The introduction of the Race to the Championship for the 2013 AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross, was intended to provide a new element of intrigue, drama, and excitement to the sport. After the first two rounds of the four-round showdown, the playoff-inspired format has produced two different winners and a change atop the point standings each night.
One of the riders in the thick of the title hunt is veteran and former AMSOIL Arenacross Champion Jeff Gibson, who is riding for the longstanding Team Faith/FLY Racing KTM effort for the first time this season. Currently sitting second, just two points out of the championship lead, Gibson has gotten hot at the right time this season and is reaping the benefits of it. Just a few weeks ago, Gibson missed a round of competition to be there for the birth of his first child. Since then, he’s been a fixture on the podium and even claimed an overall victory along the way. Thanks to the points reset heading into the Race to the Championship, Gibson’s missed round of action didn’t hurt him in terms of the title fight. He had the opportunity to start from square one and has taken full advantage of the opportunity.
With only three nights of racing remaining this season, including the penultimate round from Kansas City, MO, and the Sprint Center, the intensity out on the track is sure to reach even greater heights.
Recently, the West Palm Beach Motorsports Examiner checked in with Gibson to get his thoughts on how the Race to the Championship is going and how the birth of his daughter has influenced his success on the track.
Two rounds into the Race to the Championship, you are now second in the standings. How have these last couple weeks gone and how have you acclimated to this new format?
“We’re a couple weeks in right now and I’m just glad to be in the position I’m in right now. The season started off kind of rough for me and I had to figure out what I was doing. Now that I did, I feel like I’ve been riding pretty well recently and I’m just blessed to be in the situation I’m in. I’m glad to be second right now and I’m excited to go racing on the weekends. It’s been going great and I’m really happy with what I’m doing.”
You missed the Tulsa round several weeks ago to be there for the birth of your daughter. Since coming back, you’re results have improved and you’ve been one of the most consistent riders in the championship. Do you think there is a correlation between the two?
“I started riding a little better right before that and I actually got two seconds in Grand Rapids right before I missed Tulsa and I was really excited about that. With the birth of Addelynn, it’s been a relief also now that she’s here and gets that stress off a little bit. It’s just been a couple things coming together and doing so all at once. I’m starting to feel better on the bike and it’s just been good. I’m enjoying the races and I’m enjoying being there. I do want to be home with my family, but I am enjoying being out there.”
You mentioned that the season got off to a slow start for you. What would you say that was attributed to – the new competition format, the new team, or something else?
“You know, it’s a combination of everything. Coming into the season, I had the busiest offseason of my career. I have a real job where I go home and work eight hours a day. That’s one reason. Another would be changing teams. I’ve been riding for TUF [Honda] for four years, but this season I had to jump to a different team and even a different bike [KTM]. I’ve had to learn how to deal with that in race situations; getting used to the bike and getting used to the team. The new format had something to do with that too, but it was just a busy time. I don’t think the tracks during the first couple rounds suited me as well. It was frustrating for me and it was tough to get out of that hole. I’ve been trying to grow from this and that’s what I want to keep doing. Just keep growing and growing, and get better each week.”
Would you say welcoming your daughter into the world helped alleviate some of the pressure you felt in the early part of the season? Perhaps allowing you to compete with a little bit of a clearer head?
“That’s a little bit of the case, yeah. It’s definitely stressful with everything that was going on. How is the birth going to go? How’s everything going to be? I wanted to make sure everything was going to be good. Once it was, it was just a relief. Now that she’s here and healthy, it’s just been a miracle waiting to happen. I’ve been waiting for this for a while and it’s been awesome.”
How has the transition to Team Faith been this season? Like you mentioned, it’s a new group of guys and a new bike. You’ve been with only one team since coming to AMSOIL Arenacross. This team has been around for a long time and is one of the most respected programs in the pits. What’s the 2013 season been like?
“It’s definitely been an adjustment. It’s a [entirely] different team. Team Faith is a Christian based team and our main focus is to try and bring people to God. That’s our number one goal at the races. We’re obviously there to race too and try to do well, but what I’m there to do is speak the word of God while I’m on the podium. It’s been an adjustment, but it’s been good. My results are showing, things are getting better, and I’m feeling comfortable on the bike.”
With all the changes this season, from the nightly racing format to the Race to the Championship, what has been the most challenging element in ensuring that you’re still going to have a shot at the title at the end of the season?
“I think the toughest thing and the most important thing, even during the old format, is the starts. It all boils down to the starts, especially with these shorter races. If you don’t have a good start, it’s going to hurt you. That’s the key element.”
Only three nights remain this season and you sit just two points out of the championship lead. What is it going to take to potentially win a second AMSOIL Arenacross title?
“I’m just going to try and do the best that I can, just like I have all year and always have [in my career]. I’m going to just go out and give it my all. Just as along as I can give it everything I’ve got, I’m going to be happy at the end of the day. I do hope for a title and I do hope to win this championship, but I just got to give it everything I possibly can and leave it all out on the track. Wherever we end up at the end of the day, that’s where we’re going to end up.”:
The Kansas City stop of AMSOIL Arenacross, the third round of the Race to the Championship, from inside the Sprint Center kicks off tomorrow, Saturday, March 2, beginning at 8 p.m. ET. Broadcast coverage of Saturday night’s competition can be seen via tape delay exclusively on SPEED on Sunday, March 3, beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET.
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