Road to Daytona: Villopoto, Baggett Score AMA Supercross and Lites Victories at The World Center of Racing—By Matthew Miles

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Photos by Chris P. Anderson

Bike Week 2011 kicked off this past Saturday night with the ninth round of the Monster Energy AMA Supercross Series in the infield of “The World Center of Racing,” Daytona International Speedway.

Factory Kawasaki rider Ryan Villopoto took control of the 20-lap 450cc main event and the overall series points lead after early leader and heat-race winner James Stewart crashed spectacularly on the seventh go-round. Villopoto is the first back-to-back Daytona Supercross race-winner since Ricky Carmichael in 2002-’03.

The Carmichael-designed track was difficult and worsened visibly throughout the evening. Even Villopoto struggled. “The track was deteriorating really quickly,” he admitted after the race. “And the lighting wasn’t that great.”

Lucky to escape injury, 2007 Daytona winner Stewart was able to remount his San Manuel Yamaha YZ450F. He raced through the field from dead-last, eventually finishing ninth and, most importantly, preserving second in the championship.

Chad Reed, who won the San Diego event at Qualcomm Stadium just two week earlier, was second. “I love this track,” he said on the podium. “It’s such a challenge.” Two-time-series-champion Reed, whose TwoTwo Motorsports, which runs privately funded Honda CRF450Rs with support from Bel-Ray, was a last-minute addition to the series.

Reigning title-winner Ryan Dungey struggled all day. The Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider pulled out of his heat race with a broken engine case and was forced to advance to the main event through the Last Chance Qualifier. After being pushed off the track at the start of the main, Dungey charged through the field and placed third.

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Blake Baggett

In Supercross Lites East action, Pro Circuit Kawasaki’s Blake Baggett won the 15-lap main event, topping Justin Barcia, who raced with a broken right wrist, and Ryan Sipes. “On the start, it was do-or-die,” said the 18-year-old Baggett. “The track was super-tough.” Baggett now trails Barcia in the championship by 4 points.

The series now moves next week to Indianapolis for Round 10.