At least the series that started out a little boring with Ricky Carmichael out and an easy Reed victory has become as exciting as the second half of supercross in 2003, when Carmichael and Reed battled just about every race. After a disappointing season opener, Windham has found his speed and has come back even stronger than he was before his femur injury that took him out of supercross in 2002.
The Anaheim track this time featured a split start, where half riders went left and half right shortly after the gate dropped. Anaheim had a similar split built into the third race here last year and it worked well.
Windham got knocked around in his heat race and had to qualify from a semi. Ezra Lusk won that heat, but in the main Lusk was charging though the pack from the back, finishing 7th. Reed easily won his heat. The last one to qualify was Moto XXX’s Damon Huffman, who took the second and final spot from the Last Chance Qualifier. Huffman started the weekend a few points behind Grant Langston in THQ World Supercross GP points.
In the main the $1,500 “crispety, crunchety, peanut buttery® Butterfinger” holeshot bonus went to Reed, but Windham was right behind him, setting up a great race from the start. Huffman was third, then LaRocco, David Vuillemin and privateers Erick Vallejo and Tiger Lacey.
Reed and Windham immediately pulled away from the pack, battling over and over, changing lines, trading the lead, and working the crowd to one loud cheer after the other each time one would make a move. If Windham would get close to making a pass in one section, the next lap Reed would take the line Windham took to keep ahead and force Windham to try something else. This can sometimes slow down both riders battling for the lead, and in this case all the maneuvering allowed LaRocco to catch up with them.
Behind LaRocco, a race for 4th was going on between Huffman and Vuillemin, which Huffman won.
Windham got away for good when Reed came in close in a berm, hit the brakes and fell over on lap 12. He got going again in third and still had time to pass LaRocco back, but LaRocco stayed close enough to make a move with two turns to go. He got close enough it prompted Reed to turn around at the finish line and shake his finger at him.
LaRocco took advantage of Reed and Windham’s pre-occupation with staying ahead of the other and got close enough to challenge them, and put the heat on Reed. “I saw he and Kevin battling and they were slowing each other up because I was able to catch up to them,” said LaRocco, “I am not really sure how Chad went down but I ended up going around him and he dropped in behind me. For a while it was good but I made a mistake and he went inside of me and that was pretty much the end of the race.”
About the finger shaking, LaRocco said, “He wasn’t happy with me darting in on him in the second to the last turn, but I told him to not worry about that. I will just try and get good starts (for the rest of supercross). It is a lot more fun when you ride up front and race with these guys. That is what I want to do. I will just try and figure out what they are doing to beat me, and make it happen.”
The dirt at Anaheim gets used for three supercross events and other events in between, and LaRocco said they can tell the difference after three races, “The more time the dirt is in this stadium, the harder and more difficult it gets to ride. It gets real slippery. There is not a lot of traction,” he said.
Reed had good results with the unique split start. “I actually liked it,” he said, “Last year was the first year we had it. It is just different. During the weekend, it changes as far as which side is faster. During the heat race, the right was the fastest and in the main event we ended up going to the left. I think it is interesting and gives us a little challenge to find out which line in the best. We do a lot of videoing to see what is the best out there. I think the most difficult part of the track this week was traction. Here we are again with the top three on Bridgestones. Our tires are awesome. We tire tested this week so I was happy about that.”
Reed said he knew he had to make a move after the halfway point because LaRocco was closing in. “Kevin and I were battling, he would lead and I would lead,” said Reed, “It seemed every time someone would lead someone would make a mistake. I could see Mike coming. I was trying to make something happen and just put the front wheel in on Kevin and he turned a little and I just hit his foot. I grabbed a handful of front brake and didn’t want to loose 10 points or anything, and just went down.”
About the finger pointing-Reed said, “I just kind of pointed at him. In the last lap he came a little too much head on to me. In the corner I could see him coming right at me. It just scared me a little bit. Mike and I have a little bit of a history of coming together so I didn’t want to do that.”
