Strange New World at Saint Louis

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It’s the 2007 Saint Louis Supercross, the Big Three are all there and I’m watching Eric Sorby leading the 450 Main. Eric Sorby! After seeing a wild 250 (just say no to the name Lites) Main that I still hadn’t fully soaked in, suddenly my world is turned upside down. How could have this strange series of events taken place and what was I doing in Saint Louis when my hometown in Minnesota was still reeling from 2-3 feet of snow in a week?

Even though Saint Louis and Indianapolis are not that far away, I had not made it to a Supercross race since the luxurious confines of the Metrodome was unceremoniously removed from the schedule. I got an invitation to go on a Friday night / Saturday morning there, head back after the races, road trip to the Edward Jones Dome (never did find out who Ed was) and jumped at the chance. What we couldn’t count on was the travel weather and it turned out to be not good at all.

This was to be one of the stops of the RC Supercross Farewell tour. He had raced Stewart pretty tight the week before and was looking to step up to challenge him more this week. After this race, there would only be two more opportunities for him to add to his Supercross win list. Reed was not quite able to hang last week, but was still an easy third and had won two weeks earlier. In addition to that, there’s something about Reed and Saint Louis. He had won the premier class on three occasions, including last year’s wild race that saw RC break, Stewart taking a long time to restart after a crash, and Reed charging towards the points lead with his first win of the season. Could this be another chance for the so called Perfect Storm, where the Big Three all fight for the lead for the entire race?

More importantly, from a personal or Minnesota citizen point of view, a Minnesota rider had won the first round of the 250s the previous week and was carrying the early championship lead, and plenty of momentum, into Saint Louis. Ryan Dungey continued his meteoric rise to championship contender with a veteran-like ride in his Supercross debut. I felt very lucky that I’d be getting to see one of RC’s last rides and a local boy done good.

But sometime good fortune needs to be balanced with bad. In this case, it first took the form of two one-foot-plus snowstorms shortly before the scheduled departure time, and icy white-out conditions through out our original East Iowa route plan. With a re-route to a Wisconsin Illinois arc, the roads were at least passable, but still treacherous. The driver slowed down, a highly superior option to the one that the 25-40 vehicles we saw in the ditch (before reaching Madison!) had chosen. So many trucks were off the road at such a variety of odd angles that it was a wonder none of them rolled over.

Then going towards the stadium area, the roads into Saint Louis were a bit icy and there were accidents everywhere. Throw in the incomprehensible maze that is downtown Saint Louis and it’s possibly more of a wonder that we arrived at the Dome in time to watch practice and that we managed to restrain our selves from yelling out the window at someone, “What are you, a complete moron?” along the way.

The 450 heats went much as expected, with RC gapping Reed in his heat, and Stewart looking smooth out front in the second heat. Minnesota-raised, Heath Voss, had problems in the first heat and pulled off. He came into the round ranked in the Top Ten, having rejuvenated his career with a switch back to Honda. There were more problems in the LCQ for Heath, as a poor start in the short race doomed his chances of making it to the top two in time. It would seem logical that he would want to maintain his place in the top ten and use his provisional start.

AMA-muted pugilist, Tyler Evans, as he was being given the Gas card for third place in the LCQ, told the crowd he would use his second and final provisional start of the season, because “He came too far not to race.” Never known for being a stickler for rules, or even very literate by many industry observers, he must have been dismayed to hear that the higher-ranked Voss decided to use his provisional start to make it a 21-rider 450 Main.

The 250 heats were very enjoyable to watch. Dungey quickly worked his way into the lead in his heat, pulling away to a seven-second win over Kiwi former European champion, Ben Townley. The pride of anyone who’s every sang “Oh Canada”, Darcy Lange, continued to show that he’s not only a multi-time Arenacross champion, he’s showing serious Supercross skills as a replacement rider for the powerhouse, Pro Circuit Kawasaki team. He took a two-second win over Mr. “I’m going to win next week” Matt Goerke. The prelims were in the books and the mains were going to be good.

The storybook path of Dungey looked to continue in the Main, as he was away cleanly in third, escaping a first-lap pile-up in the sand (some thought it looked more like kitty litter) section.Up front, Lange and Townley were going at it, allowing the smoother Dungey to reel them in, passing first Lange, then going after Townley. Unfortunately, it all came apart as he hit a nasty cup in a tricky, triple-in, land-on-the-brakes-in-bowl-turn position, section and crashed, losing a lot of time but still in third. Then the next lap, he crashed in almost the same spot, this time not a cup, but a tuff block knocked into the racing line by Lange, was the culprit. It was difficult for me to watch as he could not get the bike going and eventually registered a DNF. Meanwhile, Townley and Lange were still going for the win on the last lap, when Lange hit the cup, and endoed, the bike savagely beating him into the ground. Townley had survived it all and took his first AMA win.

As I was still not believing what happened to Dungey, the 450s launched off the line with Reed leading Stewart, and RC further back in the top ten. Suddenly Reed and Stewart were off the track. I would find out later that Reed took exception to Stewart’s block pass and took them both off the track and on the ground.

Harkening back to his glory days where he was fast enough to block the likes of Travis Preston, the ramming Frenchman, Eric Sorby, was out front for the first three laps. Finally, some order was restored, as RC moved into the lead, Reed moved up to second, but unable to challenge him, and Stewart was on the move after dropping to last. Stewart went by Reed, cleanly, but RC was too far ahead and would score the emotional victory. Voss moved steadily up after a bad start to finish eighth.

There was plenty to bench race about on the long, thankfully dry, drive home. Could we have witnessed RC’s last Supercross victory? Would Dungey bounce back from this setback? (the consensus was a resounding Yes) “How come they don’t tell you there’s no bathroom at the next rest stop? There was a lot to ponder, but I’ll let history be the judge of these events.

 

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