One race ago, defending champ Ryan Dungey of the Rockstar/Makita Suzuki team finished last and scored only on point because of a derailed chain – which Trey Canard is taking responsibility for. Canard says a few turns before the derailed chain, he hit Dungey’s bike in the left rear.
Ryan Dungey (1) and Trey Canard (41) get off the gate in their heat race. (Photo: CoxMX.com)
Still, Dungey seemed to be out of the title, 38 points behind points leader James Stewart. One race later, he’s only 22 points behind Stewart, and 31 behind new points leader Ryan Villopoto.
So, while he still has a long way to go, this sequence of events should be enough for anyone to realize that absolutely nobody in the top five in points is “out of” this championship. Anything can and will happen. Just like it did in Houston, and at Anaheim 2 before that.
That being said, Dungey was within a hair of being three points closer to Stewart and Villopoto, as on the last lap, he got to the inside of Canard heading up to the checkered flag, and Canard smartly squeezed Dungey off to take his first-ever 450cc SX win.
Canard Is A Streaker
The danger now is that Canard has put together one race (with a lot of help, admittedly), after his two worst finishes of the season. He was very upset during the week, just like he was last year during the AMA Nationals after the Colorado National. Remember what happened next?
He won RedBud – his first ever – and then a handful more on his way to the title.
And remember last year when Canard was just messing around in the 450cc class on Andrew Short’s factory Honda? One podium, and then he started streaking – to five in a row before moving back down to the Lites class. This is a guy who, when he gets hot, is hard to stop. Of course, he wasn’t racing against Stewart, Reed, Villopoto and Dungey outdoors last year (although he was racing against the latter two indoors). It’s not quite the same, but they’d better watch out regardless. Trey Canard is no joke once he starts a snowball rolling.
Patience Is Key
Another thing that we should pay attention to is that James Stewart was not the normal, patient Stewart at Houston that he has been most of the rest of this year. I don’t think it’s because he was afraid of losing points. I think what happened is he had such a dominant race at Anaheim 2 last weekend that he simply believed he was “on” and could do just about anything he wanted. And it bit him early in the main when he jumped into Jason Thomas in the track’s main rhythm section. The result was a damaged front brake that was causing his front wheel to stop spinning in the air, and for JT Money, it was the end of his night. JT has a torn ACL, so he’ll be out a while.
James Stewart had a lapse of judgment in the main event. (Photo: CoxMX.com)
A lot of this carnage could’ve been avoided if the track were more rider-friendly, or racing-friendly. The first turn was very reminiscent of the one in Dallas last year that claimed well over half of the Lites main-event field, and it claimed a big chunk of both fields at the start of both mains this weekend. And the dirt was very, very dry and very, very slick.
You know dirt is slick when the king of throttle control – Kevin Windham – wads it up because he spun too much in a rhythm section. And that’s what happened with K-Dub. When I saw him after the race, he looked beat up, and he was a bit high on pain meds, so he was loopy. But he came up short on a jump from the top of one table to the next, and when he landed, he got hard on the gas to still get over the next jump after the table, and just spun. The bike went sideways, he was tossed off, and the bike drilled him.
This was Kevin Windham’s race to win, and he would’ve 99 out of 100 other times. He was checked out, and even though Canard was eating into his lead, I don’t think he would’ve caught K-Dub. Not on this night. It was the halfway point when he went down and Canard wasn’t making up enough time. And Windham normally rules on surfaces like that, once he has a lead. For Windham, this was the one that got away, but you still have to be impressed by him. It’s the closest race to his house, and he was flat-out going to win it until it all went wrong.
He has nothing broken, and he should be back for San Diego, which could end up being a mud race. And Windham easily could take back the one that got away next weekend, if he’s healthy enough to take part.
KTMs Are Getting There
It could be that the tighter tracks helped the KTM 350s to be competitive, as all three were in the top 10. However, contrary to reports, the fifth place by Andrew Short was not KTM’s best-ever finish in the class. I don’t know what is KTM’s best finish, but I do know that none other than Mike Fisher – current Monster Energy Kawasaki team manager – finished fourth place two or more times in 1991 on a white-and-teal KTM 250.
Andrew Short (29) leads Trey Canard (41) in their heat race. Short scored a best-ever fifth-place for the KTM 350 SX/F. (Photo: CoxMX.com)
Dean Wilson got arm-pump in the main event, and I don’t know if he would admit it, but I think he got arm-pump because he was battling with Justin Barcia. And I’m not saying he got arm-pump because he was battling with someone, and that person happened to be Justin Barcia. To be clear, I’m saying I think he got arm-pump because he was battling specifically with Justin Barcia, who looks like he should be chasing ghosts with his dog, Scooby.
Justin Barcia (right) and Dean Wilson (left) talk things over after the main event. (Photo: CoxMX.com)
The two raced a lot as amateurs, and Barcia is known to clean people out at times. This may be a time when Barcia’s reputation is starting to serve him well, rather than hurt him. Last year, racers were taking shots at him all the time because of his earned reputation for ramming guys who were in his way. But I always figured that if he weathered the storm, so to speak, the reputation could work in his favor, like it used to work for Bob Hannah, Ricky Johnson, and even Ricky Carmichael.
I think it’s starting to.
But I would be remiss not to point out that Wilson hasn’t been riding that long since returning to action from his separated shoulder, so that is most definitely a factor as well.
I talked to Blake Baggett after the race, and he was flat-out pissed off that he got third. Don’t you love that? He said, “I didn’t work my butt off all off-season to come out here and get third.” He was disgusted with himself. Watch out for this guy. He was fast all day, but starts and falls cost him. Knock those out, and he’s going to be gnarly.
Blake Baggett has a winning attitude. But he benefited big-time by a Ryan Sipes takeout move on Blake Wharton late in the main. (Photo: CoxMX.com)
Baggett did benefit from a serious bonehead move by Ryan Sipes, though. Sipes was fourth, pressuring Blake Wharton for third with two laps to go. Wharton does ride a pretty wide bike sometimes, but Sipes picked the absolute worst part of the track to try and make a pass, diving to the inside of Wharton before the track’s most difficult triple, where there was no traction, and taking them both off the track and down. There was simply no way Sipes was going to complete the pass right there, but he went for it anyway. In the end, Sipes ended up fourth anyway, so he gained nothing, while Wharton ended up sixth. And he also gifted four points to Baggett, who absolutely will be a factor in this championship. If Sipes wants a shot at the title, he did damage to it at round one.