Dungey returns to Spring Creek as bonafide racing star
Last summer, Minnesota-born motorcycle racer Ryan Dungey was chasing his first national championship on the professional motocross circuit. Now, all the other pro racers are chasing him.
Dungey, who grew up in Belle Plaine, Minn., is now the main attraction and the man to beat — at the tender age of 20 — in the 2010 Lucas Oil AMA Pro Motocross Championship series, which makes its annual stop Saturday at Spring Creek MX Park near Millville.
The star racer for the Rockstar/Makita/Suzuki factory racing team returns to what he considers his home track riding a five-race win streak and a sizable lead in the premier 450 Class points standings at the midpoint of the 12-race series.
But first Dungey has to make a detour through Los Angeles, where he is a nominee for Best Male Action Sport Athlete at the 2010 ESPYS, which will be televised live tonight beginning at 8 p.m. on ESPN.
"I guess it has turned into everything I had hoped for as a little kid growing up in a small town in Minnesota," Dungey said Tuesday in a telephone interview from his new home in Tallahassee, Fla., where he trains regularly with motocross and supercross (indoor) racing legend Ricky Carmichael.
Dungey's parents and extended family still live in the Belle Plaine area, and he returns home several times each year "for the major holidays."
"Racing motorcycles has taken me to many great places and experiences, and it's a journey that me and my family have just thoroughly enjoyed," said Dungey, who is up against other extreme athletes including snowboarding star Shaun White, BMX biker Garrett Reynolds and pro surfer Mick Fanning at the 18th annual ESPYS.
"But the key is that I just gotta keep doing it," he added. "I can't live in the past."
Dungey turned pro in 2006, but his career really has taken off in the last two years. He won the AMA Supercross Lites West championship in 2009, and followed that with his first outdoor national title as the 2009 AMA 250 Class Motocross champion.
At Spring Creek last year, the 5-foot-10 and 150-pound racer won both motos handily and that helped spring him past series leader Christophe Pourcel, a young French rider for Monster Energy Pro Circuit Kawasaki, in the second half of the MX series.
Dungey moved up to the 450 Class this year and promptly dominated the 2010 AMA Supercross series in the first half of the year, with six main-event wins in the grueling 17-race circuit.
He capped his third straight pro series championship with a win in the Supercross series finale at Las Vegas on May 8 and won the title with 363 points, far ahead of second-place finisher Kevin Windham (293), a veteran racer for Honda.
"In the beginning (of the 450 Class Supercross series) I was very surprised, when I began winning races against the biggest names and the most accomplished people in our sport," Dungey admitted.
"I had worked really hard in the off-season to be the No. 1 guy, but it came to me quicker than I thought."
Dungey rode his momentum into this outdoor season and now appears well on his way to another national title in his rookie season in the MX 450 Class — provided he stays on track.
"Half the battle is staying healthy and being able to go out and and race every single week," he said.
After winning both motos at the RedBud National on July 3 at Buchanan, Mich., his third sweep in six events so far, Dungey holds a 64-point lead over 28-year-old Australian Chad Reed, who races for Monster Energy Kawasaki now after riding last year for the same Suzuki team as Dungey.
Reed is no stranger to success at Spring Creek. He finished second and first in two motos here last year and cruised on to his first outdoor national title in the MX 450 Class.
"Chad has been at it for a bit longer than I have, and he knows what he's doing," Dungey said. "It's always good to have competition like that. It makes you work harder, and makes you better."