10 Things to Watch: AtlantaFriday, February 24, 2012 | 9:25 AM
By: Aaron Hansel and Chase Stallo
Nowhere to Go But Up
Opening night of the 2012 Eastern Regional Supercross Lites season didn’t go well for Star Valli Motorsports’ Kyle Cunningham, who DNF’d after going down on the start and failed to complete a single lap. In the past, Cunningham has shown us that he has the speed to get on the box in supercross if he is able to keep it on two wheels, but unfortunately, it seems like he crashes more often than not. It’s a trend that Cunningham will no doubt be looking to reverse tomorrow night in Atlanta.
We don’t often see an overly aggressive side of Ryan Dungey, but in San Diego, he sent Jake Weimer over a berm. In Dallas, the two came together again, ripping Weimer’s shifter off in the process. If you’re Dungey, you’re just trying to race to the front. If you’re Weimer, you certainly don’t appreciate a series of hard knocks delivered from the same guy. Will things come to a head if Weimer and Dungey find themselves in yet another battle this weekend?
In the past, Phil Nicoletti has logged some decent results in the Lites class, so by itself, his fifth place result in Dallas isn’t entirely surprising. What is worthy of note, however, is that Nicoletti raced to a career best finish in Dallas after being absent from AMA supercross since 2010. Will Nicoletti be able to back up his top five in Atlanta?
Can Kyle Cunningham bounce back from a bad crash in Dallas and capture a podium in Atlanta?
Photo: Simon Cudby
Canada’s Cole Thompson came out swinging to get ninth place in what was only his first AMA supercross race as a professional. Even more impressive is the fact that Thompson is coming straight out of the B class as an amateur. With a learning curve this steep, how much better will Thompson get with a few more rounds of experience under his belt?
Home Field Advantage
Whether it’s the increased support from the crowd or a feeling urgency to do well in front of friends and family, many riders will tell you that there is nothing quite like racing in front of your home crowd. This weekend, Davi Millsaps is doing just that in Atlanta, the same venue in which recorded a premier class win in 2008. What kind of effect will the local crowd have on Millsaps this year?
Seely Gets His Fill
Lucas Oil/Troy Lee Designs Cole Seely currently sits third in the West Region Lites points standings—15 behind Dean Wilson. But starting this weekend in Atlanta Seely will be filling a different role—riding for Honda Muscle Milk, replacing an injured Trey Canard. Seely filled the same role last year when Josh Grant went down with an injury. Seely had varying degrees of success in his maiden 450 voyage last year, with a seasons best ninth coming in Indy. After getting his feet wet in the Supercross class last season will Seely be able to lock down a top ten in his 2012 450 class debut?
The Clock is Ticking
You can’t win a title after the first round, but you sure can lose it. For perennial pre-season title contenders Kyle Cunningham, Matt Lemoine and Blake Baggett, their championship hopes took a nose-dive in Dallas. Both Cunningham and Lemoine went down in the first rhythm section (check out the GoPro footage below) while Baggett suffered the same fate with an early crash. These championship hopefuls are now staring down the barrel of a huge deficit just one round into the series. Can Baggett and company rebound in Atlanta and salvage their title hopes?
BTOSports.com Jimmy Albertson began the season on a high note, making the first two main events of the year, but has since been singing a different tune. Albertson has only made one main event since Phoenix, Anaheim 2, and currently sits 25th in points—not exactly where Top Jimmy expected to be in 2012. Can Albertson rebound in Atlanta and make his first main since A2?
Filling the Void
With podium mainstay Chad Reed lost for the season and James Stewart clearly not up to his old standard, a major hole has been left on the podium. While it’s not out of the realm of possibility for Stewart to catch fire and fill the void entirely, it could provide an opportunity for veteran Kevin Windham to lock down his first podium of the year. Or will Brett Metcalfe nail down his first career podium in the ATL? How about the surprisingly steady Josh Hansen, or a rejuvenated Mike Alessi? (Keep an eye out for Justin Brayton and Andrew Short when they are back to 100 percent). Will Atlanta open the door for another podium contender or will it be slammed shut by the usual suspects of Villopoto, Dungey, Stewart and Weimer?
He's On Fire
Ryan Villopoto has been on an absolute tear as of late, winning the last three rounds on his way to the top of the standings. It was not long ago that Villopoto was struggling to keep it on two wheels and trailed in the point standings. Now with Chad Reed out of the mix, can Ryan Dungey, James Stewart and the rest of the field step up and find a way to slow down the RV train? Only time will tell, but until then get your fill of the Villopoto Kool-Aid, get on the bandwagon, sign up for the fan club and maybe bust out some green body paint.
Can anyone stop Villopoto in Atlanta?
Photo: Simon Cudby
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Troy Lee Designs/Lucas Oil Honda’s Cole Seely is a man of many talents— skateboarding, BMX, import drifting … and he’s pretty good at this motocross thing, too. Page 156 .