Despite snow outside and cold weather, the track inside was one of the year’s best. Even though lap times are going down due to efforts to make tracks a little simpler and leave places for passing, this time the top riders were not complaining that the track was “too easy” like they had at previous events in the west.
Windham and his teammate Mike LaRocco won the heats and were set up for a good start in the main due to first and second pick at the gate. Chevy Trucks Kawasaki’s Michael Byrne beat both of them to the first turn and picked up the $1,500 Butterfinger holeshot bonus, but within a lap Windham was in the lead and pulling away, and LaRocco was dusting himself off and started catching back up from dead last.
Yamaha’s team of Reed and David Vuillemin, minus Tim Ferry who is out until the summer due to wrist surgery, had to work around Byrne and Andrew Short in the early laps. Reed made it to second place by the 4th lap, but by then Windham had a comfortable lead and a winning pace. Vuillemin was in third by lap 7. Also near the front were privateer Eric Vallejo, who has been having a career-best season, and Windham’s other teammate Travis Preston, who has been running the west regional 125 class and was on a CRF450 for the first time this season in the 250 class.
The first rider Reed had to pass was Vuillemin, but since Reed is leading the series in points, he didn’t try to hard to stay ahead of him. “He is ahead in the championship with a lot of points,” said Vuillemin about Reed, “He has been riding better than me and he passed me and I was behind him and I knew he was going to pass those two guys really quick. I was hoping to get a draft.”
“We were loosing a lot of time and Kevin checked out,” said Vuillemin, who had to try and follow Reed past Byrne and Short, “I was stuck behind and Chad passed me and it took us awhile to pass those guys. I was the third guy tonight and I couldn’t do any better. I think the step up whoops were the best part of the track for me. It was fun to have something different. I liked that section a lot.”
“I was having trouble with the finish line the whole weekend,” said Reed, “I was clipping the landing. And just the one time I got it perfect (in the heat race) and clicked 4th and went flying through the whoops and missed one and the rear came off the ground and was out of control a little bit and took my buddy, Grant Langston, out. It sucked, I felt bad for him. It seems like he can’t get a break whether he is in front or following someone else’s fault. But I got back up and was able to get second (in the heat).”
When asked if he had to hold back since Windham had a strong lead and he might settle for second, Reed answered, “I don’t go out there to race anything less than 1st. I go out there and try to win. That is what we all get paid to do and to give our all at all times and that is what I was doing. The track this weekend was tough to pass on and I tried to just make a clean pass and make it stick. I think I got Byrne on the finish just before the triple-triple I got to get a little better start and be more aggressive at the beginning of the race.”
“I felt good from the time I got here,” said Windham, “I felt the dirt was better than Houston. Houston was a little bit spongy for me. This weekend I felt the track held up well and the rhythm section was a little different and tricky. There were a couple of ways to go through it and the whoops were different. I thought the track was good. I wanted to focus on getting a good start and it happened for me.”
Even though Windham had a clear track, he did pay attention to Reed’s progress. “I always know where Chad’s at,” he said, “There are certain guys you watch for and if you look at the podiums for every round its been the same 4 guys. So I want to know where everyone is. I found Chad and my mechanic did a good job in letting me know where I was at. Every race has a different strategy. When I found out where they were, it was time for me to put my head down and I checked out and it was kind of it. It was nice to have a good start and not have any trouble like in Houston.”
Just missing the podium was Preston, whose strong ride in 4th was well worth noting. This is his last season in 125s so his strong showing in the 250 class was important for next season.
Langston, who was knocked down in that heat race reed mentioned, won his semi but had a rough time in the main, finishing 14th. Damon Huffman finished 5th, and extended his THQ World Supercross GP points lead to 21 points over Langston.
THQ World Supercross Series/THQ AMA Supercross Series Event Results, Minneapolis MN
1. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda
2. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha
3. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha
4. Travis Preston, Heperia, Calif., Honda
5. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda
6. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda
7. Andrew Short, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
8. Erick Vallejo, Dallas, Texas, Yamaha
9. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki
10. Nathan Ramsey, Menifee, Ca., Honda
THQ AMA Supercross Series Season Standings
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha, 191
2. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda, 168
3. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha, 152
4. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda, 147
5. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 109
6. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki, 108
7. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki, 95
8. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 81
9. Grant Langston, Lake Elsinore, Calif., KTM, 74
10. Sean Hamblin, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki, 65
THQ World Supercross GP Season Standings
1. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 209
2. Grant Langston, Temecula, Calif., KTM, 188
3. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 177
4. Tyler Evans, Canyon Lake, Calif., Suzuki, 161
5. Keith Johnson, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 124
6. Ryan Clark, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 122
7. Erick Vallejo, Dallas, Texas, Yamaha, 110
8. Mike Brown, Johnson City, Tenn., Yamaha, 95
9. Ernesto Fonseca, Murrieta, Calif., Honda, 81
10. Joe Oehlhof, Hesperia, Calif., Honda, 71
Yamaha of Troy had it’s best night of the year so far with 2 riders on the podium, and one heat race win over rookie sensation Broc Hepler. YOT’s Danny Smith stopped Hepler in a turn with a “10-point” block pass and won their heat race. His YOT teammates Josh Hansen and Kelly Smith filled the podium.
