Written by Nick Thiel
The High Point event has taken place for the past 36 years and will most likely continue for another 36 with the racing that takes place at this facility. Last year we saw great battles in both the 250 class and 450 class alike. In the 250 ranks we saw Blake Baggett go 1-1 to the overall victory. Ryan Villopoto took the honors in the 450 class with a 1-2 finish, and although Villopoto will not be racing this weekend, last year's 2nd-place finisher Ryan Dungey will and is coming off his first win of the season with a 1-1 finish at the Toyota Thunder Valley National.
Ryan Dungey is now the one with the momentum in the 450 class
The one thing that is always consistent about High Point is that the weather is completely unpredictable. The first moto, it could be blue bird and 85. Then the next moto, it could serve up a glass of torrential downpours with a side of lightning. It also tends to bring some serious speed out of the local kids like Darryn Durham, who led almost the entire first moto last year.
After James Stewart took himself out of the race last week in the first moto via a crash, Dungey sailed to 1-1 on the day. Will he be able to repeat his results this weekend? Or will the return of James Stewart yet again leave him on the second step of the podium after the second moto?
James said this via twitter “I’ll see you this weekend in PA. Looking forward to racing in front of my fans!” Stewart was looked at by the doctors this week and everything looked ok with his wrist. So he’s going to give it a whirl this Saturday. Both Dungey and Stewart were in a league of their own at the first two rounds, so Stewart coming back to the series will be great for the fans. Stewart now has a 36 point gap to make up on the leader Ryan Dungey, so Stewart, being battered and bruised, has his work cut out for him.
James Stewart will line up at High Point to give it a go this week
For as long as I can remember, the weather at High Point has always been unpredictable at best! Last year, the faucet in the sky opened up for second motos, making for some pretty wild racing. Baggett was able to charge through the muddy conditions in the 250 class, securing the moto win and the overall. Alessi led the 450 moto early on, but made a mistake in the sloppy conditions, falling over and handing the lead over to Chad Reed, who took the moto win. The weather as of now says sunny with a high of 91 degrees but that can all change in an instant in the northeast. In fact in the post race press conference after Thunder Valley, everyone seemed to be most worried about the weather going into High Point more so than anything else. As with any race, everyone will hope for the best and plan for the worse.
Although he won’t be racing at this round due to shoulder injury, the High Point track is where Darryn Durham got the attention of the Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki team last year. He was leading the first moto and he was absolutely flying around the circuit on a privateer motorcycle. He made a few small mistakes while leading, eventually finishing fourth. The tricky off-cambered corners, massive jumps, as well as some elevation changes, take some serious technique. Being that the track layout hasn’t had major changes for over 30 years, the locals that grew up racing this track have a bit of an advantage. It’s a shame that Durham won’t be able to showcase his skills this weekend, but injuries are a part of the sport.
While talking to points leader Blake Baggett, he said the biggest thing about the weekend in High Point would be keeping his helmet visor pointed in the right direction. If you don’t remember, on multiple occasions his visor got turned around in small crashes last year. The speed he was carrying around the High Point circuit last year was incredible. I wonder if the visor being turned around and causing less drag was a contributing factor? Just kidding.
Blake Baggett will look to replicate last year's performance
Blake Baggett had some serious speed and is on quite the run going into this weekend’s event. He hasn’t finished off the podium yet, and out of the 6 motos he’s raced, he has won 3. He will most definitely have his work cut out for him with the likes of Justin Barcia, Eli Tomac, and Ken Roczen.
So the things to watch for this weekend will be of course the unpredictable weather that usually takes place at High Point, along with the question "is James Stewart’s body ready to do battle for 30+2 x 2?" Oh yea, and keep an eye out for Baggett to see if he can keep that visor of his pointed the right direction. The great circuit along with some fierce rivalries that are forming in both classes should make for some of the best racing of the year this weekend at High Point!