It’s been a long time coming, but as the clock ticks over into the second half of the AMA Supercross championship, someone has finally had a decisive break.
Ryan Villopoto went to Daytona hanging onto his slender series lead, but by the time he left the Speedway, the lead was out to 23 points - a margin just two points shy of a full win.
Given how close the battling has been between the five protagonists, that’s going to take some closing down. After receiving tough love from Chad Reed at Atlanta last weekend, James Stewart was in no mood to hang around, busting the holeshot in the main event ahead of Villopoto and preparing to check out.
But four laps in, with his lead over Villopoto out to six seconds and growing, former two-time supercross champion Stewart missed tapping the front wheel on the take off of a triple on the exit of a corner, nose-diving into the landing and getting spat over the bars while his Yamaha kept rolling and made a game (but unsuccessful) attempt at clearing the next triple - clearly in some considerable discomfort, Stewart limped after his steed and rejoined the chase, but by the time he got rolling, he was dead last and a long way behind.
Villopoto had been holding a watching brief, unable to take a run at Stewart but hopeful that Stewart’s committed style leaves him open to mistakes, and once he took the lead, the flame-haired Villopoto simply wheeled his Kawasaki off into the distance for an otherwise untroubled win, his second victory at the Speedway in the 450 class.
Chad Reed had a poor start, but reigning champion Ryan Dungey‘s was even worse, the pair of them having to work their ways through from midpack to battle past Andrew Short and Davi Millsaps for second and third.
Shorty would hang on for a fine fourth aboard the 350 KTM, whilst Stewart, lapping on average around five seconds a lap slower than he had been whilst leading, would recover to what, under the circumstances, was a very impressive ninth, one spot behind Ken Roczen who was making his final appearance in US Supercross for the time being, the young German heading back to finalise his preparations for the World Championships.
The fifth spoke in the wheel of the championship battle, Trey Canard, had a torrid night, crashing twice and finishing out of the top ten. All of which shenanigans leaves Villopoto with the first decent lead of the series.
With eight rounds left to run, he’s almost in the luxurious position of being able to finish second in every remaining round (one more win and he‘s there) - there are three riders determined not to let that happen, however, with Canard waiting in the wings right behind them.
As it stands, Villopoto is 23 points to the good ahead of Stewart, Reed and Dungey, who are themselves covered by just eight points, with Canard eleven points off the back of the chasing pack. In the 250F East Coast class, Blake Baggett took his debut win to catapult himself into contention for the title.
The youngster was unheaded in the main event, taking victory fifteen seconds to the good ahead of series leader Justin Barcia, who rode a gutsey race with broken bones in his wrist for second, with Ryan Sipes crossing the line third.
Erstwhile joint series leader Dean Wilson had a terrible night, crashing early on and only able to recover to eighth behind Malcolm Stewart - Barcia now leads by four from Baggett, with Wilson a further five points in arrears.