All eyes have been on title contenders Eli Tomac and Ryan Dungey as of late, but a former champion worked his way into the headlines Saturday night in St. Louis.
Chad Reed, who entered Round 13 with an average finish of 10.5, struggled mightily in the 450SX Main Event and finished a dismal 16th. However, it was his antics that sparked a firestorm on social media and within the industry.
As the clock showed seven minutes to go (plus one lap), race leader Tomac put Reed a lap down with ease. Second-place Dungey then pulled to the veteran's fender and was met with a swift challenge. For the next three laps, Reed would up his pace and ride in the preferred line, making life hard on the defending champion and current points leader.
By the time Dungey finally made the pass stick on Reed, the deficit to Tomac grew from two seconds to seven seconds, all but ending his shot at the victory.
"I just don't know why [Reed] has to get involved with me and Eli's position," Dungey said after the race. "If he was on the same lap, I'd understand, I think we all would, but he's a lapper. It's just unfortunate, but what do you do?"
It is the second straight week the two riders have had a disagreement on the track, with ill feelings stemming from a first-turn pileup in Detroit. Dungey was involved in the start of that crash which sent Justin Bogle and Reed slamming to the ground. Dungey remained upright and race on to finish third, while Reed suffered a DNF. Chatter around the Yamaha paddock pinpointed Dungey as the cause for the crash.
Fast forward to St. Louis, where they found themselves at it again in 450SX Heat 1. Reed led early and rode a wide bike to try to hold off Dungey, but ultimately lost out in this particular battle. The crowd was thrilled with the battle, however Dungey was not and made it known that he didn't like the way he was raced in the heat.
“I don’t know where it’s coming from,” said Dungey in the post-race press conference. “I guess I don’t know what I did wrong. I have a lot of respect for Chad, he’s been in the sport a long time. I’m not going to come in here and push the guy around or anything, I’m gonna race him clean.
"I guess I don’t know where this attitude and everything is coming from. Like, the heat race, we were going through the whoops side by side, he sees me, and tries to come over and take my front wheel out. I mean, we’re going through the whoops. What can I do? Then I try to make the pass on him and he tries to blow you off the track. It’s kind of a bummer. That guy’s been around a long time and that much experience, you’d think he would understand what it’s like to be in the position that I am.
"But he has no respect for us and what we’re doing, what we’re trying to do. I have a lot of respect for the guy, still do, but tonight was a low blow.”
Reed has not made a statement since the checkered flag flew in St. Louis.