With three rounds already in the books, 2013 is already starting like 2012, but with one change: everyone is here to play. In 2012 there were four different winners in four different rounds on four different brands.
Defending champion Ryan Villopoto came out swinging at the season opener at Anaheim with a dominating run to the win. One week later in Phoenix, Ryan Dungey took his newly developed KTM to the first ever win for the Austrian brand. Then came Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, with Two Two’s Chad Reed putting together a come from behind ride to stamp the Australian rider as a serious contender for the 2012 title. Oakland would mark round four of the series, as James Stewart took his JGR Yamaha to his first of two wins on the season. Four races and there was no clear favorite as the series was already a quarter of the way through.
Fast forward to 2013, the same scenario has played out through the first three rounds. The difference? All of the key players are still here. By this point in 2012, Justin Barcia was in the 250 class, Trey Canard suffered his season ending injury in Los Angeles, Davi Millsaps was having trouble finding a groove on his Yamaha, and Villopoto was starting to build his lead. As we head into Oakland this weekend for round four, the question still remains-who is the man to beat? Millsaps took the most surprising win in recent years at the season opener in Angel Stadium, followed up by Justin Barcia’s easy route to the win in Phoenix. All the while Ryan Villopoto would crash multiple times at the first two races, leaving himself 8th in points. Throw in the surprising consistency of the returning Trey Canard, and this season has been a wild card affair, and we’re only two races in! Moving on to round three back at Anaheim, the Ryan Villopoto we all expected finally showed up to a convincing win over the field. Three rounds, three winners, three brands, and eleven points between the top four. Can you say intense?
Now we move to northern California for round four in Oakland. Could we see a fourth rider, fourth brand at the fourth event just like last year? Honda mounted Trey Canard is the best of the non winners right now, and is the next favorite to grab a win in 2013. KTM’s Ryan Dungey needs to have a strong showing this weekend after a disastrous two rounds at Phoenix and A2. Although James Stewart is laboring through his recently announced ACL tear, and no one is really expecting him to show much fight in the series, don’t be surprised if he takes the win Saturday night. Oakland has been very good to the Florida native. Unfortunately Yamaha’s chances are looking somewhat slim for a win right now. Justin Brayton already is starting the year hurt after a practice crash at A1 left him with a stiff and sore thumb. Although he won his heat race last week at A2, a poor start in the main didn’t help him with a solid finish.
And we’re still waiting for the old Josh Grant to show up. His starts this year have been on par this year but has dropped back to tenth and eleventh place finishes. Grant needs to find his rhythm and fast or he’s going to fighting for mid pack finishes all year when we know he’s capable of more.
Only time will tell, as Saturday night is just around the corner. Could we see another winner this year? Or will Millsaps, Villopoto or Barcia become the first two time winner of the year?