Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Ryan Villopoto arrived at Jacksonville’s EverBank Field on a three-race winning streak and a 26 point lead in the championship standings. Florida native James Stewart of San Manuel Yamaha sat in second place but expected to chip away at the points deficit in his home state.
What neither rider accounted for was the Jacksonville course’s first right turn.
Villopoto crashed hard shortly after the first corner in a crash with fellow Kawasaki rider Matt Boni. With damage to his Kawasaki KX450F, Villopoto withdrew to get ready for the Last Chance Qualifier.
Things didn’t improve any in the LCQ as Villopoto ran off the track at the first corner after a collision with JGR/Muscle Milk Yamaha rider Justin Brayton. Villopoto tried to re-enter the race finished in eighth place, locking him out of the main event. Villopoto becomes the first points leader to miss a main event since David Vuillemin missed the cut in 2002.
With Villopoto out of the main, Stewart had a prime opportunity to make up significant ground in the championship.
But running through the rhythm section after the first turn, almost at the same location as Villopoto’s crash in the heat race, Stewart crashed hard and was hit by Kawasaki rider Matt Goerke. Stewart was taken off the track on a backboard and sent to a local hospital for evaluation. Initial fears of a dislocated hip were eased with Stewart saying he intends to race at the next round in Toronto, Canada.
Back to the race, it was KTM factory rider Mike Alessi taking the holeshot before losing the lead to American Honda’s Trey Canard. By the end of the first lap, it was Canard in front followed by TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed in second and Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey third.
Canard built up a large lead over the early laps but Reed eventually began to draw closer. Reed actually moved briefly into the lead on lap 18 but Canard regained the advantage with an aggressive move to the inside on a turn. From that point on, Canard was able to hang on to win by 0.805 seconds over Reed.
“I really needed this win,” says Canard. “I can’t tell you enough how much this means to me. I got nervous at one point and looked at the board and realized how close it really was. I put on a fight and it really paid off tonight.”
Third place went to Dungey, the defending champion who is still looking for his first win of the 2011 season.
“In the Main, I got caught up in the pack a little bit but was able to work up to third,” says Dungey. “I was trying to gain on the leaders, but I just couldn’t make up enough time and then made a pretty big mistake on my part. Overall, I think it was a great night and big step in the right direction.”
The 2011 AMA Supercross Championship continues March 26 at the Rogers Centre in Toronto. Villopoto’s lead is now down to seven points over Reed. Dungey is 18 points back in third while Stewart drops down to fourth place, 23 points behind Villopoto. With his second win of the season, Canard remains in the title picture in fifth place, trailing Villopoto by 27 points.