Everyone chasing Dungey in Supercross | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Everyone chasing Dungey in Supercross

John Marshall, The Associated Press

PHOENIX – Ryan Dungey rode his way into history last season, becoming the first rookie to win the AMA Supercross and 450 Class titles.

So how does the 21-year-old from Belle Plaine, Minn., try to top such success?

Maybe he doesn’t.

“I’ve got to look at in the way that 2010 is over and what’s done is done,” Dungey said before Saturday’s second Supercross stop, at Phoenix’s Chase Field. “You’ve got to put it behind and let it go and focus on the next challenge that lies ahead.”

The next challenge might be filled with a few more ruts.

When Dungey made his record-breaking run last season, he did it with two of the sport’s best riders on the sideline.

Australian Chad Reed, a two-time Supercross champion and the sport’s third-winningest rider, went out with a broken hand in Phoenix and missed the first races of his career.

The next week at Anaheim, James Stewart went down with a broken wrist, an injury that knocked the two-time Supercross champion out of the outdoor season as well.

Ryan Villopoto, another up-and-comer, gave Dungey a good run after those former champions went down, winning seven races, but also sustained a season-ending injury.

Reed and Stewart are healthy and motivated to reclaim their places atop the sport. Villopoto is ready to take the next step in his development, showing he’s still a force by holding off Dungey at the Supercross opener last weekend in Anaheim, Calif.

After last season’s runaway by Dungey, this one’s shaping up to become a wheel-to-wheel four-man battle every week.

“We’re got a really stacked field,” Dungey said. “I think it’s good for the fans, good for our sport and we’re going to put on a show.”

Stewart certainly figures to.

The 25-year-old from Bartow, Fla., has been the circuit’s fastest rider since joining the Supercross feature class in 2005.

The problem has been staying on his bike.

Stewart is known as a rider who either wins or crashes, a reputation earned by a staggering winning percentage of 93 percent in races he does not wipe out. He has won 36 of the 62 races he’s entered and has been beaten just three times in races where he didn’t go down.

But Stewart has been forced to withdraw due to injuries in three of the six seasons he’s competed, leaving the door open for Reed’s two titles and Dungey’s last season. Stewart’s wrist injury last season was particularly frustrating because he initially thought he’d only be out a few weeks and it never seemed to get better.

With most of a year off to heal and re-energize himself, Stewart is ready to climb back atop the podium.

“A couple of weeks turned into five months, then seven, and it did get frustrating,” said Stewart, the 2007 and 2009 Supercross champion. “But everything worked out. Everything got better and we’re ready to go this season.”

Dungey still figures to be the rider to beat after what he did last season.

Combined with his Supercross Lites and 250 Class titles, Dungey is 4 for 4 in series he’s entered since 2009. He won six races in Supercross last year, joining Jeremy McGrath as the only rookie champions in the premier class, and had 10 overall wins during the outdoor season, including 19 moto victories to break the record set by Ricky Carmichael in 2000.

Now, it’s time for the encore, which won’t be easy; only four riders have won consecutive Supercross titles.

“I can’t worry about trying to back up what I just did,” Dungey said. “It’d be great in 2011 to back up what I did the previous season, but it’s easy to get sidetracked and not focus on every single race.”

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