By Keith Lair, Staff Writer
ANAHEIM CA – January 19, 2013 – The AMA Monster Energy Supercross series main event at Angel Stadium took off Saturday.
For the first time in 20 years, a healthy Kevin Windham watched from the sidelines as Ryan Villopoto won the 20-lap race, his 25th win in the series.
“Oddly, I’m at peace with it,” 34-year-old Windham said. “I’m scared. I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I’m all right with that. I don’t want to do it anymore.”
After the spotlight, lasers, smokescreens and fireworks of the opening ceremony extravaganza ended, Windham, who turns 35 next month, told the crowd of 37,789 he was finished. They seemed to sit in stunned silence by his decision.
“It probably seems quick and abrupt,” the Honda racer said. “But it’s something I have been contemplating since my big crash (last March) in Houston.
“I would love nothing more than to ride forever. This might seem to be a hasty decision, but I’ve been talking to a lot of people for a lot of months. I thought I would be able to come into the season and ride myself out of that funk and that mental hurdle I was having to overcome. With every passing lap it became more and more difficult to ride with the clarity I needed to be safe, fast, and successful.”
A crash in a heat last March fueled his choice. He collided with James Stewart Jr, separated both shoulders, broke his wrist and suffered a concussion. He then suffered another concussion in a crash at last October’s Monster Cup in Las Vegas.
He said he has suffered 25 concussions in 31 years of riding and racing motorcycles.
“I tried to work at a level of confidence to keep going,” he said. “It proved to be a larger hurdle than ever before. It felt a little bit more difficult because you have to work with these guys. It became very apparent.”
Windham said he wanted to continue racing, but on Saturday he made the final decision because he said he did not want to feel “bitter” about the sport.
“I wanted to ride at a point where I was 100 percent sure,” he said. “I was trying to find a way to get over the hurdles and it did not happen. It was not happening anymore.”
Windham, who still lives in his hometown of Centreville, Miss., is ancient in supercross circles. Series rookie Justin Barcia, who won last week in Phoenix, was not even 2 years old when Windham was in his first professional race.
Less than a handful of racers have ever competed in his sport at his age. His closest contemporary in the sport is Chad Reed, who is 30.
He began the season by finishing 10th in the season opener at Angel Stadium two weeks ago and was 11th last week in Phoenix. He entered Saturday’s race 11th in series points with 21.
He never won a series title but finished second three times, the last in 2010. He also was third in 2005. He finished 10th in points last year.
Windham won 18 races, 10th all time in the sport. His last win was May 1, 2010 in Salt Lake City, Utah.
But what might be more amazing is his consistency and lack of injuries in an injury-prone sport. He started 203 races. Only Mike LaRocco, his team manager, started more with 228.
Windham started 102 consecutive main events, starting in 2006 before his March 31 injury last year. He did not race any other supercross events after that crash.
Saturday was a crash-filled night of racing. Davi Millsaps crashed, finished fourth and still kept the series points lead. Barcia who was second in points, broke his suspension coming off a jump on the second lap.
Stewart, racing with a torn knee ligament, also went down in a crash.
Trey Canard was second and Chad Reed was third. Top qualifier Villopoto of Poulsbo, Wash., who took the lead on the fifth lap, is 11 points behind Millsaps.
“Once I got into the lead I was trying to click off laps and be consistent,” the Kawasaki rider said..”It seems like we have the ball rolling now.”
Eli Tomac of Cortez, Colo. won the 16-lap Lites race, his third win in as many tries. Ken Roczen was second and Cole Seeley third.