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Benjamin Patton | The Daily StarRyan Dungey competes in the 450 Motocross during the Rockstar Energy Drink Unadilla MX National Weekend in South Edmeston on Saturday. Dungey finished first overall. Benjamin Patton

NEW BERLIN _ Nothing stopped Ryan Dungey from winning his eighth straight track title Saturday.

Despite James "Bubba" Stewart's return to motocross, Dungey kept cruising toward the Lucas Oil AMA Motocross Championship series title by sweeping both 450 Class motos at the Unadilla Valley Sports Center to win the ROCKSTAR Energy Drink Unadilla National.

Dungey earned the maximum 50 points during a sunbaked afternoon of professional racing that drew 17,500 fans and national television coverage from NBC. Dungey increased his season points total to 418 _ 111 more than second-place Andrew Short, who finished fourth overall Saturday _ with three events to go on the 12-race circuit.

"I just try to take it one at a time," Dungey, 20, said during a post-race media conference. "When it happens, it happens. I try not to force anything and try to keep doing what we're doing. Every race is important."

The Unadilla National was particularly significant, though, as Stewart returned to motocross for the first time since winning the outdoor series points championship in 2008. Unadilla marked Stewart's first competition since injuring his left wrist during a Jan. 16 supercross collision with Chad Reed, who didn't return to defend his 2009 UVSC title because of an illness.

"James is one of the most recognized names in the sport," Dungey said. "The stuff he's done on a dirt bike and what he's accomplished is pretty unbelievable. ... I didn't know what to think coming in. I didn't know where he would stand as far as taking time off and coming back. It is good to have him back."

The comeback was anything but triumphant for Stewart, who has competed exclusively in indoor supercross the last two seasons. Although he placed third in the opening moto, Stewart exited the track about 12 minutes into the second. Each moto runs for 30 minutes plus two laps.

Stewart was in 11th place before he rode his bike back to his trailer, took off his helmet and disappeared from public view.

"No idea," AMA spokesman Brandon Short said when asked why Stewart left after completing four laps of the second moto. "It could be anything. He still could be hurt. ... It could be the bike had issues. It's an open-ended thing and honestly, we're never going to find out. It's unfortunate because he had such a strong first moto. But it's the sport and it happens."

Dungey happens to be winning a lot lately and will go for another track title when racing resumes Aug. 28 with the Moto-X 338 in Southwick, Mass.

On Saturday, he led the first moto from start to finish despite battling Rockstar/Makita Suzuki guest rider Clemente Desalle and Stewart early. Stewart ran second for seven laps, but Desalle went ahead of him for good during lap 13 of 16.

"I got a good hole shot," Dungey said, referring to the beginning of the race, when riders enter the looping track from a straightaway. "I was able to open a little bit of a lead and it seemed like (Stewart) stayed right there the whole time. ... We can't really be slow off the start because he'll capitalize off any little mistake you make, so it was important to get off to a good start."

Dungey started the second moto in fourth but took the lead from Desalle on the 10th lap and stayed ahead the rest of the way.

"It took me a while to get up to the lead," Dungey said. "It was me and Desalle a little past the halfway mark. He had a good run there and we had a good battle. It was fun and I enjoyed it. I was able to get past him and open up a little bit of a lead."

Andrew Short led first five laps of the second moto before Desalle took over the second position. Andrew Short slowly faded to fifth as Brett Metcalfe and former USVC champion Windham passed him late.

"I had to do a lot of work today," Metcalfe said. "I clawed my way through."

Desalle, a Belgian rider competing in his first American race this season (he raced once in the U.S. last year) placed second in each moto to finish second overall.

"I liked it. It was good," said Desalle, who primarily competes in Europe's World Motocross Championship. "The bike was different. Normally, I can use my suspension. I was feeling it on the jumps. I got used to it."

Metcalfe followed a fifth in the first moto with a third in the second to take third overall. Andrew Short (4-5) and Kyle Regal (8-9) rounded out the top five. Ben Townley placed sixth, followed by Kyle Chisholm, Justin Brayton, Josh Grant and Thomas Hahn.

Stewart, who officially took 35th in the second moto, placed 11th overall. Windham finished 12th, following a 39th in the opening moto with a fourth in the second.

Brandon Short said Reed, the only rider other than Dungey to win a track title this season, has contracted the Epstein-Barr virus and is out indefinitely.

"Basically, it's an energy-zapping virus," Brandon Short said. "You feel fine, but the moment you do something like this and exert yourself, you're tired way quicker than what you've ever been used to. You're exhausted and can't compete at your full level."

P.J. Harmer can be reached at pharmer@thedailystar.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 229.

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