Vital Buzz: Seattle Supercross

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We wish today’s Vital Buzz was caffeine-fueled, but instead, it’s more a product of Tylenol Cold and Flu. Don’t worry, though…it’s guaranteed to be non-contagious, so dig in.

The biggest news of the weekend was James Stewart wrapping up two championships on the same night, lofting a pair of number ones over his head on the podium. After the race it was obvious that he was feeling the impact of wrapping up the championships a race early, saying, “I’m so emotional right now it’s even hard to smile. I don’t even know what to say.” When asked what it felt like, he chuckled and said, “I don’t know, it hasn’t even sunk in yet. All I know is, I earned this all year through all the struggles we had as a team and myself…I earned it now.”

The Supercross main event itself appeared fairly easy, and he led from nearly start to finish. “The easiest thing for me was to go out there and run the first few laps like I always do. I was able to get a gap, and then with Davi (Millsaps) going down it definitely made it a little easier.  All I had to do was focus on the race from there. I rode good, but about the last five laps I rode like crap. I was so tight, I was making too many mistakes.”

The track was a bit unusual, to say the least. The dirt had been saturated before it was built, and then it had dried on top, so the jumps were actually spongy during the track walk. The Dirt Wurx crew was making liberal use of lime on the racing surface in an effort to draw moisture out of the jumps, which quickly rutted up during practice. James described the track conditions early in the day like this. “I felt like in practice we all rode like squids out there. I know for myself, I couldn’t get going and I was still able to get the quickest lap times, but I felt off. I felt the best in the main event, and that’s just surprising with me.”

James Stewart Heading to two number one plates.

How long had winning the Supercross title(s) been a goal of his? “Since I knew what a motorcycle was. Watching all my favorite guys. Rick Johnson, Jeff Matasevich, McGrath coming up, Jeff Emig, Ricky…I always wanted to hold one of these things up, and to hold two of them up in one night it’s just even more special. I got the first one out of the way, so I feel a lot better. It’s like Peyton Manning and the Super Bowl. The monkey’s off my back, so we can have some fun racing now.”

It was hugs all around, before the podium ceremony, including a big one from his dad. James explained it like this, “Just winning the championship, it’s one of those things where it’s your lifelong goal. From when he used to work all day long and take me practicing, to all the hard times and injuries, and all the ups and downs. We kind of know it, now we made it.  Now it’s one of those things that you can never take away from me, and I’m just so proud.”

What was the hardest part of the ’07 season for him? “Probably getting away from all the distractions. When I first came into the season everyone expected me to win. It was easy to get a big head and get overconfident. Every weekend I came out to the races the same. I always put in the laps during the week and I was able to get both of them.”

James was pretty open about any topic the press wanted to ask about, including pre-race jitters. “I was really nervous. Worried about not having anything stupid happen, getting caught up with a lapper, or having something happen on the bike, or throw it away myself. I didn’t want any of that to happen. I wanted to go to Vegas with a clean mind.” There was, however, one that he was holding back on…what he was going to do to celebrate. “Ha! We’re going to keep that off the papers right now, but I’ll just say I’m 21 now, so I’m good.”

Saturday night’s Supercross-class podium had a much different look than what we’d seen during the season. The runner-up spot belonged to Davi Millsaps, despite a crash early in the race. “In the back section after the start you could go inside single and table over a single, or outside jump on, jump off. I happened to go inside table over single, but I missed the rut I’d hit on the first lap and I just cross-rutted and jumped sideways and landed in the hay bales.  I couldn’t pick my bike up because my feet were on the concrete and I was sliding every time I’d try to pick it up.  I went back to fifth or sixth place.”

Davi Millsaps and Brittney George Davi Millsaps and Brittney George.

After finally remounting, Davi quickly worked his way back up front; catching and passing Kevin Windham on lap seven. “There was a rhythm section that he (Windham) was doubling all the way through, and I had a triple in the middle, and I ended up passing him right there. He was taking a slower line so I tripled it and I went right by him. He’s my teammate and I’m not a dirty rider. You can ask anyone…they feel safe with me behind them. I’m courteous because if they’re behind me, I want the same thing.”

This was Davi’s best result of the season, after missing the first half due to a broken femur. “On the last couple laps when I was in second, it was like, ‘Yeah, this feels good. It feels good to finally be back up here on the podium and being able to do interviews and spray the champagne. It was definitely fun for me.”

He also has his eyes set on the outdoor season, and commented, “I’ve been training really hard for the outdoors and my bike’s really good. I go to California for the next two weeks to test it. I rode really well last year, so I think this season’s going to be good. I hope to give Bubba a run for his money.”

Ryan Villopoto Ryan Villopoto won seven of the eight rounds in the West SX Lites series.

As far as the Supercross Lites class, Ryan Villopoto had clinched the Lites West title at the previous round in San Diego, a full eight weeks ago. And while there were plenty of riders who were hungry for a win to end the season, Ryan picked right up where he’d left off…though he had to work for it. “I got a good start and went around the second turn and there was a little chaos down there. I came out like fifth. You had to be a little more patient than just going after it. The track actually turned out good for how soft it was in practice. But you had to wait; you couldn’t do anything super-quick because of the ruts. It made it interesting.  A few of those laps there were quite a few riders down and bikes in the middle of the track.

Josh Hill Josh Hill had a his best night so far in Supercross.

Team Yamaha’s Josh Hill was third on the night, after having led the first third or so of the main event. Even still, he was pretty happy with his night, commenting, “The heat race was killer. I got a decent start and then ended up getting into the lead, and I hadn’t done that all year. My muffler broke off and I was all sketched that AMA Jay was going to pop out with the black flag, but nothing happened and I ended up winning the heat race. I was pretty pumped. That’s the first race I’ve led in a Supercross, other than an LCQ. I’ve won two of those, but it’s the first heat race or main that I’ve led, so I was pretty pumped.”

