Not wanting to make an overly-aggressive pass on his teammate he would settle for second place. Baggett admits he never fully felt comfortable on the New Orleans dirt, but one would never know it based on his result.
“I rode the best I could tonight, but it wasn’t quite enough,” said Baggett. “I really didn’t like the track and dirt since first practice this morning, it didn’t suit me. I was able to make some passes and move through the field and I made the best of it. I’ve still got some things to dial in, so I plan to come out in Vegas and get a win before the season is through.”
As the momentum continues to build for Tickle towards the end of the season, the Superdome looked like the venue where he could grab his first top-five finish in the Supercross class. Tickle rode an exceptionally strong heat race holding third for much of the race before finishing fourth and putting himself in a good position for the main event. When the gate dropped for the 20-lap main, Tickle jumped out to sixth on lap-one and had the leaders in sight. One lap later he got the worst of a run-in with another rider where Tickle hit the ground and dropped back to 16th. Determined to finish where he belongs, Tickle battled back towards the front and was able to salvage 10th. With that finish, Tickle moves into the top-10 in points and continues to set his eyes on the front.
“I’m really happy with the way I rode tonight,” said Tickle. “I got a good start and was near the top-five before coming together with another guy and going down. I was able to come back to 10th, which is where I have finished without a crash so I’m happy to get those points. With the field thinning out, I should be closer to the front so I’m looking forward to next weekend.”
Racing is very unpredictable and one small error can end a rider’s night. In qualifying practice, Weimer looked smooth and controlled and laid down the second fastest lap time behind Villopoto. With Monster Energy Kawasaki qualifying 1-2 for the night program, everyone was anticipating a great result. In his heat race he got out front and easily took his second heat race win of the season, boosting his confidence for the main event. When the gate dropped for the main, Weimer put himself right where he needed to be, rounding the first few corners in third until a bobble on the face of the triple sent him off the track and down onto the concrete. Weimer attempted to continue racing, but decided it was not worth the risk of continuing.
“It’s a disappointing end to a good day,” said Weimer. “Today I was riding the way I know how and was able to transition the work I put in during the week, into the weekend. It was a small mistake on the triple that sent me off the track, but that small mistake cost me huge. I got going again, but just about threw it away a few more times and decided it was the best decision to pull off. Next week we’ll start fresh and hopefully end the night on the box.”
Not only did the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki duo of Durham and Baggett aboard their KX™250Fs finish first and second in the Supercross Lites class, but Kawasaki also took the top two spots in the Supercross class. Although many anticipated teammates Villopoto and Weimer to hold those positions, it was Jeff Ward Racing Kawasaki’s Josh Grant that rode a mistake-free 20 laps to earn his first podium in three years and join Villopoto on the box. It is obvious by looking at the results that the Kawasaki KX450F is the preferred bike of most riders on the gate and Kawasaki holding four of six podium spots in New Orleans demonstrated the strength of the KX™ line.
The dirt inside the Superdome was unique. At first glance one may think it was littered with pebbles and rocks, but at close inspection the dirt was actually full of seashells. This created a dilemma amongst many riders to sport additional roost protection such as hand guards or chest protectors. After a few practice sessions it was obvious the roost was not that dangerous, but never the less a little harder than average.
Monster Energy AMA Supercross heads back to the West coast next Saturday, April 21, 2012 to Centurylink Field in Seattle, Wash., for Round 15 of the series. The open stadium in Seattle allows weather to play a factor in the racing. The Supercross Lites Western Region riders will return to do battle where Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Dean Wilson currently holds the points lead by two points. Wilson will be looking to extend his points lead and provide himself with some breathing room as the season concludes.
Monster Energy AMA Supercross
Mercedes-Benz Superdome – New Orleans, La.
April 14, 2012
Supercross Class Results
- RYAN VILLOPOTO, POULSBO, WASH., MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
- JOSH GRANT, CORONA, CALIF., JWR KAWASAKI
- Justin Brayton, Murrieta, Calif., Honda
- Brett Metcalfe, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Suzuki
- Andrew Short, Smithville, Tex., Honda
- Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha
- Weston Peick, Wildomar, Calif., Yamaha
- KYLE CHISHOLM, VALRICO, FLA., JWR KAWASAKI
- Will Hahn, Decatur, Tex., Honda
- BROC TICKLE, HOLLY, MICH., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI
Supercross Class Championship Standings
- RYAN VILLOPOTO, POULSBO, WASH., MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 321
- Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha, 206
- Justin Brayton, Murrieta, Calif., Honda, 201
- Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM, 192
- James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha, 178
- Brett Metcalfe, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Suzuki, 172
- JAKE WEIMER, RUPERT, IDAHO, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 171
- Kevin Windham, Centreville, Miss., Honda, 166
- Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Calif., Suzuki, 162
- BROC TICKLE, HOLLY, MICH., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI, 133
- KYLE CHISHOLM, VALRICO, FLA., JWR KAWASAKI, 129
Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class Results
- DARRYN DURHAM, BUTLER, PA., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI
- BLAKE BAGGETT, GRAND TERRACE, CALIF., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI
- Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda
- Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, GA., Honda
- Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
- Kyle Cunningham, Aledo, Texas, Yamaha
- Jake Canada, Sun City, Calif., Suzuki
- TYLER BOWERS, DANVILLE, KY., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI
- Austin Politelli, Sun City, Calif., Honda
- Phil Nicoletti, Cochecton, N.Y., Honda
Eastern Regional Supercross Lites Class Championship Standings
- Justin Barcia, Ochlocknee, Ga., Honda, 185
- DARRYN DURHAM, BUTLER, PA., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI, 143
- Ken Roczen, Murrieta, Ga., KTM, 143
- Blake Wharton, Pilot Point, Texas, Suzuki, 142
- BLAKE BAGGETT, GRAND TERRACE, CALIF., MONSTER ENERGY/PRO CIRCUIT/KAWASAKI, 128
- Jake Canada, Sun City, Calif., Suzuki, 118
- Justin Bogle, Cushing, Okla., Honda, 107
- Kyle Cunningham, Aledo, Tex., Yamaha, 70
- Alex Martin, Millville, Minn., Honda 67
- MATT LEMOINE, COLLINSVILLE, TEXAS, KAWASAKI, 66