The gate will drop on the 12th Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, this Saturday night at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome as the world’s top Supercross and Supercross Lites Class riders converge in New Orleans.
At the last Monster Energy Supercross race at Houston’s Reliant Stadium, Ryan Villopoto clinched the Supercross Class Championship, marking the second-consecutive title of his career, with his eighth win of the season. With the championship wrapped up, the attention now turns to the hotly contested battle for second place between JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha’s Davi Millsaps and Muscle Milk Honda’s Justin Brayton.
Currently, Millsaps is one-point out of second place, which is held down by Ryan Dungey, who is sidelined due to an injury, with 191 points and Brayton is fourth with 181 points. The former teammates each have three podium finishes heading into New Orleans.
Brayton sustained a fractured tibia at the San Diego stop earlier this year but has raced through the pain without missing any races.
“I really kept believing in myself through the leg injury and working hard with the team,” said Brayton. “I think having that injury let me rest during the week and come into the weekend hungry and ready to go. It’s really a bummer to see so many injuries. Unfortunately, that’s part of our sport and to make it a full season without injury is very tough. I've been very fortunate to not have a major injury that forced me to sit out. Other than a small fracture to my leg, there have been some nagging injuries but nothing too major.
In the 2011 Monster Energy Supercross Championship Millsaps and Brayton finished eighth and ninth, respectively, overall while competing for the JGRMX/Toyota/Yamaha race team.
“I really just need to keep focusing on myself, getting good starts and putting myself in a good position to win every weekend. It’s going be fun. He's (Millsaps) a great competitor, very talented and has always raced me clean.
While attempting to qualify for the Main Event in Houston, Windham was in a pitched battle with James Stewart during a heat race when he came off his Honda CRF450 at a high rate of speed. As a result of the accident, Windham dislocated his right shoulder and sustained damage to his left wrist, left thumb and right hip and will sit out for the remainder of the 2012 season.
"I've definitely got a dislocated shoulder so that ends my season right there," Windham said. "I've had my wrist examined by two doctors; one said it was broken and the other one said it's not. It's very swollen and black and blue so it's hard for them to tell. I'm going to see another specialist and have an MRI done to see exactly what's up. We just need get it fixed properly.
"I can't move my left thumb at all and my hip hurts. I'm not really sure what's going on with either of them at the moment. I'm basically hurting all over."
The 34-year-old Windham, the oldest competitor on tour, was having another solid season before his accident. He has two podium finishes to his credit and had been a part of the top five all year.
Earlier this season in Atlanta, Windham started his 200th career Supercross Class race, joining only Mike LaRocco in passing that particular mark. Now retired from racing, LaRocco is the team manager for GEICO Honda and works closely with Windham.
"It's disappointing," Windham said. "I've been lucky at avoiding big get-offs like the one I had in Houston for the past several years. Staying healthy has been a big part of my career going this long. But even after this one I'm not done. I'll be back for sure."
The last Monster Energy Supercross race was held at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on March 14, 2009, where 36,754 fans watched eventual Supercross Class champion James Stewart win his eighth race of the season.
The first Supercross Class race in New Orleans was held June 4, 1977, and Marty Smith won on a Honda. The first Supercross Lites Class race in New Orleans was March 14, 1998 and Ricky Carmichael won on a Pro-Circuit Kawasaki. 2012 will be the 12th time the gates have dropped for a Monster Energy Supercross race in New Orleans.
1. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki – 296
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM – 192
3. Davi Millsaps, Murrieta, Calif., Yamaha – 191
4. Justin Brayton, Murrieta, Calif., Honda – 181
5. James Stewart, Haines City, Fla., Yamaha – 178
6. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki – 170
7. Kevin Windham, Centreville, Miss., Honda – 166
8. Brett Metcalfe, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Suzuki – 154
9. Mike Alessi, Hilliard, Fla., Suzuki – 154
10.Chad Reed, Dade City, Fla., Honda – 128