Posted January 23, 2013 | comments Leave a comment

Murto: Villopoto displays winning form


Defending AMA Supercross champion Ryan Villopoto demonstrated his winning form once again as he took the victory at the season's third round, held in Anaheim, Calif.

The two-time champion grabbed the lead early on his Kawasaki and held off the Hondas of Trey Canard and Chad Reed. Point leader Davi Millsaps - who won the 450 opener a few weeks ago on his Suzuki, also at Anaheim - was fourth, followed by the Kawasaki of Jake Weimer.

In the 250 class, Eli Tomac grabbed his third straight win. Watching him ride is like watching a dancer - it seems he never puts his motorcycle in a bad position. Tomac was followed by Germany's Ken Roczen on a KTM.

Millsaps leads the 450 Supercross points with 63, followed by Canard with 60. Carnard's story is amazing, as a year ago he broke his back in a racing accident and sat out the rest of the year. He's been on the podium in two of the three races so far.

Third in points is Australia's Reed with 53, followed by Villopoto and the KTM of former champion Ryan Dungey.

But the racing at Anaheim was nearly overshadowed by the surprise retirement of Kevin Windham prior to the event. The Honda rider, winner of a number of races in his 17-year Supercross career, finished 10th in the season-opener and 11th at Phoenix. He showed up at Anaheim seemingly prepared to race, but suddenly announced his retirement and rode a farewell pace lap without riding a single lap in competition. He expressed a desire to spend more time with his family, and thanked his fans for their years of support.

The same riders who compete in Supercross normally also compete in the AMA Lucas oil Outdoor series, which will compete at Budds Creek, Md., on June 22. Motocross racing at Shenandoah Speedway's motocross facility will begin March 2, after a full day of practice the day before. Shenandoah's paved oval recently added the Super Cup Stock Car series to their schedule for a 100-lap race on April 20. Super Cup cars are "heavy" stock cars, similar to ARCA, Pro cup or K&N cars. Expect them to put on a good show at Shenandoah.

Winchester Speedway doesn't have any motorcycle racing on its schedule. It's unfortunate - the AMA races that came in last year were fantastic, and certainly would have grown as an annual event. But Winchester's racing season is sprinkled with a lot of special events, and racing there begins March 23.

March 17 racing begins at Hagerstown Speedway with the "Brawl in the Fall" that was wiped out by Hurricane Sandy. The always exciting Hub City Classic for AMA Grand National flat track motorcycles will run its 32nd annual event on July 6.

If you prefer your two-wheeled competition on road courses, expect Summit Point (W.Va.) Motorsports Park to have plenty of exciting spectator events on the schedule, to be released soon. Virginia International raceway in the Danville area will have CSS motorcycles compete June 15-16 and Sept. 21-22.

Sometimes two-wheeled careers translate to successful careers on four wheels. World Driving Champion John Surtees, F1 racer Mike Hailwood and Indycar legend Joe Leonard all had successful careers as champion motorcycle racers. It seems two-time MotoGP champion Casey Stoner will attempt to follow suit.

Stoner signed with Triple Eight Racing to drive in the Australian V8 Supercar Series in 2013 and beyond, beginning this season in the second-tier development series. He will drive a Holden Commodore with Red Bull sponsorship and the No. 27, the same number his motorcycle carried in 2007 and 2011 when he won the world title.

He dreamed of racing in his native country's top sedan series since he was 12 years old, Stoner told the media. But he knows the transition is not an easy one, as former motorcycle champion Wayne Gardner discovered when he tried to tackle the V8 Supercars. And closer to home we can look at racers such as Ricky Carmichael - considered the best to ever race motocross - and road racer Dale Quarterly. Neither set the world on fire when they got behind the wheel of stock cars. Then again, motocross racer Jeff Ward won in an IndyCar, and has success in off-road racing. And don't forget that NASCAR's Jimmie Johnson began as a motocross racer.

Perhaps in the near future the rumors of "the Doctor," Valentino Rossi - perhaps the best motorcycle road racer of our time - heading for a career in a car will also become reality. Casey Stoner is an incredible talent, and it'll be interesting to see how he does.

Veteran motorsports columnist Craig Murto is a Linden resident.

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