AMA Motocross storms into Northern California


AMA Motocross storms into Northern California


SACRAMENTO (AP) The massive golden-domed California capitol building looming above, four of motocross' biggest names sat at a table with microphones on a pleasant spring afternoon.

As they talked about the upcoming outdoor season in front of more than 100 fans and a handful of politicians in black suits, Ryan Dungey, Ryan Villopoto, Chad Reed and Trey Canard were nearly close enough to touch shoulders.

If the wild Supercross season is any indication, there probably won't be much separation once they hit the throttle when AMA Motocross kicks off its 40th season at historic Hangtown on Saturday.

"Supercross was a little surprising at moments, some weird things happened," said Dungey, the defending outdoor champion. "Outdoor is going to be another tough championship."

Dungey became the first rider to sweep the Supercross and motocross titles as a rookie a year ago, completing a rapid rise to the top of his sport. He did it, though, with former champions James Stewart and Chad Reed, along with Villopoto, out with injuries.

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With those three back for Supercross this year, the sport had one of its closest finishes ever, a wild 18-race ride that included five riders winning races and five lead changes in the season points standings.

Villopoto closed it out by finishing third at Las Vegas two weeks ago, capturing his first 450-class title just a year after a horrific crash left his right leg mangled and the cartilage in his sternum scrambled.

Reed, a two-time Supercross champion, finished second in the points, just four points back, and Dungey was right behind him in third. Stewart, a two-time champion himself, finished fourth and Canard, a rising star on the circuit, was fifth despite breaking his leg during testing last month.

Canard will be out until later in the season, but the rest of the champions are revved up and ready to go as motocross moves from the stadiums to the massive outdoor tracks.

It starts with Hangtown, an AMA original hosting its 43rd race near the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. One of the most demanding courses on the circuit, Hangtown will give the riders a tough initial test with just one weekend off after finishing Supercross.

"It's a track where starts are important," Reed said. "It's choppy, it's fast, it's a difficult race track to master. I think we all come in as prepared as best we can, but it's the first race of the season, we're straight off Supercross and throughout the weekend we're all going to struggle at some point in time."

Villopoto will be considered the favorite coming off his impressive Supercross run.

The 22-year-old from Fontana, Calif., opened up the 2010 Supercross season strong, winning seven races, but suffered a horrific crash at St. Louis that broke two bones in his right leg and knocked him out of the outdoor season.

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Determined to finish his climb to the top, Villopoto put in grueling hours of rehabilitation to get back in shape, work that paid off with wins in his first two races back, at Anaheim, Calif., and Phoenix to open the Supercross season. He finished with a series-high six wins, capping it with his first title not far from the glitz of The Strip.

"The Supercross season is so long and we have one week off and roll right into the outdoor season, so there's not much time off," Villopoto said. "But I think we're all ready, we're all prepared and will have the same goal."

Getting to that goal won't be easy, as the Supercross season showed.

With everyone healthy and Canard up from the 250 class, the Supercross season was a tight race from the start, one where a single gaffe was enough to put riders in a deep hole.

Villopoto had one in Jacksonville, where he inexplicably missed qualifying for the main event. Dungey was derailed by a slipped chain at the second Anaheim race.

Reed, running his own team for the first time, had trouble at the two Texas races. Stewart, known for either crashing or winning, did both, getting five wins to go with three crashes, not to mention an arrest for impersonating a police officer.

The move outdoors is the start of new season, but the premium on staying consistent will continue.

"You throw away a race or 25 points, you're going to have your work cut out to get it back," Dungey said. "You try to make it easy on yourself. The goal is to win races and try to win a championship, and you can't do that if you're in the back, getting bad starts, losing points here and there. There's a lot of great guys out there, so you can't throw away points like that."

NBA Gameday: One streak over, but Warriors look to keep another alive

NBA Gameday: One streak over, but Warriors look to keep another alive

OAKLAND – With their 12-game win streak over, the Warriors return to the court Saturday night trying to avoid the slump that struck some of the NBA’s elite teams this week.

The Warriors (16-3) have gone an NBA-record 104 regular-season games without losing two in a row and they’ll seek to extend that streak when the Phoenix Suns (6-13) visit Oracle Arena for the second time this season.

But it has been a rough past few days for some of the league’s better teams. The defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers have lost three in a row, and the Los Angeles Clippers lost three straight before recovering to win their last two.

The Warriors are coming off a 132-127 double-overtime loss to Houston, while the Suns are coming off a victory over Atlanta.

Warriors by 17

Stephen Curry vs. Eric Bledsoe. Bledsoe may be the most muscular and physical point guard in the league, and he’ll try to use his physique to press Curry at every opportunity. Curry, however, is stronger than he looks and not only will push back but also utilize craftiness to exploit Bledsoe’s aggression.

Warriors: No injuries listed.

Suns: F T.J. Warren (head injury) is listed as out.

C Damian Jones is on assignment with Santa Cruz of the Development League.

LAST 10:
Warriors: 9-1. Suns: 3-7.

The Warriors have won the last nine games, including two this season, by an average margin of 12.9 points. The nine-game streak ties the longest by either team since the Suns entered the NBA in 1968. Phoenix won nine straight from 1989-91.

Return of the D. The Warriors continue to experience occasional lapses on defense, though most teams have not been skilled enough to take full advantage. Stellar defense against the Suns will give the Warriors a decided edge. This is a chance to put up a exemplary game.

Sprinters on display. The Suns lead the league in only one major category: pace. They play faster than any other team. The Warriors are not far behind, though, ranking third in the same category. Though both want to run, history shows the Warriors are better at it.

Risky kids. Phoenix ranks 25th in turnovers and dead last in assist-to-turnover ratio, a statistic in which the Warriors lead the NBA. Some of the miscue can be attributed to speed but much of is the result of youth; four players on the roster have yet to reach their 21st birthday.

Raiders put Hayden on IR, sign defensive lineman to active roster

Raiders put Hayden on IR, sign defensive lineman to active roster

ALAMEDA -- The Oakland Raiders have signed DL Branden Jackson to the active roster and placed CB DJ Hayden on the Reserve/Injured List, the club announced Saturday.

Jackson originally signed with the Raiders as an undrafted free agent on May 16 of this year after participating on a tryout basis at the team’s rookie mini-camp. After participating in the offseason program and training camp with the team, he was waived on Sept. 3 and signed to the practice squad the next day, where he spent the first 12 weeks of the regular season.

The 6-foot-4, 268-pounder played four years at Texas Tech, seeing action in 51 games with 38 starts. Jackson totaled 138 tackles (97 solo), 11 sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and seven passes defensed.

Oakland Raiders media services.