450 Words: AtlantaWednesday, March 3, 2010 | 6:00 PM
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I swear, you hear that in the pits all the time. It’s as if 2009 didn’t happen, when he won everything he competed in, including the MXdN.
But in Indianapolis, Dungey’s Kryptonite showed back up, in the form of Jason Lawrence, who badgered Dungey to win the championship in the 2008 Lites West Championship. Lawrence was apparently determined to help his friend Josh Hill to beat Dungey in the 2010 450cc title chase, so he showed up determined to badger Dungey again.
And it worked.
Dungey lost his temper in practice, and both he and Lawrence were relegated to the last gate pick on the line in their respective heat races.
Then, Dungey went into Atlanta in another tie, this time with Ryan Villopoto, who has been on fire lately. Villopoto had all of the momentum, and Dungey seemed to be struggling just to survive atop the points standings.
But then, at the end of the night, Dungey sported a 20-point lead over Hill, and 23 over Villopoto, after Dungey won the main event with a flawless performance.
However, it’s how Dungey did it that really tells the tale: Knowing he was on the precipice of losing the points lead, and that he had already lost the momentum, Ryan Dungey got the holeshot, and he led every lap. His rival Villopoto was chasing him down late in the race and went down, and when he got up, his exhaust was full of dirt, and his KX450F wouldn’t start.
Just as we saw at the Motocross des Nations, Ryan Dungey knows how to perform when the pressure is on, and he did it again in Atlanta.
Perhaps the reason Jason Lawrence seems to get to Dungey isn’t because Dungey can’t handle pressure. It seems it’s more because Dungey has a problem with being disrespected. And if you’re walking around saying that Ryan Dungey can’t handle pressure, you’re disrespecting Ryan Dungey and what he has accomplished so far in his short career.
As for Hill and Villopoto, the ball is now in their court. They need to pull the momentum back away from Dungey if they want a chance at this title. It’s possible for either of them to do it, but it’s probably not going to be as easy as it was the first time. And Hill has some undisclosed injuries from his practice crash at Atlanta to deal with on top of it all.
If those injuries are too severe, the job may fall to Villopoto. And you can be confident that he thinks he can do it.