Villopoto earns first victory at Washougal Motocross

Poulsbo racer wins duel with Ryan Dungey

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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WASHOUGAL — The most popular motocross athlete in Washington and one of the best riders in the world can now say he has a victory in his home state.

To make it happen, Ryan Villopoto had to snap another rider's long Washougal winning streak

Washougal MX National 2013

Tomac wins 250s

Tomac wins both motos for easy win in 250s. Click here.

Villopoto, winner of the 2011 motocross season championship and owner of 27 overall motocross titles coming into this weekend, had never won in Washougal, an annual stop in the Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship.

He has that victory now, and he continues to hold a commanding lead in the points race as he chases down his second outdoor championship.

Villopoto, riding for Monster Energy Kawasaki, finished second in the first moto then first in the second moto Saturday to win the 450 overall at the Peterson Cat Washougal National.

The crowd, estimated at more than 20,000, let out a loud cheer when Villopoto took the lead for good in the second moto, and they kept screaming for the final 20 minutes of the race, bringing Villopoto to the finish line.

"They were definitely cheering me on," Villopoto said. "It feels good to have the crowd behind me."

To get that first victory here, Villopoto had to overcome a guy who had owned Washougal.

Ryan Dungey won the first moto Saturday, but took second in the second. The tiebreaker is the better finish in the second moto, meaning Villopoto's 2-1 finish eclipsed the 1-2 finish for Dungey.

Dungey won the first overall of his career in Washougal in 2008. He had won every year since then, including the last three in the prestigious 450 class.

Villopoto, who has missed three of the past four Washougal races due to injuries, is healthy and on a mission this year. He leads Dungey by 42 points after both riders earned 47 in Washougal. There are four races left in the series.

While the points race is the primary goal, it also was important for Villopoto to pick up a win in Washington. He grew up three hours north of Washougal in Poulsbo.

"I've never been very great at this place. I've always struggled here a little bit," Villopoto said. "It definitely feels good to get it done."

He had won motos here, but never overalls. In 2011, he won the first moto but took second in the second behind Dungey.

"I ended up on the short end of the stick a lot of times," Villopoto said. "Today, I ended up with the long stick."

He raised both arms above his head as he crossed the finish line after that second moto, then did fist-pumps during his victory lap.

The fans also gave Dungey a huge shout when he was introduced on the podium after the race. While most in attendance were in Villopoto's corner, they also respect any rider who can win this challenging course five consecutive summers.

Dungey, racing for Red Bull KTM, went start-to-finish in the first moto. Villopoto got off to a slow start and was in fourth place six minutes into the race. He passed two riders, including former Washougal champion James Stewart, to get into second place. Down by five seconds going into the last lap, he cut the gap to 1.3 seconds, gaining some momentum for the second moto.

Dungey again had the lead after the first lap of the second moto, but Villopoto was right behind him this time.

Villopoto passed Dungey with an inside move on Turn 28 just after they passed the tower on the fifth lap. Villopoto extended the lead to 4.7 seconds after the eighth lap and won the moto by more than eight seconds.

"After I made the pass, I wanted to do clean, consistent, smooth laps," Villopoto said.

"Once Villopoto got around me, I really tried to stick to his rear wheel," Dungey said. "I tried too hard and made a few mistakes. No excuses. He raced really, really well."

Stewart, a five-time winner in Washougal, ended up third overall.

With four rounds left and a 42-point lead, it's looking good for Villopoto to win another title. He said it is too early to talk about that and he just wants to finish the season strong.

No matter what happens in the final four rounds, Villopoto will always have Washougal.

For the first time.