February 15, 2010

Anaheim 3: Mayhem before the AM

Yep, weak headline I admit, but the race itself was outstanding! Unfortunately, my man with the hot cam, GuyB, decided to spend time all the way in Indianapolis for the Dealer Show, so I got nothing... that is, no fantastic Vital MX photos for the final round in California. Oh well...

But I did go to the race, and let me tell ya, it was indeed off the hook, despite what you may have seen on CBS.

I was able to catch the top 450 riders in their final qualifying session, and I was quite surprised to see Jason Lawrence aggressively jump to the head of the line on the first lap and set the first fast lap. Seeing ol' #338 on the leader pylon was both amazing and confusing... but it didn't take long before the customary leaders displaced him. And in a sign of things to come, Ryan Villopoto finished the session with the top time as the only rider to get around the tricky circuit in under a minute.

Which leads to the track layout itself. Walking into the stadium, the over/under bridge was the first thing to get my attention. Riders landing from the third base triple had to deal with a short landing area into a tight, 90-degree left under the bridge, which then led to the rhymthm section that contained the "wall." During practice I was waiting for some daredevil to launch over the wall into the next double, but no one dared. Survival instincts run high among supercross racers.

But those instincts weren't enough to save everyone, hence the "Mayhem" in the headline. I saw more riders carried off the track on stretchers than I can remember, so much so that at times it seemed as if the announcers were doing their best to avert everyone's attention away from the carnage. But there were plenty of exchanged worried glances and comments circulating among the crowd. In the second 250 heat, Jake Weimer and Trey Canard were locked in a death struggle for the lead when Max Anstie went down very hard, fracturing his hip. Anstie was down on the track for so long, the officials ended up redflagging the 8-lap heat race and re-starting it. And in the first 450 heat, WORCS star Bobby Bonds went OTB into the face of a triple, breaking his collarbone. And these are just two of the injuries I've seen reported so far. I don't know if the track is to blame or what, and I'm grateful that no one was more seriously injured or worse.

Both main events featured unexpected twists. In the 250 class, past East Region Champion Trey Canard quickly chased down early leader Wil Hahn and tried to get away, but 4-time winner Jake Weimer was closing fast... and then he went down and stalled his bike. (ELECTRIC START!) By the time it fired up, Weimer was dead last. For a few laps, it looked like Trey Canard was going to score a full whopping 25 points on Weimer, but that's not what happened.

Instead, Jake reached down deep and went to work to minimize the damage to his 26-point cushion in the championship standing. Jake fought his way up to 8th position, while Canard crushed the rest of the field for his second win on the year. Weimer still holds 14 sizable points over TC with only two rounds to go, but Canard takes the momentum into the West Region hiatus.

In the 450 class, Ryan Villopoto got his first holeshot of the year and ran the table by leading every lap and even setting fast lap of the night. But Josh Hill, Kevin Windham, and to some extent, Davi Millsaps and Ryan Dungey all made RV work for it. Hill especially, as it always seemed that Josh had the speed to catch Villo, if only he didn't have to worry about riding defense against the constant attacks from first Millsaps then Kdub. Thos three had a great game of cat and mouse going, even though their positions didn't really change that much. Dungey seemed early on content to just let those guys slip up so he could slip by, but when that didn't happen, Ryan started making moves. First he pulled a nice pass inside Davi and then he started pressuring Kevin. And then Dungey spun out in the same turn where he passed Millsaps earlier. Of course, this let the Honda-mounted Millsaps by and Ryan had to pass him AGAIN, this time just stuffing last week's main event winner in a bowl.

As the laps wore on, things just got more intense. It wasn't until lap 16 or 17 that Kdub seemed to settle into third and Hill seemed to be happy with second. Somehow, Ryan Dungey accepted finishing off the podium for the third straight week; he had nothing for Windham after the slideout. And I have no idea WTF happened to the Davi that beat everyone just a week ago. But I'm starting to suspect that tricky track, I guess it brought out the best in the top bike-handlers.

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