Windham had a rough start in his heat. “In the heat I had a horrible start,” he said, “I made a totally wrong gate pick and it was downhill from there. I got a bad jump and I think Hamblin went down. I was trying to avoid him and ended up going down myself. I went down a second time when someone jumped into me. I didn’t see or hear it coming. It knocked the wind out of me and the bike was really torn up. The start was so short I could hardly get the clutch all the way out on my 450. As soon as I left the gate I felt like I was there. I would prefer it to be longer. It was messing with me a little bit and I got frustrated.”
Windham got a good start in the main at least, and just had to keep it on two wheels while racing with Reed. He talked about one point where he almost fell, “I was staring the triple down pretty much. I was way outside and my bike was as far over as it could go before it got to the tuff blocks. My body was way off to the left side. Apparently he (Reed) didn’t hear me and I was in the wrong position at the wrong time. I was fortunate. It could have been ugly there, or hung a footpeg on a tuff bloc, or something else for that matter.”
About the close racing, Windham said, “Tonight’s race for me was exciting because of that (near crash), and Chad falling, and I actually stalled the bike one time due to a stupid mistake. It had a lot of action tonight. When he passes me and we move back and forth, I am confident enough that that is not the end of the race. That is why I don’t do anything really stupid. I think today trying to make quick moves, trying to close the door, or running lines that he was using. That is when things happen and you lose drive. One time he wasn’t able to do the triple, like myself last weekend. This was just one of the races where you had to flow.”
THQ World Supercross Series/THQ AMA Supercross Series Event Results, Anaheim, Calif.
1. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda
2. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha
3. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda
4. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda
5. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha
6. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki
7. Ezra Lusk, Bainbridge, Ga., Yamaha
8. Grant Langston, Temecula, KTM
9. Erick Vallejo, Dallas, Texas, Yamaha
10. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki
THQ AMA Supercross Series Season Standings
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha, 119
2. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda, 96
3. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha, 92
4. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda, 92
5. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki, 73
6. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 69
7. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki, 61
8. Grant Langston, Lake Elsinore, Calif., KTM, 50
9. Ezra Lusk, Bainbridge, Ga., Yamaha, 47
10. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 43
THQ World Supercross GP Season Standing
1. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 140
2. Grant Langston, Temecula, Calif., KTM, 138
3. Tyler Evans, Canyon Lake, Calif., Suzuki, 117
4. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 114
5. Keith Johnson, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 96
6. Ernesto Fonseca, Murrieta, Calif., Honda, 81
7. Ryan Clark, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 76
8. Mike Brown, Johnson City, Tenn., Yamaha, 66
9. Daryl Hurley, Corona, Calif., Suzuki, 58
10. Erick Vallejo, Dallas, Texas, Yamaha 57
11. Joe Oehloff, Hesperia, Calif., Honda, 43
The event started with a pause to remember a rider that was killed the week previous when his bike fell on him, causing head fatal head injuries, according to the San Diego County Medical Examiner. Jason Ciarletta, of Riverside, Ca, was the first rider in the 31-year history of supercross to have a fatal injury at an event. He was remembered when the show opened by riders and team members standing around his bike, and a song was played. Then Danny Carlson, who was to be Ciarletta’s brother in law, quietly rolled his bike out of the stadium. The incident shocked and saddened everyone involved in the sport, and a memorial fund in his name is being organized.
Roncada and Tedesco have been winning just about everything in 2004. Tedesco has all the main wins, and Roncada hasn’t lost a heat race yet. This time though Tedesco has his share of troubles in his heat and finished third, with Nathan Ramsey winning it and Andrew Short second.
