After 17 rounds of the most competitive racing in supercross history, Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto, of Poulsbo, Wash., secured his inaugural Supercross class title Saturday night in front of a capacity crowd of 39,506 fans inside Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.
Villopoto would clinch the title with his third place finish in the 20-lap main event. In the Eastern Regional Supercross Lites class championship, GEICO Honda’s Justin Barcia, of Ochlocknee, Ga., captured his first career title after a strong third place finish. In the final race of the Western Regional Supercross Lites class championship, Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Broc Tickle, of Holly, Mich., also secured his first career title after a runner-up effort in his main event.
Red Bull KTM’s Mike Alessi, of Victorville, Calif., kicked off the final race of the 2011 season in the Supercross class by capturing the Nuclear Cowboyz Holeshot, with GEICO Honda’s Kevin Windham, of Centreville, Miss., and San Manuel Yamaha’s James Stewart, of Haines City, Fla., in tow. Windham quickly moved out front before the conclusion of the first lap, but was passed by Stewart on Lap 3.
Three laps later on Lap 6, Stewart lost control in the whoops and went down in front of Windham, who subsequently fell after trying to avoid his rival. Villopoto then moved into the lead, with Reed on his rear fender. Villopoto fended off Reed’s advances for another five laps before Reed made the winning pass on Lap 11. Rockstar/Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey, of Belle Plaine, Minn., moved by Villopoto shortly after and over the final five laps of the main event, Reed and Dungey brought the crowd to its feet with a close battle to the finish.
In the end, Reed secured his second win of the season while Dungey brought home his series-leading 13th podium finish of the season with a runner-up effort. Villopoto rounded out the podium in third.
“We gave it all we had,” said Reed. “I feel totally blessed this season. Congrats to Ryan (Villopoto). He earned (the championship). He had the most wins this season and to come back form what he went through last year, he has my respect. We did all we can and sometimes, you come up short.”
“I just have to thank everyone at Kawasaki,” said Villopoto. “The team believed in me through thick and thin. We’ll enjoy this. It was a hard-fought battle. I saw James and Kevin go down the whoops were tough tonight. We all had to run the same line and you couldn’t avoid it. Luckily I got around (the crash). I wasn’t pulling away form Chad, so I just let him by and Ryan (Dungey) was right behind him so then I let him by. I just cruised from there.”
Earlier in the evening, the Bret Michaels “Rock Hard-Ride Hard” Award was handed out for the first time. The distinction honors the hardest charging, comeback supercross rider who ultimately proves to push the limits in a quest towards winning the Monster Energy Supercross championship. The award was given to Chad Reed, after the former champion came just four points shy of his third title in his inaugural foray into the world of team ownership.
For more information on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, visit www.SupercrossOnline.com.