Photo by Jeff Birchfield/Johnson City Press
BLOUNTVILLE — Ryan Dungey is back to defend his 450 title at the Red Bull Tennessee Nationals after running away from the field a year ago.
Dungey passed Justin Barcia for the lead on the 12th lap of the second moto at last year’s AMA Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship event and never looked back. Once by Barcia, Dungey pulled away to win the race by 11 seconds.
Combined with a third-place finish in the first moto, Dungey won the overall title by one point (45-44) over Barcia.
“It was a definitely a great win,” said Dungey, a Red Bull KTM rider. “It was physically a tough race, a hot day last year and it was good to pull through. Hopefully, we can repeat that.”
Dungey’s victory last season snapped a five-race winning streak for Ryan Villopoto. The two rivals, who have been called the Tom Brady and Peyton Manning of their sport, won’t face each other this time around. Villopoto is skipping the outdoor season due to an injury he suffered back in Supercross.
“There’s a little something missing with him not being here,” Dungey said. “It seems like every other year, it’s like he’s there and he’s not. But regardless, I have to go out there and do my job. All the other guys, they step and see their chance. It doesn’t get any easier. It’s more important than ever to get good starts, get out front and have good clean races.”
His toughest competition will likely come from within his own camp. After four races, Dungey is currently second in the Lucas Oil standings as his teammate Ken Roczen of Germany is actually the points leader.
“He’s been doing good with some good solid riders,” Dungey said. “He’s tough to beat, but we had a good couple of weeks off and I’m looking for things to reverse and get back in the saddle. I want to get things picked up where we left off at High Point (the series’ last race in Pennsylvania). If we can get back to winning and get that points lead, that’s the goal right now. We’re about a third of the way through the series so we’ve got a lot of racing left.”
Dungey, a 24-year-old who grew up in Minnesota and now lives in Florida, visited Muddy Creek for the first time last season. While it didn’t look exactly like he envisioned, the track certainly lived up to the hype from his fellow riders.
“The fans were amazing, while the track had good elevation and obstacles,” said Dungey, who in 2012 became the first rookie ever to sweep AMA Motocross and Supercross titles. “The ruts on the course were awesome and it made for some good racing and a good time. My first impression was good.”
As he early alluded to, the heat in June can be a serious challenge for the riders. Dungey, who does a variety of training outside of riding with cycling, running and free weights, spends plenty of time in the heat. He often trains at the Florida home of motocross legend, Ricky Carmichael, who is nicknamed the GOAT, as in “Greatest of All-Time.”
He explained that pushing his body to its limits is the only way to stay on top of the sport.
“It has become an all-out effort,” Dungey said. “Thirty-five minutes are long races, but it’s something if you train hard enough, you can push those two motos as hard as you can. There is a lot of competition and the pace is really high, so you have to be there from the start. You’re just always trying to get better and there is very little time for fun. You have to fit that in and have a good balance, but your mind has to be thinking about it all the time, how you’re going to do better. You have to want to succeed if you want to win.”
NOTE: Ryan Dungey and the rest of the KTM Factory Team will be greeting fans and signing autographs at Jim’s Motorcycle Sales tonight from 6-7 p.m. Free food and drinks will be available.