In the main, Roncada picked up the $1,000 “crispety, crunchety, peanut buttery® Butterfinger” holeshot award, and rode as impressive as he has in his heats races all season. He and Tedesco had a great race for the lead that lasted 12 laps, almost the whole main. Brock Sellards, who started in third wasn’t on their pace, but Preston was. Preston started catching the two leaders, which prompted Tedesco to try a little harder to get past Roncada. The two teammates tried to race clean and not make an embarrassing takeout of the other, but they did bump a few times.
Tedesco got away clean on lap 12 when Roncada failed to make one triple that Tedesco cleared, giving him a clear track. Preston then caught and passed Roncada for second.
“I always like it when they make different tracks like that,” said Roncada of the unique spilt start, “There were two lines going right and left. It gives us a lot more options and it is better for racing. I felt pretty confident coming into today. I was feeling pretty fast. I was going good in the whoops.”
On the contact with Tedesco, Roncada said “One time I came in pretty fast on him and we hit pretty hard but it was just like a good block pass. The racing tonight was great. Ivan was really tough and he was putting pressure on me. Travis was right there too, so I couldn’t make a mistake. I was really happy. I feel like I was running good. Ivan was really being pushy to make a pass so I had to stay calm. Physically I fell really good, the pressure was really hard to deal with for 15 laps. He came in the turn before me and put in a block pass, I came in the next turn too fast and hit him pretty hard on the right side. I would call it an old fashion block pass-no points.”
“I wasn’t too concerned with the split,” said Preston, “I made up my mind on what side I was going to take and stuck to my side. We didn’t have any drop offs (like last week). I got a decent start tonight. I got up there and was just waiting for them to take each other out so I could just cruise on to victory. They are on the same so they are out there riding clean, but they were still putting on a good pace. I don’t look at the pit board. I am just racing the track and trying to get around the guys in front of me. Tonight the track was a little slick. Ivan and Stephane were riding good and I was riding right on the edge. Stephane make one mistake right there at the end. It seems like I always need 5 more laps.”
If is normal for two riders racing close to slow a little since they have to start taking defensive lines. This usually works in favor of the next one behind them, but Preston said Roncada and Tedesco were not slowing down. “Tonight I was thinking that their battle would slow them down a little bit, but they were not,” he said, “They were making clean passes and pulling away. They were battling good but we were running a good pace.”
Tedesco is feeling the heat, but still winning. “The races seem like they are getting tougher every weekend,” he said, “This weekend in the heat race I got in a first turn pileup and had to work up from that. In the main Stephane started 1 and 2 and I just sat on him for 12 laps. I would make some moves on him and he would shut me down. We rode a clean race. I wasn’t trying to make a block pass on him. I wanted to a couple of times but I didn’t. It wasn’t really intentional. It did fire me up and I knew I had to get around him that lap because Travis was right there.”
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Western Regional Event Results, Anaheim, Calif.
1. Ivan Tedesco, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki
2. Travis Preston, Hesperia, Calif., Honda
3. Stephan Roncada, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Kawasaki
4. Brock Sellards, Sherrodsville, Ohio
5. Troy Adams, Brooksville, Fla., Kawasaki
6. Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., Suzuki
7. Greg Schnell, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Honda
8. Eric Nye, Corning, Calif., Yamaha
9. Nathan Ramsey, Menifee, Calif., Honda
10. Michael Blose, Phoenix, Ariz., Yamaha
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Western Regional Season Standings
1. Ivan Tedesco, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki, 125
2. Stephan Roncada, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Kawasaki, 100
3. Travis Preston, Hesperia, Calif., Honda, 97
4. Nathan Ramsey, Menifee, Calif., Honda, 84
5. Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., Suzuki, 75
6. Brock Sellards, Sherrodsville, Ohio, Yamaha, 74
7. Troy Adams, Brooksville, Fla., Kawasaki, 62
8. Greg Schnell, Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., Yamaha, 59
9. Christopher Gosselaar, Victorville, Calif., Honda, 42
10. Joshua Summey, Stanley, N.C., Yamaha, 37
Texts and photos by Steve Bruhn