“I think I rode really good for the first six laps. Then once Ryan got past me I started riding backwards instead of forwards, and I started riding really tight. I’ve been sick all week, so I was coughing while I was riding, and I just wasn’t going forwards.”

Ryan Villopoto and Josh Hill Ryan Villopoto makes the pass for the lead on Saturday night.

One area where Josh seemed to struggle was the corner after the finish line, where he was passed by Josh Grant (before Josh rode off the track), and Ryan Villopoto. “I was sketching out on who was going to try and stuff me right there. You were coming back out of the corner, and you’re almost going head-on to riders who are still coming at you. I was getting sketched on it. I didn’t want to fall down or get cleaned out too hard. I just pinned it, because I knew he was probably going to try and come in and stuff it, so I just jumped off the berm. But I got third tonight, and third overall in the points, so really, tonight was a pretty fun night. Third overall in the main, third overall in the championship, won my first heat race, and led my first main. That’s not too bad, I was pretty pumped.”

David Vuillemin David Vuillemin wrapped up the Privateer chase.

One of the other titles was wrapped up on Saturday night, the one for top privateer. David Vuillemin’s eight-place finish was enough to clinch, and he’ll score a $25,000 bonus and some other goodies at next weekend’s Supercross banquet.

Michael Willard After crossing the finish line, Michael Willard tries to determine whether he transferred or not.
Cole Siebler Cole Siebler sitting on the gate after watching Willard take the transfer and the cash.

Okay, that takes care of the racing business that everyone expected to see. Now how about a couple unusual nuggets? If you saw Saturday’s Pit Bits or the race coverage on Saturday morning, you probably saw the photos of Michael Willard’s KTM 125SX and Cole Siebler’s CR250 two-strokes. Both riders were trying to score an over $4,500 bounty put up by the guys on Mototalk for the first rider who could qualify for the main event on a two-stroke. After scoring ninth in his heat race (with a little help from Matt Lemoine and Chris Gosselaar, who crashed late in the heat), Michael Willard took home the cash before the gate even dropped for Siebler’s heat race. It looks like the gang at Mototalk may do something similar in the future, and are already working on revising the rules in case there are multiple participants.

Kyle Partridge Kyle Partridge leading his heat race, with Martin Davalos and Josh Hill in tow.

The other item that raised a few eyebrows was the heat race contact between Martin Davalos and Kyle Partridge. Kyle had led most of the first heat race before being passed by Josh Hill. Kyle was still holding onto second spot when contact from Martin sent him flying off the track. Once he’d remounted, he went looking for him after the finish line, and contact and mayhem ensued. Obviously, fighting in the middle of the infield will draw the attention of everyone, and the AMA quite rightly tossed both riders for the night.

We talked to an obviously bummed Partridge the next day in the airport, and he was still upset at the contact (after riding such a great heat race), the fight afterwards, and the final outcome. Later that day he posted up a message on a few different message boards, which you can see below. (We’ve made a few minor corrections in spelling and punctuation.)

Let me first off start by saying last night at the Seattle Supercross the events that took place on my part were not right and what I did was wrong. Yet, then again what Davalos did wasn't very good either. I was riding good in the heat race, winning until the last lap. I went up the inside of the last corner knowing that Davalos was going to try something to get the position from me due to the fact that in just about every corner the whole race he was trying to run me high. What happened was, I protected the inside just like any other rider would do knowing that someone was going to try and clean them out. There was a triple and then a single into some rollers then the right-hand corner before the finish line double. He hit the last single while I was coming out of the corner already going straight and when he landed he literally slammed the side of my bike so hard it suddenly threw me off the track. If it was a main event spot, I was running second, he was third I wouldn't expect anything else, but for someone to go for a pass like that. It was a heat race, we were both in a qualifying position. One less pick on the gate was no big deal. That’s when I rode over the finish line and I admit my temper got the best of me and I rode right into the side of his bike. After I hit him he dropped his bike grabbed me by the helmet and we fell to the ground. Like I said if it was the main event it would of been expected, it wasn't though, it was a heat race and we were both in a qualifying position. It was stupid on his part. What if we both went down and we both had to race the LCQ? I am taking full responsibility for my actions knowing it wasn't a good choice of judgment to do what I did. I am writing this to let everyone at the AMA, Live Nation, and all of my sponsors know that I am sorry for my actions it wasn't right. I would also like to apologize to Martin for what happened…our tempers both got the best of us last night. So once again I am sorry to all my sponsors that I represent and to Martin!

Kyle is still looking for a full-time ride for the Nationals (the MB1 team is planning on doing Hangtown and the final six rounds), and dejectedly admitted that he might not have helped his cause. But he definitely showed some speed over the weekend.

Now it’s down to one final round for the Supercross season, and all the events around it…Thor’s 40th Anniversary party at Primm’s museum, Press Day on Friday, and the MiniMoto SX at the Orleans Arena night. Oh, and the party...er, race on Saturday night. While last year’s race between Carmichael, Stewart and Reed was pretty drama-filled, we suspect that this year’s event we be akin to going to a party where a race breaks out. Regardless, we’ll be there to bring you all the action. As for James Stewart, he told us, “I’ll probably be down at the blackjack tables. It’s the first time in Vegas I can do it legally now. With the team, we’re going to have fun tonight, but after the whole series is done it’s going to be a big party in the Stewart camp.”

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