by Charles Owens on 01/16/2014
By Paul Savage @PaulSavageNZ, TSM Editor
Three-time Supercross champion Ryan Villopoto returned to the winners’ podium on Saturday night for the first time this season.
In what was his first win at Phoenix and his 35th career first-place finish, the Monster Energy Kawasaki rider came from a mid-pack start to move forward for the win.
The 450 Main Event of the night was somewhat of a modern-day rendition of Cold War – lots of tension, the odd skirmish but lacking a serious shot to ignite a full-scale war.
The track was described by commentator and former Supercross champion Ricky Carmichael as one that was “tough” and that “demands a lot of risks be taken to get the job done.”
The Chase Field surface remained largely unadulterated throughout the evening; a few predictable ruts appeared and the sandtrap drew a big rooster-tail for every pinned throttle, but didn’t prove too much trouble for the riders of the evening.
With a win last week from 450 rookie Ken Roczen, a downed James Stewart desperate for points, an eager and confident Chad Reed on a new bike and last year’s runner up Davi Millsaps out in the sick bay with an injury, the Main Event was anyone’s for the taking.
Villopoto was nowhere to be seen early on; the early battles between Justin ‘Bam Bam’ Barcia, Ken Roczen and James Stewart drew most of the camera time and commentators’ attention.
After stacking it right over his handlebars in practice, Stewart stayed firmly on his new Suzuki, while Ken Roczen wasn’t so lucky – he was clipped on the way through and went down on the flat section in lap 8.
Throughout the rest of what was a relatively uneventful race, Justin Brayton thrashed his bike like a demon while Ryan Villopoto slowly made his way to the center stage to finish up top ahead of Brayon (2nd) and Ryan Dungey (3rd).
A brief and puffed Villopoto said the win was a “good start” to his season, being only the second race of the year.
“Definitely good for momentum,” he said post-race.
The real action of the night, however, was to be seen in the 250SX class.
Some carnage-ridden qualifiers lit the crowd up, as did the final class race.
Cooper Webb stole the holeshot ahead of Cole Seely, who Carmichael pointed out was looking for “revenge” from last week in Anaheim, where he was robbed of first place in the final seconds of the 250 Main.
Unfortunately for Seely, history did repeat itself; a tussle with Jason Anderson in which the pair swapped places several times, ended up falling again in Anderson’s favor, right at the end of the race.
KTM’s Jason Anderson edged out Cole Seely (Honda, 2nd) and Zach Osbourne (Honda, 3rd).
When the wagons are hitched and the Bobcats are fired up, the riders will head west for Anaheim II this Saturday.