Practice has wrapped up inside CenturyLink Field, home of the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks. Weather has been uncharacteristically stellar in the days leading up to the race and continues to be great today, making for one of the driest Seattle tracks in recent memory. As a result, the track is breaking down with deep ruts and a rocky surface. When combined with its technicality it has the makings for an unpredictable night of action.
Ryan Villopoto has a fourth consecutive title within reach entering his home race and needs just five points over James Stewart and Ryan Dungey to clinch the championship in Seattle. However, Villopoto has just one 450SX Class win in four attempts at Seattle (he missed 2010 due to injury), which makes for the most intriguing storyline of the evening.
The maiden premier class victory for Villopoto came during his rookie season in 2009 and was seen as an underdog triumph following a season of dominance by both James Stewart and Chad Reed. One year later, Villopoto emerged as one the class’ elite riders and has gone on to win the championship in three of the five years he’s been on a 450. However, throughout his dominant reign Villopoto has yet to stand atop the podium inside CenturyLink Field, making for quite the ironic situation.
While there is no definite reason to his lack of success in Seattle, the race’s tendency to be influenced by Mother Nature has surely played a significant role. The track has been very soft at times and deteriorated significantly, often making it a battle of survival instead of speed. A single mistake in one of those races could have served as the make or break in terms of victory.
In addition to his one triumph at CenturyLink Field, Villopoto has also experienced one of his most heartbreaking moments at the venue, tearing his ACL in 2012 just one week after clinching his second career title. The mixed bag of results has created a unique situation for Villopoto. He’s the sport’s most dominant figure, yet there is no semblance of that dominance at his home race. With the championship potentially on the line tonight, this is even more magnified and in a way it feels as though Villopoto will need to overcome his past in Seattle to achieve the historic four-peat.
While Villopoto surely approaches tonight no different than any other race this season and will feel no added pressure despite being in front of the hometown crowd, it’s an interesting storyline to follow as the gate drops.
• Ken Roczen paced practice in the 450SX Class, edging out Villopoto with a 54.384 versus a 54.455. Stewart was the only other rider in the 44-second bracket in third (54.834), while Ryan Dungey (55.093) and Eli Tomac rounded out the top five (55.215).
• Dean Wilson emerged as the quickest rider in the 250SX Class (55.054), beating out Jason Anderson by just a tenth (55.124). Zach Osborne was third (55.323), while Cooper Webb (55.892) and Cole Seely rounded out the top five (56.031).