Last weekend’s opening round of the inaugural Race to the Championship was indeed a historic one for AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross. Following six weeks of competition in which Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki presented by Maxxis rider, Tyler Bowers asserted himself as the rider to beat in the championship, his teammate Zach Ames took advantage of a tough night for Bowers in Little Rock, Ark., to not only take the first overall victory in Race to the Championship history, but also assume control of the championship point standings. This weekend, the second of four rounds to determine this season’s champion will take place from Wichita, Kan., at INTRSUT Bank Arena. Broadcast coverage of the action can be seen Sunday on SPEED, beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET.
The playoff-inspired Race to the Championship is intended to provide even more excitement and drama to the trademark racing that makes AMSOIL Arenacross one of the most compelling forms of motorsports on the planet. With no more than five points separating Bowers from his nine fellow competitors heading into last weekend’s first round, the opportunity for a shakeup in the standings was imminent. Never before in the history of AMSOIL Arenacross does every lap and every point mean as much as they will during the Race to the Championship and after arguably his worst night of the 2013 season, Bowers will not be the points leader for just the second time this year.
“Every rider in the Race to the Championship has their sites set on that number one plate,” said Mike Muye, Director of Operations, AMSOIL Arenacross. “These 10 riders earned the distinction of being the best in the championship and now they’ll have to prove they have what it takes to be a champion.
Ames achieved victory in Little Rock thanks to a pair of consistent Main Events. While he didn’t take the checkered flag in either of the 12-lap Main Events, Ames results were the best of the 16-rider field and as a result, he emerged with the overall win. In each of his two overall wins this season, Ames did not win a Main Event. However, he does have one Main Event victory to his credit this season.
Heading into INTRSUT Bank Arena on Saturday night, Ames’ slim championship advantage sits at three points over Team Faith/FLY Racing KTM’s Jeff Gibson. Gibson has been on a hot streak in AMSOIL Arenacross since the birth of his daughter several weeks ago and now he’s in position to potentially claim his second career title. He finished second to Ames in Little Rock and knows what it takes to win a championship in AMSOIL Arenacross.
As for Bowers, he fell from first to third in the Race to the Championship after a tough night that left him fifth overall. Bowers’ slight 1-point lead heading into the final four rounds of the season has now turned into a deficit of just four points, and while he is still very much in the hunt for the title, he gave up considerable momentum to his championship rivals who will no doubt be brimming with confidence in Wichita.
Little Rock proved to be one of the most unusual nights of the 2013 season as no rider appeared to be in dominant form. A full 16-rider inversion heading into the final Main Event added a level of difficulty to the entire field, but now with one round in the Race to the Championship under their belt, each of the title contenders will come into Wichita with a much different, and likely more aggressive approach.
From top to bottom, 18 points separate Ames in first to Advocare Suzuki’s Daniel Blair in 10th. Mistakes are not an option in the Race to the Championship and with only four nights and eight Main Events remaining in the 2013 season, the urgency for all riders to succeed and earn points has reached a new level. As a result, the dramatic Head-to-Head Bracket Racing is an opportunity for a rider to earn a highly coveted bonus point towards the championship should he prevail. In Little Rock, Team Faith/FLY Racing KTM’s Kelly Smith captured his first win in the head-to-head matchups and the championship point has helped him stay within 10 points of the lead in the standings.
With the heightened intensity of the Race to the Championship, the opportunity for new winners to prevail also becomes more prevalent as every rider is pushing that much harder to succeed. This was evident last weekend when Motosport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing KTM’s Willy Browning became the sixth different rider to win a Main Event this season.
This weekend’s return to Wichita is also a pivotal round for the Arenacross Lites Western Regional Championship. Last weekend, Motosport.com/JBR/Spinechillers Racing KTM’s Steven Mages broke through for his first win of the season, making the championship a five-rider battle. Mages moved into second by virtue of his win, while Ticketwow Honda’s Michael Lang remained atop the standings. In addition to this duo, BWRengines.com Honda teammates Maxx Malatia and Kyle White, along with Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki’s Tyler Villopoto all sit within 16 points of the lead with four nights of racing remaining.
AMSOIL Arenacross has not raced in Wichita and INTRUST Bank Arena since the 2011 season. That year, Bowers took the win en route to his first AMSOIL Arenacross title. In the Arenacross Lites Class, Kansas native Tanner Moore captured victory and will look to duplicate that success on Saturday night.
One night of action featuring the return of AMSOIL Arenacross to INTRUST Bank Arena kicks off on Saturday, Feb. 23, beginning at 8:00 p.m. ET. Next-day broadcast coverage will air exclusively on SPEED, beginning at 1:00 p.m. ET.
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