The Monster Energy Supercross circuit made its third and final trip to Angel Stadium in Anaheim, Calif. on Saturday night. A quirk in scheduling due to renovations being made at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles caused the series to race at this location three times in one year.
Nonetheless, an enthusiastic crowd was on hand to witness Ryan Dungey overcome tremendous adversity to score his first main event win of the 2013 season.
Davi Millsaps, winner of the season opener earlier this year in Anaheim, took the win in a star-studded first heat race for the 450cc bikes over Justin Barcia and Chad Reed. Ryan Villopoto, who had won two consecutive main events coming into this round, got off to a poor start but recovered to finish fourth just behind Andrew Short in the qualifier.
Justin Brayton and Josh Grant led a Joe Gibbs Racing sweep as they took the top two spots in the second heat over James Stewart and Trey Canard.
Dungey was unable to even start his heat race when the rear shock on his bike failed just as the gate was set to drop.
Jimmy Albertson and Dungey transferred to the main event by finishing first and second in the Last Chance Qualifier race but not without even more drama for the eventual winner.
The 2011 Monster Energy Supercross champion was in danger of failing to qualify for a feature race for the first time in his career on a 450cc bike after being involved in a massive pileup on the first lap of the LCQ. However, he made a bold charge through the field to take the second and final transfer spot on the last lap of the preliminary race.
How many more races will Ryan Dungey win in 2013?
A light rain shower moved over the stadium at the start of the 20 lap main event. But once the gate dropped it was Mike Alessi who found the most traction and bolted to the early lead. Dungey, Canard and Millsaps followed close behind in a fierce battle for second.
Dungey went to the lead on the second lap as Alessi took a tumble. He then went about the task of trying to hold off Millsaps, Stewart and Canard as the riders completed one-quarter of the race. Meanwhile, Phoenix feature winner Justin Barcia closed in quickly on the leaders from his fifth position.
Stewart charged by Millsaps for second on lap seven but found himself almost three seconds off the pace of Dungey.
At the halfway point of the race, Dungey had built his advantage to over four seconds while Millsaps and Barcia applied pressure to Stewart for the runner-up position. Eventually, Millsaps would get around Stewart on lap 13 while Barcia moved passed the two-time champion for third on lap 18.
With five laps remaining, Dungey's lead had gone up to six seconds.
From that point, the KTM rider cruised to what earlier in the night had seemed to be an unlikely victory.
Millsaps was second across the finish line followed by Barcia, Stewart and Reed rounding out the top-five. Millsaps was able to hold the Monster Energy Supercross points lead with his solid finish.
Villopoto, who had won the most recent Anaheim race, tumbled early in the race and then got tangled up with Alessi, which dropped the defending series champion well back in the running order.
"This one means a lot," Dungey declared in his winner's interview. "Today there was a lot going on. Practice was good but in that heat race we had a malfunction with the shock, but we regrouped. That LCQ was a squeeze. I can't tell you what a great victory this is.
"The last four races have been a little up and down but this is a step in the right direction," the victor added. "It gets tough when you're not winning. The whole team starts looking at you like 'What's the deal?' but they believe in me and I believe in them."
Ken Roczen won his second consecutive 250cc main event over Martin Davalos and Eli Tomac. Roczen added to his points lead in that class.