With points leader Tyler Bowers’ eighth victory of the season in AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross, the top 10 riders in the point standings earned their shot to be a part of racing history with the inaugural Race to the Championship. This compelling four-round battle to crown a champion begins on Saturday night from Little Rock, Ark., inside Verizon Arena, and all the action will be showcased on SPEED, this Sunday at 1:00 p.m. ET.
Through the first six rounds of the season, AMSOIL Arenacross’ top riders have been competing for their chance to be a part of the playoff-inspired Race to the Championship. This new, groundbreaking element of the championship that has never been seen before in motorcycle racing will reset the points for the top 10 riders who raced their way into the showdown, with just five points separating the points leader from 10th place. Over the course of the final four rounds of the season, these 10 riders will have a shot at claiming the AMSOIL Arenacross title. Riders outside the top 10 in points will also be competing for a purse as well as season-ending bonuses.
Bowers has led the Arenacross Class standings virtually the entire season. The Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki presented by Maxxis rider boasts the most overall victories in 2013 with eight, in addition to the most Main Event wins with 16 in 22 attempts. Bowers has also captured five bonus points this season thanks to his five wins in the compelling Head-to-Head Bracket Racing. His championship-caliber résumé through the first six rounds speaks for itself and it’s no wonder why he is the number one seed heading into the Race to the Championship.
Bowers will be flanked by his teammate Zach Ames as the second seed in the Race to the Championship. The roommates, close friends, and training partners have battled one another throughout the season, both at the races and in practice, which has helped with their consistency. Ames was the overall winner of the opening round this season, and has also earned one Main Event victory to his credit.
“I’m pretty happy with how I rode through the first six rounds, but I know I have more to give when it comes to winning the championship,” said Ames. “Training alongside Tyler [Bowers] has definitely improved my riding, but I also think it be an advantage in the Race to the Championship because I know how he races. I’m looking forward to giving it my all and seeing how things play out over the next month.”
The third seed is a surging Jeff Gibson. The Team Faith/FLY Racing KTM rider has stepped up his efforts since the birth of his first child just a few weeks ago. Despite missing one round of action to be there for his daughter’s arrival, Gibson has still maintained a strong position in the standings. Just last weekend, Gibson broke through for this first overall win of the season to go along with his pair of Main Event wins. That performance cemented his seeding for the Race to the Championship.
Gibson will sit just ahead of his teammate Kelly Smith, the fourth seed, as the Race to the Championship gets underway. Smith has yet to break through with a victory in 2013, but he’s been a fixture at the front of the field more often than not. As the most experienced rider in the AMSOIL Arenacross field, Smith could hold the advantage over the course of the final four rounds as he know what it takes to win. A championship is the only thing missing from Smith’s illustrious résumé in the sport and he will surely come out firing on Saturday.
Motosport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing KTM’s Nathan Skaggs rounds out the top five seeds in the Race to the Championship. Skaggs is a veteran contender in AMSOIL Arenacross and he has showed an impressive consistency in recent weeks. Along with Bowers and Gibson, Skaggs is one of the hottest riders in the championship and his recent podium performances are the ideal stepping-stone to possibly break into the win column.
The sixth seed is Mosites Motorsports Kawasaki’s Michael McDade. The up-and-coming rider has emerged as the breakout star of the 2013 season, challenging both Bowers and Ames head on atop the standings for most of the opening six rounds. Unfortunately, a recent wrist injury suffered just a couple weeks ago has slowed McDade’s progress considerably and even forced him to miss one night of action. However, he returned last weekend to show he’s ready for the Race to the Championship. As the fourth different rider to claim an overall victory this season, in addition to his three Main Event wins, McDade has the speed to challenge for the title if his injury is not a factor.
The final four seeds have been engaged in heated competition for their spot in the Race to the Championship since the opening round. Each rider has proven they can run at the front of the field and there is definitely a chance for any of them to play the role of a wild card heading into the final four rounds. Motosport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing KTM’s Willy Browning enters the Race to the Championship as the seventh seed, followed by eighth seed Gared Steinke. Advocare Suzuki’s Daniel Blair occupies the ninth seed, while KMS KTM’s Dave Ginolfi earned the 10th seed with a strong outing last weekend.
“I think the Race to the Championship is awesome,” exclaimed Blair. “This is something that is needed for me because my season hasn’t gone the way I wanted to. I had some problems that took longer than I hoped to realize and work through, but now that I’ve gotten things figured out I can start this weekend with a clean slate. This is basically a chance for me to start over. I always do better at the end of the season and right now feel like I’m hitting a hot streak, so the timing couldn’t be better.”
The captivating new racing format of AMSOIL Arenacross has produced exciting competition and the opportunity for anyone to win on any given night thanks to a pair of Main Events during each night of competition, a potential inversion heading into the second Main Event, and Head-to-Head Bracket Racing. With the Race to the Championship lying ahead, points are more important now than ever before and the on-track action is sure to reflect that.
This weekend’s stop in Little Rock also signifies the return of the Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class Championship. Just last weekend, Fun Mart Cycle KTM’s Michael Willard claimed the Eastern Regional title and now current points leader Michael Lang will lead the Western Regional field back into action as it closes out the 2013 season with four rounds of competition. Additionally, Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki’s Tyler Villopoto will look for his second win of the season and eliminate his two-point deficit to Lang in the championship standings.
AMSOIL Arenacross has not raced in Little Rock since the 2011 season. That year, Kelly Smith claimed the victory in the Arenacross Class following a great battle with Nathan Skaggs. In the Arenacross Lites Class, Chad Cook outlasted Patrick Massie to take the win.
One night of action featuring the return of AMSOIL Arenacross to Verizon Arena kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 16, beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET. Next-day broadcast coverage will air exclusively on SPEED, beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET.
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