Windham won his heat race ahead of his teammate Mike LaRocco. Reed won his 8-lap heat with a much faster time-13 seconds faster. Tyler Evans and Damon Huffman won the semis, and a local favorite, Jimmy Wilson, drew loud audience approval when he won the last chance qualifier, a race he too often has left disappointed .
Reed already had a comfortable series lead going in, so all Windham can hope for is bad luck on Reed’s part. There was drama for the second series within a series though, the THQ World Supercross GP. Damon Huffman came into the weekend just three points ahead of Heath Voss in world points, and both are racing each other for a lot of bonus money and a Nissan truck.
In the main, Huffman grabbed the holeshot, leaving Mike LaRocco close behind for a few laps. Reed was not far behind, then Reed passed LaRocco and Huffman on the third lap for the lead. Reed’s teammate Vuillemin had a horrible start, finishing lap one in 14th. Windham’s luck was about as bad, with him starting mid pack-about 10th. Next on the “bad start” list was Voss, who’s world points were not looking good with him in 11th and Huffman out front.
Windham, Voss, and Vuillemin all were doing most of the charging. Vuillemin had been struggling with arm pump recently, but this time he was clearly over it, charging all the way to third and chasing LaRocco. Vuillemin chased LaRocco lap after lap, but the veteran held his lines and never made a mistake. LaRocco finished in second just a few bike lengths from Vuillemin. By then Reed had won the main by 6 seconds.
Voss’s charge took him through a battle with Tyler Evans, Keith Johnson, then on the very last lap he caught and passed Huffman for 7th. He jumped the finish line with his fist in the air, just as if he had won the main.
Windham didn’t charge as hard as Vuillemin, but still made it to 4th. Suzuki’s team of Nick Wey and Hamblin were next. Voss’s Mach 1 Yamaha teammate Ezra Lusk, just returned after a wrist injury, was as high as third for a few laps but dropped back to 9th.
Vuillemin was the first to appreciate the Pontiac track’s layout. “I always thought Pontiac was the worse supercross because the dirt was so terrible with the ruts and stuff,’ he said, “(but) The dirt is different now. I think the track is well designed this weekend. It was finished properly and we had big whoops. It was pretty fun this weekend.”
Vuillemin’s strong 20-lap charge was his best in several races. “Since Atlanta, I got arm pump,” he said, “I am fast but only for 10 laps. In these last two weeks we tested outdoors and not supercross. I did not change anything but this weekend I felt pretty good and did 20 strong laps. I am pumped about it. I wish I had a better start but I am happy the way I rode.”
Vuillemin passed Windham on the way to the podium. “He wasn’t riding that fast and I was catching him,” said Vuillemin, “Normally he is pretty fast. I passed him and after I started catching LaRocco. It was tough at the end and he stayed strong and kept good lines. I could not pass him. That was a good race. I thought the whoops were the strong point for me this weekend. During the main event you could jump in the middle. If you went off the (best) line it was really steep and tough to make time. I couldn’t pass him in the whoops and after the finish he was going outside for the first few laps then he moved to the inside so I could not pass him there. He started doing that little triple after the first big triple so he was gaining a couple 10ths right there. I never found a spot to pass him.”
“(Short starts) seem to favor the way I start,” said LaRocco, of his second place start. Just two weeks ago LaRocco got the holeshot at Indianapolis and won it. “I think I lose something in the way I shift in the long starts,” he said, “and not having to shift takes that all away. I think that is what works for me. It was difficult to pass but I wasn’t riding real smooth. It was kind of choppy and I was cautious. I just didn’t feel like I had it ironed out. It just took me a few laps and find a groove and a way around Huffman. I started doing a triple in one of the rhythm sections. At that point I started feeling a little bit better.”
LaRocco was just off Reed’s pace, but still fast enough to stay ahead of Vuillemin. “Chad was going faster than all of us this weekend and I knew it going into the race,” he said, ‘If I could have got some of the obstacles down I probably would have made the charge (to stay with Reed). I rode as fast as I felt comfortable and that is where I ended up. I was pretty confident that the lines I was taking were as good as they get, I just needed to do them faster. I really didn’t leave the door open anywhere. The track was loose and rocky and it just didn’t really do well for me. I rode cautious. We made changes this week trying to make things better. I would like to thank my mechanic Brian for putting up with that when I wanted to go back to the way things were. I felt better at that point.”
“The first time I walked the track on Friday I was really impressed with the way it was looking and the way it was finished,” said Reed, who has been outspoken before about tracks that are too easy for him. “It was by far the best track we rode on all year,” he said, “It was exciting. I had some added motivation to come into this race, with the week break a lot has happened. It felt good to be back at the races and ready to win again. I found some speed that I knew I had but just wasn’t able to put it into my racing. I entered the season injured and just did what I had to do to win. The last race I was really able to let it hang out and just be myself. That is pretty much what I did these last two weeks, just go riding and be confident, and it showed this weekend.”
