Petco Park racing season opens with Supercross

Dungey leads Saturday's motorcycle field; Monster Trucks follow

Petco Park racing season opens with Supercross

Bill Center, longtime sportswriter for U-T San Diego, is an employee of the Padres.

One of the two products of Minnesota's Chaska High to post wins at Petco Park last year will be back at the facility on Saturday. No, it will not be Padres relief pitcher Brad Hand. Chaska's Ryan Dungey will lead the field of riders competing on the floor of Petco Park in the Monster Energy Supercross at 7 p.m. PT.

The Supercross is the first of three motorsports events at Petco Park over the next five weeks. The Monster Trucks of the Monster Jam Series will make two appearances at Petco Park, Jan. 21 and Feb. 18.

Hand scored three of his 2016 wins at Petco Park last summer. Dungey won two Supercrosses in 2016 at Petco Park en route to a second straight Supercross championship and the third of his career. Dungey can't duplicate last year's double because Petco Park will host only one Supercross this season -- Saturday's fourth annual Military Appreciation Race.

"I was hoping to see if Brad was going to be here," Dungey said earlier in the week. "He was the man in high school, the best athlete on campus. Everyone looked up to Brad."

Hand, 26, was a second-round pick in the 2008 Draft out of 1,200-student Chaska High in a suburb of Minneapolis-St. Paul. Dungey, 27, was already four years into his professional riding career in 2008 and won his first Supercross title in '10 when Hand was pitching in Double-A.

Dungey and Hand are listed as two of the 11 most prominent products of Chaska, Minn. (population 25,000).

What makes Dungey unique is that Minnesota is not exactly the cradle of off-road motorcycling.

Dungey was relatively unknown when he first hit the circuit. Today, he's the rider to beat in both the stadium Monster Energy Supercross Series and the outdoor National Motocross circuit.

But the field is deep.

Dungey opened defense of his title last Saturday night by finishing second to Honda's Ken Roczen in Anaheim. Third was Dungey's KTM teammate Marvin Musquin, Husqvarna's Jason Anderson and veteran Eli Tomac on a Kawasaki.

Another featured rider in San Diego will be Australia's Chad Reed, who, at 34, is the senior member of the young man's tour. Reed is also the all-time San Diego leader with six wins and placed second to Dungey in the first Petco Park race last season.

"That Reed keeps going blows me away," said Dungey. "And San Diego is his spot. He's one of the greats."

Dungey has been compared with other greats of Supercross -- riders such as Jeremy McGrath, Ricky Carmichael, El Cajon's Ricky Johnson and Roger DeCoster. Only three riders in the 4 1/2-decade history of the sport have more titles than Dungey -- McGrath with seven, Carmichael with five and Ryan Villopoto with four. Dungey is sixth on the all-time list with 31 career race wins.

Dungey's percentage of top-five and top-10 finishes is the highest in history and ranks second only to Carmichael in percentage of podium finishes.

"It's nice to be in the conversation," Dungey said of the comparisons to the greats of the sport. "But when I look at careers like McGrath's and Carmichael's, it's pretty amazing what they did over long careers. McGrath won seven championships in eight years. Carmichael won 10 straight outdoor titles in addition to his Supercross success."