Toyota AMA Arenacross Series Interview: Monster/Babbitt's/Kawasaki's Kelly Smith AURORA, Ill. (Feb. 20, 2008) -- Monster/Babbitt's/Kawasaki's Kelly Smith has enjoyed a rock-solid first full season on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour.
Toyota AMA Arenacross Series Interview: Monster/Babbitt's/Kawasaki's Kelly Smith
AURORA, Ill. (Feb. 20, 2008) -- Monster/Babbitt's/Kawasaki's Kelly Smith has enjoyed a rock-solid first full season on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour. So much so he was and, the way things go in arenacross you can pretty much say "still is," in the overall title battle with Bad Boy/TUF/Honda's Chad Johnson.
Heading into this past weekend -- a two-race, stand-alone round in front of a packed house at the Eastern Kentucky Expo Center in Pikeville -- Smith had Johnson in the crosshairs. He'd (Smith) passed his teammate, Brock Sellards, in the overall points chase and entered the Pikeville round trailing by a mere nine points (316-307). It was 'go time' for the heavyweights.
But what could have been a points lead change or, at the least, another chunk taken out of Chad Johnson's lead turned into pretty much a disaster for Smith. On Friday he was run off the track and had to fight just to make it back to 4th - with Johnson winning. Then on Saturday the worst-case-scenario happened when he and teammate Sellards took each other out in the first turn of the main event.
A watershed moment for the 2007-'08 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series, Pikeville was a huge disappointment for Smith and the entire Monster/Babbitt's/Kawasaki team. However, playing in Smith's favor is the fact that he's been consistent all year. That 33-point gap (366-333) between he and Chad Johnson could be whittled down to eight points in one of the four main events leading up to the final Saturday night of Toyota AMA Arenacross Series racing in Green Bay, Wis. (March 15).
This weekend Smith and the Monster/Babbitt's/Kawasaki team, according to Smith, will head to Sacramento (Calif.) while Johnson's team owner, Dave Antolak, has already made it clear Johnson will be racing at Greensboro (N.C.). Although the Monster/Babbitt's/Kawasaki team won't get another shot at Johnson until Denver (Feb. 29-March 1), they should still see some pretty tight competition as the top Californian racers -- many of whom just wrapped up the first stage of the Western Regional AMA Supercross Lites racing (until Seattle, April 26th) -- and the Albuquerque, N.M.-based brothers Johnson (Keith and Kevin) will likely contest the Sacramento Toyota AMA Arenacross Series round.
Either way, Smith's got an uphill battle on his hands. He knows that and is ready to buckle down and chase after all the points he can get leading up to Green Bay.
Arenacross.com: Kelly, talk about your weekend in Pikeville.
Kelly Smith: "It was bad! Things started off well when Brock and I were five seconds faster than Chad's heat race, but it turned for the worse when, in the main, Corey Green ran me off the track before the catapult. I lost several positions and could only catch up to fourth. Then for Saturday's heat we were faster again, and during the holeshot in the main, Chad, Brock and I were coming into the first turn together, and Brock ran into Chad, but went down and took me with him. It bent my shifter, so I wasn't able to shift. I caught up to about 9th and with a few laps to go, my bike went into neutral because of the bent shifter, and it caused me to crash again."
Arenacross.com: Obviously, the results didn't turn out the way you'd have liked. What can you pull out of the weekend that's positive?
Kelly Smith: "I'm alive and healthy." (laughter)
Arenacross.com: Thirty three points separate you and Chad Johnson. Talk about your strategy this weekend. Greensboro or Sacramento and why?
Kelly Smith: "We're going to Sacramento for the TV coverage. Att this point, there's no real strategy except to win races and pray for a miracle!"
Arenacross.com: Anything can happen in the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series. That said, with three races left, talk about your chances of being able to challenge for the title come Green Bay (March 15).
Kelly Smith: "There are five main events, so it's more like having five rounds... and yeah, anything can happen. Chad failed to qualify in Reno once, and it can happen again."
Arenacross.com: Overall, sum up your first year racing the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series with the Monster/Babbitt's/Kawasaki team.
Kelly Smith: "Other than the disappointment last weekend, overall, it's been a good year as my first year of Arenacross. I'm glad to be a title contender on my first attempt."