The Monster Energy Supercross schedule took the stadium-based dirt bike series to Chase Field in Phoenix for its second event of the 2013 season. After an intense, storyline-filled opener in Anaheim one week ago, this event provided plenty of hard hits and a first-time winner for the big crowd that had assembled to witness the high-flying action.
Justin Barcia made it look easy in heat one on a track that had claimed a number of riders in the Supercross Lites heat races. The rookie 450 cc rider pulled away from the pack on his way to a relatively easy win in the qualifier over Anaheim main event winner Davi Millsaps.
In heat two, James Stewart bolted out to a big early lead and then held off hard-chargers Trey Canard and Ryan Villopoto for the win.
Former Supercross champion Ryan Dungey went down hard early on in heat one and was forced to race his way into the feature event by way of the Last Chance Qualifier. He went on to qualify for the main event by finishing second to Jimmy Albertson in the LCQ.
The feature race was seemingly determined just after the gate dropped on the 450 cc main event. Barcia bolted to the early lead and was never seriously challenged as he rode away from the competition from that point on. At times, the lead bike ran laps as much as one second per lap faster than his closest pursuers.
But meanwhile, the battle raged behind Barcia as Millsaps fought with Chad Reed, Trey Canard and Jake Weimer in the early laps for the runner-up position. Further back, former Supercross champions James Stewart and Ryan Villopoto raced furiously for sixth during the race's first half.
Somewhat uncharacteristically, Villopoto had trouble on his Kawasaki bike, as for the second week in a row he fell off in the early laps. However, this time he would come roaring back through the field as the race wore on.
At the halfway mark of the 20-lap feature, Barcia held a commanding seven-second advantage over Millsaps, Canard, Reed and Villopoto. With the leader out of sight, the trailing four riders were engaged in a tremendous battle for the right to lead the chase.
Eventually, Canard and Villopoto would emerge from that fight with the advantage and looked to settle the issue of podium positions among themselves. However, with less than a lap remaining and the series points lead within his grasp, Canard went down as Villopoto applied the pressure. That spill would cost last week's second place finisher several spots in the finishing order and the potential lead in the standings.
At the checkered flag it was Barcia scoring a dominating win in his first ever ride on the Phoenix course. Villopoto came home second with Millsaps, Reed, Canard, Weimer, Stewart and Dungey trailing.
This was Barcia's first ever points paying Supercross win, although he did claim the overall title in the Monster Energy Cup last October in Las Vegas.
Millsaps retained the Monster Energy Supercross lead by six points over Barcia with Canard, Reed and Dungey just behind.
"It was tough last weekend but I fought through it," Barcia said in reference to falling off the bike in the late laps of the Anaheim race. "I came in here strong and the track was really difficult today. I'm puimped about working with these Muscle Milk Honda 450 guys and I'm having a really good time.
Richard Allen is a member of the National Motorsports Press Association. Check his RacingWithRich.com website for NASCAR news and views as well as another story on Justin Barcia.