Now he’s the million dollar man.
Holding a monster cheque capped off one of the most memorable seasons in motocross history for Ryan Villopoto as he claimed the richest prize in the sport by earning $1 million after winning all three motos at the Monster Energy Cup on Saturday night.
Charging around a hybrid track built inside and out of Sam Boyd Stadium, Villopoto got the holeshot and pulled away from the field to win the first two motos.
The first race saw Ryan Dungey and New Zealand’s Ben Townley battling down to the wire for second, with Townley eventually getting the nod for the runner-up position.
The crowd buzzing in anticipation of motocross history, the 23-year-old Villopoto, from Poulsbo, Washington, didn’t get the holeshot in the third moto, but passed Mike Alessi before the first lap was done and pulled away.
The third moto secure, Villopoto celebrated by raising his arms at the finish line and headed to receive a giant green cheque and a brick of money, a hard-to-imagine $1 million payout that came just over a year after he mangled his right leg in a crash.
“Congrats to Villopoto,” said Dungey, who finished second by getting two seconds and a third in the three motos. “A million dollars is a lot of money.”
The course, designed by dirt-bike stars Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael, was a unique blend of Supercross and motocross.
The inside of Sam Boyd Stadium was set up like a Supercross track, with tight cornering and big jumps, along with a jaunt up the stands in the south end zone – on dirt, not the seats – with a 180-degree turn that dropped riders back down to the floor.
Outside was where the speed and power of motocross was on display, with a big sweeping curve, high-speed straights and one long-distance jump that sent riders sailing 30 metres through the air.
The race also featured no technical restrictions, other than sound and fuel regulations, and was open to any kind of bike, turning into an experiment on dirt, of sorts.
The big draw was the potential for one rider to walk away with $1 million, the richest payout in motocross history.
That was going to take someone winning all three 10-lap motos.
Villopoto made it look like a runaway from the start.
With fireballs shooting out from around the track, the two-time dirt-bike champion holeshot to the lead in the opening moto and raced away from the pack, building a 10-second lead by the midpoint. He won the first moto by more than 12 seconds.
Villopoto got the hole shot again in Moto No. 2 and was up 7 seconds halfway through, cruising from there to finish ahead of Dungey.
Unfortunately for Townley, he could not finish the second race because of mechanical problems and he didn’t start the third race.
Townley’s bad luck in race two was courtesy of a rock.
“The chain guide got bent,” he explained. “It was slowing the chain down as I was going through the air, in turn acting like a rear brake and bringing the front down and making the big shake in the air on those big jumps. I wasn’t willing to risk it for a one-off race when I didn’t know what was wrong.”
In moto 3, Alessi got the holeshot and Villopoto was second out of the gate. Villopoto quickly tracked him down, though, cutting inside on a sharp corner in front of the grandstand inside the stadium. Again, he cruised home, building a 9-second lead on his way to the flag.
It was a deserving celebration after a season that included Supercross and motocross titles, securing the winning moto for the United States team at the Motocross of Nations, and a big fat cheque at the Monster Energy Cup.
“This is crazy,” Villopoto said. “I was just happy I was able to pull it off.”
Monster Energy Cup Class Results
1. Ryan Villopoto, Poulsbo, Wash., Kawasaki (1,1,1)
2. Ryan Dungey, Belle Plaine, Minn., KTM (3,2,2)
3. Brett Metcalfe, Lake Elsinore, Calif., Suzuki (4,3,3)
4. Martin Davalos, Cairo, Ga., Suzuki (7,7,5)
5. Eli Tomac, Cortez, Colo., Honda (5,4,10)
6. Kyle Chisholm, Valrico, Fla., Yamaha (9,9,7)
7/ Nick Wey, Murrieta, Calif., Kawasaki (14,11,4)
8. Jimmy Albertson, Ozark, Mo., Yamaha (11,10,8)
9. Jake Weimer, Rupert, Idaho, Kawasaki (12,6,11)
19. Mike Alessi, Victorville, Calif., Suzuki (6,21,6)
Super-Mini Class Results
1. Adam Cianciarulo, Port Orange, Fla., Kawasaki (1,1)
2. Cooper Webb, Newport, NC., KTM (2,2)
3. Blake Green, Corona, Calif., Kawasaki (3,3)
4. Bradford Young, Delray Beach, Fla., Kawasaki (5,4)
5. Mark Worth, Queen Creek, Ariz., Kawasaki (6,6)
6. Ashton Hayes, Rockford, Mich., Suzuki (7,8)
7. Justin Hoeft, Castaic, Calif., Suzuki (12, 7)
8. Shelby Peterson, Fort Worth, Texas, Kawasaki (10,10)
9. Chase Marquier, Newcastle, Okla., Suzuki (9, 12)
10. Andrew Pierce, Huffman, Texas, Kawasaki (4, 18)
Amateur All-Star Class Results
1. Justin Hill Yoncalla, Ore., Kawasaki (4,1)
2. Austin Politelli, Menifee, Calif., Honda (3,2)
3. Cole Thompson, Brigden, ON, Honda (2,3)
4. Zachary Bell Cairo, Ga., Honda (1,4)
5. Jessy Nelson, Paso Robles, Calif., Honda (5,7)
6. Thomas Covington, Temecula, Calif., Kawasaki (8,5)
7. Vann Martin, Houston, Texas, Honda (10,8)
8. Dillan Epstein, Thousand Oaks, Calif., Kawasaki (14,6)
9. Steve Tokarski, Santa Fe Springs, Calif., Yamaha (7,13)
10. Zach Williams, Elko, Minn., Honda (12,9)
© Photo by Andy McGechan, www.BikesportNZ.com