Goodness me, if it wasn’t such a cliché, I’d think that scriptwriters were at work fashioning the 2011 AMA Supercross championships.
It looked last week like James Stewart was finally getting into his stride, but things took an intriguing turn at the Houston Supercross - he was there on pace (second fastest, behind Davi Millsaps, would you believe), but he didn’t make the podium, wasn’t even close.
The three faces on the podium were all very familiar, but the boots on the top step hadn’t been there before, and they weren’t there by much. Was the racing good? How does a winning margin of 0.186 seconds sound? It doesn’t get much closer than that…
It all went off straight out of the gate, a massive turn one pileup claiming Stewart and the seemingly cursed Chad Reed - championship runner-up Ryan Villopoto got a terrible start, but his dark cloud turned into a silver lining when he was able to sift his way through the wreckage.
The crowd, however, were going nuts - Kevin Windham, that beloved veteran of the South, was heading the charge and pulling away out front.
For ten glorious laps, it seemed like the miracle could happen - with Reed and Stewart mired in the pack, Millsaps ran second until Trey Canard and Ryan Dungey ran him down, and by the time they battled their way past Millsaps, Windham was five seconds to the good and at his silky-smooth best.
Canard and Dungey, battling mightily between themselves, were able to pinch a tenth or so here and there, but Windham had plenty in hand.
It looked as though K-Dub was going to pull off the shock of an already spectacular season.
It was, however, not to be. Windham - as steady a rider as you’re likely to meet - made a mistake in a rhythm section that saw him spat off the bike and thrown heavily to the ground.
Windham’s night was over, although he was later up and about, hopefully little more than badly bruised for the experience.
But with K-Dub off the scene, the way was open for Canard and Dungey to put on a display - Canard it was who led the way, but reigning champion Dungey seemed to be able to close up at will, making a successful pass for the lead when Canard made a mistake in the same section that claimed Windham.
With the number one plate of Dungey’s Rockstar Makita Suzuki in the lead, it seemed like that was it for the night, but no-one had told Canard that it was all over - the Oklahoman just snarled and went straight back at Dungey, retaking the lead and putting in a hard charge to open up a gap.
But Dungey wasn’t going to let it lie - with the clock running down he made his own dash for the flag and closed right back in on Canard, making a move for the inside line on the final turn, the two of them drag-racing to the flag.
Canard kept it pinned to take his first 450-class victory in only his sixth race aboard the big bike, but Dungey was less than two tenths in arrears. Villopoto took third recovering from his poor start on a track that was difficult to pass on, ahead of Millsaps and Andrew Short.
Reed recovered all the way through to sixth, only four painful seconds off a podium position, ahead of Ken Roczen who made his debut in the 450 class on the 350 KTM by way of a holiday from his West Coast 250 class shenanigans.
Stewart would dent his recovery just five laps in, crashing into Jason Thomas and only able to coast home fifteenth to give Villopoto the points lead in this extraordinary five-way battle for the crown - Villopoto leads by nine points from Stewart, who’s eleven in front of Canard, who leads Reed by seven, with Dungey just a further four back. Unusually, the 250 class was fairly calm by comparison.
In the opening round of the East championship, it was Malcolm Stewart who took the holeshot but a first lap crash dropped him to dead last - he may share more than a surname with big brother James.
Dean Wilson and Justin Barcia picked up the early running, swapping places for the first few laps before Barcia began to work a slight gap, the pair ahead of Blake Wharton and Ryan Sipes.
With barely more than a lap to go, Sipes made a move born of desperation on Wharton, sending them both to the ground and promoting Blake Baggett to third, crowning a fine comeback from a poor start for the 18 year old.