Part of Reed’s time during the weekend dealt with contract rumors. His contract with Yamaha is over this year, and other top stars Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart are available, prompting an early “silly season” and lots of rumors. When it was confirmed after Friday’s practice that Suzuki made a surprise move and hired Carmichael, the pits and the Internet were buzzing with rumors of what Reed will do.
“I wasn’t surprised at all (about Carmichael),” said Reed, “I kind of had an inside of what was going on. Being up (contract year) myself, I obviously know a lot of what is going around. I think it is a real interesting part of the season. The Internet loves it. It is going crazy. It is good for our sport to bring the attention. I think Ricky kind of set an example so it’s good. It’s fun. I have fun with it. I enjoy reading what people post. We are reading (the Internet) in between practices. It was cool. It is interesting to see where you guys come up with your information and some things are close and some things are far away. You just have to have fun with it. I think it’s motivating.
Huffman and Voss are now tied in THQ World Supercross GP points, with three rounds to go.
THQ World Supercross Series/THQ AMA Supercross Series Event Results, Pontiac, Mich.
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha
2. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda
3. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha
4. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda
5. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki
6. Sean Hamblin, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
7. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha
8. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda
9. Ezra Lusk, Bainbridge, Ga., Yamaha
10. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki
THQ AMA Supercross Series Season Standings
1. Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Yamaha, 311
2. Kevin Windham, Centerville, Miss., Honda, 274
3. Mike LaRocco, Corona, Calif., Honda, 252
4. David Vuillemin, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha, 240
5. Michael Byrne, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki, 169
6. Nick Wey, Dewitt, Mich., Suzuki, 159
7. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 150
8. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 134
9. Sean Hamblin, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki, 126
10. Grant Langston, Lake Elsinore, Calif., KTM, 111
THQ World Supercross GP Season Standings
1. Damon Huffman, Valencia, Calif., Honda, 271
2. Heath Voss, Mico, Texas, Yamaha, 271
3. Tyler Evans, Canyon Lake, Calif., Suzuki, 229
4. Grant Langston, Temecula, Calif., KTM, 228
5. Ryan Clark, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 181
6. Keith Johnson, Albuquerque, N.M., Yamaha, 142
7. Andrew Short, Colorado Springs, Colo., Suzuki, 138
8. Joe Oehlhof, Hesperia, Calif., Honda, 116
9. Jason Thomas, Melrose, Fla., Honda, 111
10. Erick Vallejo, Dallas, Texas, Yamaha, 110
James “Bubba” Stewart won his last 125 regional supercross in style, showboating for fans and finishing with his own “victory dance” after he won the 125 main. Stewart’s season was almost a perfect one. He won every main he started, but one race he sat out due to a concussion and doctor’s advice.
Stewart will skip the next two 125 west races at Dallas and Salt Lake City, and get ready for the Dave Coombs East/West Showdown in Las Vegas. Stewart’s success even attracted the attention of CBS News with Dan Rather, which sent a crew to tape his weekend.
Stewart won the 125 main easily, finishing ahead of Josh Hansen and Davi Millsaps. Since this was the last east round and the 125 title already gone to Stewart, the next race was for second overall in the series between Danny Smith and rookie Broc Hepler. Hepler went in with 5 points ahead.
Stewart spun a little on the gate and almost lost a shot at the holeshot, but he said he threw a few elbows in the first turn and came out in front. Besides almost falling off his bike while doing some showboating, his main event was just 15 laps of fun. He won by 13 seconds, then rode over to a clear section of track, dropped his bike, and did a modified “sprinkler” dance, then fell on the ground..
The racing drama started back in second, where calculators were out for the battle for second in series points.
After one lap, Danny Smith, Hansen’s Yamaha of Troy teammate, was in third. His rival for second overall, Hepler, was in 9th. If they finished like that, Smith would finish second overall for the 125 east region. Hansen was on team orders to watch for a “Danny” on his pit board, his signal that he needed to not finish ahead of Smith and ahead of Hepler in case Smith needed the points. As it turned out, Hepler moved up to 7th by mid point, but Hansen had already gone from 5th to second. Hansen was then in a position to interfere with the points the team needed, but he just looked back and saw Smith slowing a little, so he just cruised in second. Smith finished 4th behind Millsaps, just one point short of second overall.
Millsaps’ third was his second podium of his short pro career, and his first in a stadium since his other top three was at Daytona. “The Pontiac track was great,” said Millaps, “The dirt was a bit loose. It’s not really like what I am used to at my house. In practice I had the second fastest lap times. I came into the night qualifiers and didn’t get the greatest start. In the main I finished third. It was pretty good actually.”
