When "El Hombre" steps onto the dirt track inside U.S. Bank Stadium, Jason Anderson will chase a Supercross championship with lessons tied to Minnesota.
Anderson has a solid chance to supplant Ryan Dungey, the recently retired Minnesota native and reigning motocross champion. Anderson and Dungey trained together each of the past three years — all seasons in which Dungey claimed the AMA Supercross championship.
Now Anderson's strong 37-point lead in this season's title chase comes with just four races left, continuing Saturday night in Minneapolis. The main event begins at 6:30 p.m. inside U.S. Bank Stadium.
"I think watching him and being close with him has helped me kind of put the pieces of the puzzle together for this year," said Anderson, a 25-year-old New Mexico native. "I feel I'm trying to maybe mimic what he's done in the past. He's been a very consistent rider; that's won him championships. It would mean a lot for me to win the championship."
As the Supercross circuit returns to Minneapolis for a second straight year in the Vikings' home, Anderson and other riders will soar 30 yards racing 225-pound motorcycles. The track winds like a tightly coiled snake spanning to where each end zone is located.
"It's definitely one of the cooler rounds we get to go to throughout the year," Anderson said.
It's where the latest step in Anderson's breakthrough season in the 450 series will take place. In 2014, he won the 250 West Supercross Championship and made the move up to 450 the following season.
Now after Dungey's retirement, Anderson represents a new era for supercross.
He's a laid-back millennial, calling himself "El Hombre" on social media accounts that feature edited movie posters mocking up his next race. Round 13's stop in Seattle, of course, called for a "Sleepless in Seattle" promo, with Anderson superimposed in the background.
"That's just me and a couple friends. We just have fun messing around all day," Anderson said. "I feel like for me I want to keep it as mellow and carefree as possible. I want to make it a long career and enjoy every second of it."
Winning certainly helps relieve any tension. Last year in Minneapolis, Anderson finished fourth (behind Dungey and others). This season, he has placed at least third in nine of 13 races, including four victories.
His best outing to date came in Oakland on Feb. 3, when he rallied from sixth to win. The race, Anderson said, was a "turning point" that set the tone for his position as a championship contender.
"I came from a long ways back and was able to get that win," he said. "I think that was the part where people started taking me seriously as a championship guy."
He's come a long way from a 7-year-old motorcross novice in a small town outside Albuquerque. The lessons he's learned touring the country are numerous; however, it's Dungey's consistency that Anderson models. He hopes eventually to turn one championship into several, like his training partner and former competition from Minnesota.
The vision can become clearer with a solid finish Saturday.
"It's something you dream of as a kid," Anderson said. "Hopefully it all goes to plan and we're able to keep getting good results, and this weekend goes well."