Villopoto captures supercross win in Indy

Monday, February 22, 2010

INDIANAPOLIS -- Ryan Villopoto had to take the long way around to win the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Saturday night before a crowd of 60,019 at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Villopoto crashed out in the first corner of his heat race when a water pump failed. It put him into the last chance qualifying heat, in which the top two riders advance to the feature race. Villopoto, a factory Kawasaki rider, finished first in the last chance, but it still put him on the far outside of the single-row, Oklahoma land rush-style standing start for the 20-lap feature.

"I was able to get a great start from the outside considering where I was," Villopoto said.

Villopoto charged deep on the outside of the opening corner, a 90-degree left-hander, and emerged in third behind Kevin Windham and Davi Millsaps. Villopoto passed Millsaps on the fifth lap on the fastest section of the course, a wide sweeper, that was set up by a soaring jump, landing and acceleration in the previous section.

Villopoto used the same tactic to overtake Millsaps on the 12th lap for the lead and went on to his third victory in the past four features. He finished 3.62 seconds over Ryan Dungey.

It was Villopoto's second straight and pulled him into a tie for the championship with Dungey with 145 points with seven of 17 events completed. Josh Hill, who was tied with Dungey coming into Lucas Oil, finished ninth in the feature and slid to third in the championship with 114.

"I do have some momentum and confidence built up," Villopoto said. "If I can do it (win) from where I did it with the situation I was in, I can do it from anywhere."

Villopoto, a 21-year-old from Pouslbo, Wash., won two of the last three Supercross features last year, his rookie season. But an injured left knee forced him to have surgery last June and he spent four months rehabilitating before starting to ride again in October.

Villopoto opened the season by finishing fifth at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif., second at Chase Field in Phoenix and seventh at Anaheim II. He scored his initial win of 2010 at San Francisco's AT & T Park, was fourth at San Diego's Qualcomm Stadium and then won last week at Anaheim III.

Villopoto had some momentum coming into Indianapolis, too, but it ended quickly in the heat race.

"I had a mechanical failure and didn't get a lap in," Villopoto said.

It put Villopoto onto the back row for the start of the 22-rider last chance. He started from midpack, but moved quickly to the front in the six-lap qualifier.

"It's pretty hard and scary to get through those guys in front from the back row," he said. "The guys in front are unpredictable and anything can happen and most of that is not from you."

Dungey, a 20-year-old Supercross rookie, was fourth following the first corner in the feature. The factory Suzuki rider from Belle Plaine, Minn., passed Millsaps on the seventh lap and Windham on the 13th.

"The track was a little slippery and you really had to take your time," Dungey said. "I had to sneak it in there on a couple of guys."

Dungey has two wins this season, at Phoenix and Anaheim II, and had finished second to James Stewart, the 2007 and 2009 Supercross champion who is sidelined with a broken wrist, at the season-opening Anaheim I. But Dungey was fourth at San Francisco and Anaheim III and sixth at San Diego in the past three features.

"This (second at Indianapolis) was definitely a step in the right direction," Dungey said. "I've had a tough couple of races."

Dungey's second place kept him tied for the lead, although with a different rider in Villopoto.

"It's good, we're right where we want to be in the points," Dungey said. "This class (Supercross), you're going so fast, the pace is rising with every event, it's going to be a fight to the end (of the championship."