IF YOU GO
■ What: The Washougal MX National, the eighth round of the AMA U.S. Motocross Championships.
■ When: 1 p.m. Saturday. Gates open at 7 a.m.
■ Where: Washougal MX Park, 40205 NE Borin Rd. Washougal. (See Story on Page C1 about traffic concerns.)
■ Cost: $40 adults (without pit access); $50 adults (with pit access); $30 children ages 7-11 (without pit); $40 children 7-11 (with pit); 6-under free.
WASHOUGAL — Past the halfway point of another Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship series, and the injuries, as always, are mounting.
Survival of the fittest, indeed.
While there has to be a little bit of a luck factor in staying healthy in extreme sports, there are some professional athletes who believe they can make their own luck.
Ryan Dungey is healthy, strong, and thriving, winning in bunches.
"Racing motocross is a physical and mentally demanding sport," Dungey said. "I train myself to be strong. Cardio. Biking. Running. Cross training. That way, if you do take a hit, your body is a little bit stronger."
Yet it is more than just being in shape. An athlete must be intelligent, too. Dungey listens to his body. If he needs time off his motorcycle, he is willing to do that.
"It's just being smart," he said. "These days, the speeds are so fast and the bikes are getting so good. We're going faster and you can't afford a mishap. You'll find yourself getting out of control really quick. You have to know your limits."
Riding in his first season with his new team Red Bull/KTM, Dungey has shown plenty of smarts, winning the past five events with first-place finishes in all 10 motos. He will be trying to make it six in a row Saturday when the series returns to Clark County for the 32nd Washougal MX National.
Showing up to the starting gate every week is a big part of the battle.
Washougal is the eighth stop of the 2012 series, and three big names are not competing this weekend: James Stewart, who won the first two races in the outdoor series, is out with a wrist injury. Chad Reed and Ryan Villopoto never made it to the summer -- both suffering injuries in Supercross.
Of course, that means Dungey's results have been met, by some, with question marks. Could he have won so many in a row if the other stars of the series were competing? After all, Villopoto was in unstoppable mode. Villopoto, the home state favorite from Poulsbo, won both the Supercross and Motocross titles in 2011, then clinched the 2012 Supercross title before suffering a knee injury that will keep him out until 2013.
Dungey understands there will be critics. But he also knows the sport can be cruel. Past championships are no guarantee of future titles. Consistency matters. Endurance matters. And Dungey keeps showing up to the gate.
"I've got to prepare myself and do my own deal," Dungey said. "I can't control that some guys are here and some are not. Whether those guys are there or not, I have to be ready for everything."
Still, Dungey said he wished all of those guys were racing this summer, calling it a bummer for the sport with so many stars on the sidelines, healing.
"They're going to come back strong. I hope to be strong and ready for them," Dungey said. "It's good to have competition."
Not that Dungey should have to apologize for winning.
Dungey won the 2010 Motocross and Supercross titles. His current five-race win streak has jumped him into fourth place all-time in the 450 class, with 19. Ricky Carmichael, the Greatest Of All Time, is first with 76 victories, followed by legends of the sport Bob Hannah (27) and Ricky Johnson (22). Then there's Dungey.
"From the time I started riding to where I am now in my career, it's everything I worked for. It's really special," Dungey said. "As a little kid, this is where I wanted to be, what I wanted to do. I really want to keep going forward. I only hope to accomplish more and more."
A 22-year-old from Belle Plaine, Minn., Dungey said he still has more to give to the sport.
"Being able to accomplish every major championship in this sport has been great. Now it's about repeating it," he said.
If he does get another Motocross title this summer, it will be with a team that is legendary in Europe but has not had much success in Motocross in the United States.
Dungey left his Suzuki team last year for KTM and to re-team with Roger DeCoster, the former champion-turned-manager who gave Dungey his first shot as a professional. Dungey remembers asking DeCoster for a tryout in 2006.
"I told him, 'I don't want any money. I just want to be on a good bike and a good team, and I wanted to prove to myself that I could do this,' " Dungey said.
By the end of the summer, Dungey had a spot with Suzuki.
DeCoster left Suzuki for KTM in 2011.
"I didn't know if we'd ever work together again," Dungey said.
A year later, with Dungey's contract up, there was an opportunity to move.
"Roger definitely convinced me that KTM was putting a big step to racing in America," Dungey said. "Obviously, there were no guarantees, but with Roger on the team, it was definitely helpful. With Roger behind it, he's going to do things right."
With five races to go, Dungey and KTM are on track for a title. Dungey has 336 points, 80 points ahead of Mike Alessi.
Dungey also loves Washougal. His first career victory on the series came as a 250 rider in 2008. He has not lost there since, winning the 250 race again in 2009, then following that with consecutive 450 Washougal titles.
"It's a great place," he said. "It's kind of special."
Not that his past accomplishments mean anything this weekend.
"It's important to stay focused and keep moving forward," Dungey said.
That is the key to survival in this sport.