An audience of 39,506 at Sam Boyd Stadium saw the Monster Energy Kawasaki racer capture the championship in a race that almost seemed to encapsulate the entire season. The Las Vegas race featured four racers holding the lead, TwoTwo Motorsports’ Chad Reed surging in the second half and a James Stewart crash.
The eventful finale capped off one of the most competitive AMA Supercross seasons in recent memory that saw five riders battling for the title for most of the season.
The Vegas main event began with Mike Alessi taking the holeshot on the KTM 350-SX with Geico Honda’s Kevin Windham and Yamaha’s Stewart on his tail. Windham took over the lead for the first three laps before Stewart moved ahead on lap four.
Stewart entered the race with a slim chance of winning the title. Arriving in Nevada 23 points behind Villopoto with Reed and Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Ryan Dungey sandwiched between them, Stewart’s only hope was to win in Las Vegas and have the other front-runners finish out of the top ten. Though the odds were against him, Stewart rode hard with the lead but a mistake through the whoops on lap 6 ended his race, with Windham also knocked out in the crash.
The crash left Villopoto with the lead and Reed pressing hard on his tail. Villopoto led the next five laps but with a nine-point cushion on Reed in the standings, made the prudent choice and let first Reed and soon after, Dungey pass. Reed would go on to win the race, 1.351 seconds ahead of Dungey while Villopoto rode conservatively the final few laps to finish third to win the 2011 AMA Supercross championship.
“I just have to thank everyone at Kawasaki,” says Villopoto who was also a contender in the 2010 season before breaking his right leg. “The team believed in me through thick and thin. We’ll enjoy this. It was a hard-fought battle. I saw James and Kevin go down – the whoops were tough tonight. We all had to run the same line and you couldn’t avoid it. Luckily I got around (the crash). I wasn’t pulling away from Chad, so I just let him by and Ryan (Dungey) was right behind him so then I let him by. I just cruised from there.”
With his win, Reed secured second place in the final standings, falling just four points short of Villopoto.
“We gave it all we had,” says Reed. “I feel totally blessed this season. Congrats to Ryan (Villopoto). He earned (the championship). He had the most wins this season and to come back from what he went through last year, he has my respect. We did all we can and sometimes, you come up short.”