Stewart just had a few passes to make in the main and he was in the lead and pulling far away from the pack after lap 2. Kelly Smith had the holeshot but Hansen jumped past him right after the first turn. Danny Smith was 4th after a lap, and Steve Boniface on an RMZ250F Suzuki was 5th.
Hansen rode a strong race and finished second, his best supercross finish of his career. Kelly Smith held on to third, and Boniface moved up to 4th buy the finish, the best finish yet for the Suzuki RMZ250F.
Also having a strong race was veteran Steve Lamson on a Honda CRF250. His 5th place put him just one point behind Hepler for third in series standings. Hepler had a mid-pack start and stayed there, finishing 8th. Suzuki’s other sensational rookie, Davi Millsaps, who missed last weekend because he didn’t turn 16 until Monday, made the main but was outside the top ten.
“(I am) back to my old self where I left off last year, and I backed it up today with having the second fastest lap times in practice,” said Kelly Smith. “As far as the track went, I thought it was pretty good. It had a lot of different stuff. You could go in the rhythm sections and the whoops were pretty good this weekend too,” he said.
“As soon as something happened to Danny Smith and got myself around him and got in third, I knew I should be able to stay there and I had the confidence that was strong enough to keep going for the rest of the race and keep it up in third,” said Kelly Smith, “I got real tight and had horrible arm pump. That is the biggest thing that happened to me and I was struggling with that and I calmed down and mellowed out a little bit and quit thinking about it and smoothed out and rode a decent pace the rest of the time.”
Hansen started the year in the west and then tried to race there with a broken hand, which hurt his points. AMA rules allow a rider to race the opposite region for no points, which is what Hansen did after he took some time off to heal. Other west riders racing in the east for no points are Boniface, Michael Blose, and Jeff Gibson.
“(My plan was to) get the hand healed up and be ready for the east and that’s what I did,” said Hansen, “I didn’t race the first weekend, I took four weeks off and rode two times last week. I felt a little off. When I got here I had a little confidence being healthy. Back on the west I feel like I could podium but I had a little bad luck and I think we have a good crew behind us and the bikes are actually working really good.”
“I would say my hand is about 85%,” said Hansen, “At least I can ride. I was having some problems when I first hurt it trying to ride. I think another week or two it should be almost 100%.”
What do you say when no one in your class can keep up and the racing is too easy? “I felt pretty good in the whoops today,” said Stewart. He felt pretty good everywhere else too. “I was sick all week and I didn’t get to ride so my first day of riding was Friday,” he said, “I’m pumped to be racing the 125. I’m doing good and am getting a chance to ride the east coast. I just try to keep my program moving forward. I am happy where I am at and I want to finish out this year strong and try and win this title and hopefully stay safe out there. I am looking forward for the upcoming events.”
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Eastern Regional Event Results, Minneapolis MN
1. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Kawasaki
2. Josh Hansen, Elbert, Colo., Yamaha
3. Kelly Smith, Ludington, Mich., Yamaha
4. Steve Boniface, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
5. Steve Lamson, Camino, Calif., Honda
6. Ryan Mills, Clintondale, N.Y., Honda
7. Michael Blose, Phoenix, Ariz., Yamaha
8. Broc Hepler, Kittanning, Pa., Suzuki
9. Ryan Clark, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha
10. Tiger Lacey, Wolf Creek Ore., Honda
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Eastern Regional Season Standings
1. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Kawasaki, 50
2. Broc Hepler, Kittanning, Pa., Suzuki, 35
3. Steve Lamson, Camino, Calif., Honda, 34
4. Kelly Smith, Ludington, Mich., Yamaha, 31
5. Eric Sorby, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki, 30
6. Ryan Clark, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 28
7. Ryan Mills, Clintondale, N.Y., Honda, 27
8. Brett Metcalfe, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 19
9. Tiger Lacey, Wolf Creek, Ore., Honda, 18
10. Danny Smith, Middleton, Idaho, Yamaha, 17
Texts and photos by Steve Bruhn