AURORA, Ill. – The opening round of the Race to the Championship produced the trademark unpredictability of AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross, and provided an incredible start to the season-ending title showdown.
At the conclusion of two Arenacross Class Main Events, Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki presented by Maxxis rider Zach Ames emerged with a 1-1 sweep to not only secure his second overall win of the season, but more importantly gain the early momentum in the Race to the Championship as it heads to Albuquerque, N.M., and Tingley Coliseum this weekend for two nights of action on March 7-8.
Ames’s position atop the standings is a familiar one, having led the Arenacross Class championship for the bulk of the season. He endured some up-and-down performances on the final weekend of action before the Race to the Championship, which ultimately caused him to lose the top seed.
Nevertheless, he continued to fight and was able to rebound last weekend in Tulsa, Okla., with his best outing of the entire season. As a result, he carries a seven-point lead into Albuquerque and is arguably the most confident rider in the premier division. One year ago, Ames put himself in the same position following the opening round of the Race to the Championship, and would ultimately finish third in the final standings. With a year under his belt and the experience of leading the championship for virtually all of 2014, the challenge of unseating Ames this season will be tougher for his fellow competitors.
Sitting directly behind Ames in the standings are a pair of up-and-comers that have enjoyed breakout seasons in AMSOIL Arenacross this year. PBR/TiLube/TUF Racing Honda’s Kyle Regal and Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki’s Colt Nichols each sit seven points out of the championship lead in their first Race to the Championship appearance. Regal holds the advantage as a result of better finishes, but more importantly the duo is in the thick of the hunt for their first career title and have established themselves as serious title contenders.
Just one point behind Regal and Nichols sits veteran Cory Green, who took advantage of the support from the hometown crowd in Tulsa to post his best performance of the season to put his Farmers Insurance/Reynard Mods Suzuki third overall. Green knows how to be successful in the aggressive world of AMSOIL Arenacross and now sits in the best position of his career to win a title.
Looming in fifth is reigning three-time champion Tyler Bowers, who needed a resilient performance in Tulsa just to put his Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki in sixth overall. Thanks to a win in Head-to-Head Brakcet Racing that night, Bowers was able to slightly minimize the deficit he faces to his teammate and friend in the lead, currently sitting at 12 points. Last year in the Race to the Championship, Bowers entered the opening round with a broken collarbone that was surgically repaired mere days earlier. He began his journey to the title last season facing just a four-point deficit at this point in the season, but despite the larger margin that currently lies ahead Bowers is at full health and still has five nights of competition remaining to overcome the deficit.
The remainder of the current Race to the Championship standings has Motosport.com/MJM Express/Spinechillers Racing KTM’s Willy Browning in sixth, TZR/Woodstock KTM’s Travis Sewell in seventh, Motosport.com/MJM Express/Spinechillers Racing Kawasaki’s Michael McDade in eighth, PBR/TiLube/TUF Racing Honda’s Jacob Hayes in ninth, and Motosport Hillsboro Kawasaki’s Gared Steinke in 10th. Of this group, both McDade and Hayes have earned victories during the 2014 season and will look to overcome their current deficits. In total, 23 points separate Ames at the top of the standings from Steinke in 10th.
With two nights of action on tap this weekend for the championship’s return to Albuquerque, there are a total of 64 points up for grabs across four scheduled Main Events in addition to four bonus points in two nights Head-to-Head Bracket Racing. As a result, the Race to the Championship is far from being in the favor of any specific rider and should experience a considerable shakeup following this weekend’s racing. While Ames is currently in control of his own destiny, his fellow nine title hopefuls know that consistency will be of the utmost importance from now until the end of the season and will surely amp up their aggression inside Tingley Coliseum.
Albuquerque also signifies the return of the Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class Championship, which last competed two weeks ago in Reno, Nev. With five nights of racing remaining in its season, the Western Region is currently led by BWRengines.com Honda’s Kyle White who enjoys a six-point lead over veteran Gray Davenport and his AJ Oilfield Services Kawasaki. Defending Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class Champion Maxx Malatia sits third, nine points out on his BWRengines.com Honda.