DENVER — The final night of AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross was a true showdown of the season’s top riders in the battle to claim the 2013 title.
With five-time Monster Energy Supercross Champion Ricky Carmichael watching on, Team Faith/FLY Racing KTM’s Jeff Gibson outlasted his closest rivals in the Race to the Championship to claim his second overall win of the season by sweeping the Main Events. However, with a solid pair of finishes of his own in the Main Events, Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki presented by Maxxis rider Tyler Bowers relied on a third-place overall finish to claim his third consecutive Arenacross Class title and become the inaugural winner of the Race to the Championship.
A champion was also crowned in the Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class, with BWRengines.com Honda’s Maxx Malatia capturing his first career title.
Saturday’s opening Arenacross Class Main Event on the final night of the season provided a glimpse of what Gibson had in store. The KTM rider needed to overcome a five-point deficit in the championship standings to overcome Bowers, and did all he could to give himself the best chance at stealing the title. Gibson grabbed the holeshot and proceeded to never give it up, leading all 12 laps. Behind Gibson, Bowers positioned himself in a podium spot in third and moved past Team Faith/FLY Racing KTM’s Kelly Smith, last night’s winner, for second early in the race. Bowers followed in second, putting the pressure on Gibson in the final Main Event, while Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki’s Zach Ames finished third.
Carmichael had the privilege of selecting the inversion for the final Main Event of the 2013 season and for the second night in a row selected the full 16-rider inversion. This added to the dramatic final showdown between Gibson and Bowers.
As the gate dropped on the second Main Event, Fun Mart Cycle KTM’s Michael Willard positioned himself at the front of the field, while Gibson was inside the top five despite the last gate pick, just a few positions ahead of Ames. Bowers wasn’t much farther behind, but needed to make up ground on his closest title contender in order to maintain his points lead.
Gibson made quick work of the riders in front of him and moved into second before the halfway point. Just a few laps later, he passed Willard for the lead. Ames followed him into second shortly thereafter. Bowers was successful in his climb through the field, but needed to make a last-lap pass on Willard in order to secure a spot on the podium.
In the end, Gibson’s perfect night and overall victory gave him the best shot at surpassing Bowers, but he ultimately fell just three points short of the title.
Earlier in the evening, Bowers provided an additional cushion to his points lead by winning the Head-to-Head Bracket Racing. He was awarded an additional championship point for his triumphant effort. That point proved to be a difference maker in the overall classification for the evening, helping Bowers finish second overall, just one point ahead of his teammate Ames in third.
Bowers completed the 2013 season with a class-leading 10 overall wins, including 20 Main Event victories. He became just the third rider in AMSOIL Arenacross history to claim three consecutive championships, joining Dennis Hawthorne and Buddy Antunez.
The Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class Championship also came to an end on Saturday night, with Malatia holding a six-point lead coming into the evening. Out of the gate, Letko KTM’s Tanner Moore grabbed the holeshot and never looked back, leading wire-to-wire in the 18-lap Main Event.
Malatia, who won on Friday night, asserted himself into second and stayed there throughout the remainder of the race, while a battle ensued for third between Moto Adventure Kawasaki’s Travis Bannister and All-Terrain Motorsports Kawasaki’s Cody Church.
Moore won by almost 10 seconds, while Malatia secured the title with a runner-up result. Bannister outlasted Church to finish on the podium again in front of his hometown crowd.
In the end, Malatia won the Western Regional Championship by 19 points, taking advantage of tough nights by his title contenders.