Ryan Villopoto closing in on his third consecutive points title
Though he fell just short of a victory on his home turf, Ryan Villopoto continues to close in on a third consecutive Supercross championship.
The 24-year-old Poulsbo product, the two-time defending 450 Supercross champion, could not overcome an early deficit caused by a chaotic incident in the first turn of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross main event Saturday night. He finished second to Justin Barcia in front of 53,862 spectators at CenturyLink Field.
Riding on a soft, rutted track in drippy conditions after a wet day, Villopoto had to battle through a 20-bike mashup in the opening turn that left three bikes on the ground.
Barcia, who nosed out everyone in the pack on turn one, opened a two-second gap on Villopoto and his advantage never fell to less than a second for the next 19 laps.
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“I didn’t get the start that I wanted to,” Villopoto said. “I was banging off people all over the place on this first straightaway here.
“But to come out the way I did was awesome,” he said. “We rode 20 solid laps, and Justin was on it. I felt like I was gaining on him in places, but he was riding really well on some other parts of the track, so I really couldn’t do anything with it.”
The Seattle stop was the 15th race in a 17-race national series, and Villopoto now leads the 450SX season standings with 321 points, 25 ahead of Davi Millsaps (296) and 26 ahead of Ryan Dungey (295), who finished fourth Saturday despite being one of the three bikes that went down in the slow-motion crush of bikes in turn one to open the race.
Villopoto’s chase for a third consecutive Supercross championship could be wrapped up next week in Salt Lake City if he is able to maintain a 25-point edge over whomever is his closest pursuer following the race next week. If he does it, Villopoto will be the third rider in Supercross history to string together three consecutive titles.
Villopoto has not won a Supercross race in Seattle since 2007, which was his first career victory in 450 racing.
He conceded the conditions were less than ideal Saturday.
“Everybody knows it’s just hard to ride in Washington, in general,” he said. “The tracks was pretty difficult and I didn’t want to make a big mistake. I stayed within myself. I really wanted to win in front of these great fans.”
The second-place finish sustains a noteworthy 2013 turnaround for Villopoto. He started 2013 with a 16th-place finish in the season opener in Anaheim, and six races into the series, following a sixth-place finish in San Diego, he was 27 points out of first place.
He responded by winning six of the next eight races, including a streak of five consecutive victories that was snapped last week when he placed second in Minneapolis behind Dungey.
• CBS (KIRO-TV, channel 7) will replay Seattle’s 450SX races (qualifying heats and main event) Sunday at 10 a.m. The Speed Network will air Seattle’s 250SX races Sunday at 2:30 p.m.
• Villopoto’s 2012 racing season ended at CenturyLink Field when he tore the ACL in his left knee after his bike washed out during a turn on the first lap.
• Ken Roczen, season points leader in the 250SX class, won the 250 main event, defeating Eli Tomac by 9.6 seconds. Tomac was leading until he flipped on the ninth lap of the 15-lap race following a nosedive when his front wheel hit a rut after a jump.
• Pasco product Trevor Ivey, riding in his first supercross event, won the 250SX last-chance qualifier to reach the 250 main event, where he placed 20th. Gregory Crater of Renton placed fifth in the 450SX last-chance qualifier but needed to finish in the top two in order to reach the 450 main event.