When asked about any rivalry between Suzuki’s other rookie Broc Hepler, Millsaps said, “Broc and I are cool,” he said, “When it gets to the race track, no one is friends. We raced as amateurs. Since we went pro he has been doing really good. He got second overall (in series points). I am real happy for him.”
Since the news of Ricky Carmichael joining Suzuki came out the previous afternoon, it was good news for Millsaps. “It’s really good actually,” he said, “He lives a mile down the road from me. I used to ride with him. Now at the test track he will be there and help me with my lines and stuff like that. I think it will be good to have him on the team.”
Hansen tried not to worry too much about team tactics. He said he got the signal too late. “It’s never really on my mind but people told me, and what happens happens,” he said, “Its time to go forward. They (my team) had a big talk with me. I am out there running the race too. I saw him up there running second and I came from behind, from 7th or so. I tried to see where Hepler was, to try and keep an eye out. He (Smith) kind of fell off the pace and I got around him. I don’t know, the ball was in his court and he didn’t do what he had to do I guess. I feel bad for him but I had to do what I had to do. I can’t ride the bike for him so that’s it.”
“They told me when I see Danny up on the pit board, don’t pass him,” said Hansen, “But I got around him back before that came out. It was one of those situations where I am like, what do I do? I just kept riding my own pace and I looked back, and he was losing seconds. I am in a weird situation right now. I don’t think my team is too happy with me. I was figuring in my head he had to be three spots ahead of Hepler. When I got around him (Smith) I didn’t see Hepler or Millsaps. I would think he would be able to hold it. I don’t really know what happened.
Since Hansen is technically a west rider because he started his season there, he is just doing east races for the experience. At the next event, Dallas, he will be back racing for points. “The main target is Ivan Tedesco,” said the rapidly-improving Hansen, “I believe I can beat him. I ride with Chad Reed every day. He has been helping me. He really has been a good inspiration.”
Stewart talked about missing the Indianapolis race two weeks ago, when he sat out due to a concussion. “At Indy I crashed in practice twice,” he said, “The first one was my fault and in the second one of my fellow riders was pulling off the track and I ran into the back of him. It was a bummer to go up there and just sit and watch the race, but I think it was the right decision by me, my team and my family for me to just sit back. I had the championship wrapped up to I didn’t have anything to gain by it.”
“CBS was here today and we did a huge piece,” he said of his weekend work besides racing, “I think stuff like that is just going to bring the sport out. I am just out here racing. I want to say congratulations to Ricky, I know he got a good deal next year. I have been talking to Michael (Jordan) lately and people like that, just hanging around him. Maybe we can move forward to something like that (team sponsorship) but now we are just here racing.”
“I knew the track was really different from the previous east coast races,” he said, “It was really slippery. I just rode my own race. I actually got the holeshot. I don’t know how but then I was going to whip it for the fans over the triple and almost endoed the first lap. I was kind of scared after that. I was just having fun and doing my jump. I got a good jump but spun on the plastic on the gate. Those guys went down there and I just brought it in hot like everybody else and threw in a couple elbows and came out with the holeshot.”
“I was always ragged,” said Stewart, “It is just the way the track was. The harder you try to push the worse you worked.”
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Eastern Regional Event Results, Pontiac, Mich.
1. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Kawasaki
2. Josh Hansen, Elbert, Colo., Yamaha
3. David Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., Suzuki
4. Danny Smith, Middleton, Idaho, Yamaha
5. Steve Boniface, Murrieta, Calif., Suzuki
6. Brett Metcalfe, Murrieta, Calif., KTM
7. Broc Hepler, Kittanning, Pa., Suzuki
8. Paul Carpenter, Ithaca, N.Y., Kawasaki
9. Kelly Smith, Ludington, Mich., Yamaha
10. Ryan Mills, Clintondale, N.Y., Honda
THQ AMA Supercross Series 125cc Eastern Regional Season Standings
1. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Kawasaki, 150
2. Broc Hepler, Kittanning, Pa., Suzuki, 99
3. Danny Smith, Middleton, Idaho, Yamaha, 98
4. Paul Carpenter, Ithaca, N.Y., Kawasaki, 90
5. Kelly Smith, Ludington, Mich., Yamaha, 85
6. Ryan Mills, Clintondale, N.Y., Honda, 79
7. Steve Lamson, Camino, Calif., Honda, 78
8. Bret Metcalfe, Murrieta, Calif., KTM, 74
9. David Millsaps, Cairo, Ga., Suzuki, 66
10. Eric Sorby, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki, 59
Texts by TFS