PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 27, 2003) --The only problem young Suzuki ace Ben Spies sees in his path to the 2003 AMA Lockhart Phillips Formula Xtreme Series title is overconfidence. The 19-year-old Texan blames overconfidence for a mid-season hiccup...
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 27, 2003) --The only problem young Suzuki ace Ben Spies sees in his path to the 2003 AMA Lockhart Phillips Formula Xtreme Series title is overconfidence. The 19-year-old Texan blames overconfidence for a mid-season hiccup that saw him go four races without a victory after winning the opening two rounds of the series. Spies feels he learned from being a bit too smug after dominating early on and now thinks he is ready to put his head down and focus on keeping his current winning streak intact as the series moves to round 10 of 11 at Virginia International Raceway, part of the Aug. 29-31 Suzuki Lightning Nationals in Alton, Va.
Spies started the season spectacularly by dominating rounds one and two of the Formula Xtreme Series on his Yoshimura Suzuki. He believes after those surprisingly easy wins he became a bit complacent. "I got a little too confident and sort of rested on my laurels while the rest of the riders dug in and found some extra speed," Spies explains. "All of a sudden the other riders and teams improved while I stood still and lost my early momentum. At Laguna Seca I got back to trying to improve my riding and it paid off. I won there and at Mid-Ohio and took back the series lead. Now my goal is to keep trying to improve and stay ahead of the rest of the guys going into the final two rounds."
Spies holds a 21-point lead over Graves Yamaha's Damon Buckmaster, a perennial contender for the Formula Xtreme title.
Despite his fairly strong lead in the series Spies has a long way to go to secure his first AMA Championship. The top six riders in the series all have at least a mathematical shot at winning the Formula Xtreme No. 1 plate. Buckmaster is especially hungry after having the Formula Xtreme Championship slip from his grasp each of the last two years. Look for the 30-year-old Australian racing veteran to come out firing on all cylinders at VIR in a last-ditch effort to finally secure the title he feels should have been his by now.
Corona Extra Suzuki's Adam Fergusson is the defending Formula Xtreme winner at VIR. Fergusson, who is ranked fifth in the standings, is anxious to get a victory this season. He's twice finished runner-up so far and favors VIR's challenging layout.
Other riders still in the title chase include Erion Honda's Jake Zemke, Attack Suzuki's Josh Hayes and Steve Rapp of the Valvoline EMGO Suzuki squad. Zemke lost last year's Formula Xtreme title on a tiebreaker to Jason Pridmore. He's hoping his trademark consistency will put him into a position to have another shot this year. Hayes is experiencing a solid comeback season after suffering an injury-plagued 2002. He may be more focused on winning the Genuine Suzuki Accessories Superstock title, a series he leads coming into this weekend's event, rather than risking too much in Formula Xtreme. Rapp has nothing to lose by going for the win at VIR. Ranked sixth and recently re-signed by Valvoline Suzuki, Rapp has an outside shot at best of winning the title, so he can afford to let it all hang out in the closing rounds.
Genuine Suzuki Accessories Superstock
Josh Hayes just might be the comeback story of the year in AMA Pro Racing. The rider from Gulfport, Miss., was perpetually riding with injury during much of his pro racing career. He lost his ride with Valvoline Suzuki at the end of 2002 and looked to be on the verge of dropping out of the sport. Attack Suzuki signed him on the chance that he would recover from his numerous injuries and finally fulfill the promise he showed early in his career. The move turned out to be a brilliant one. Hayes started the Superstock season slowly but began gaining momentum mid-season and now appears to be a freight train that's going to be tough to stop. Hayes has finished on the podium in five of the last six rounds and is riding a two-race winning streak coming into VIR.
Five riders are prospective champs in Superstock. Hayes leads a hot series battle that features Czech immigrant Vincent Haskovec only 10 points down in the standings on his Hooters Suzuki. Tommy Hayden is still very much in the hunt and is trying to make Kawasaki the first bike smaller than a 750 to win the Superstock title. Hayden is the defending VIR Superstock winner. Corona Extra Suzuki's Adam Fergusson is ranked fourth in the series and is a former Formula Xtreme winner at VIR. And finally there's young Tony Meiring, teammate to Tommy Hayden on the factory Kawasaki. Meiring won a Superstock race this year on the ultra twisty Pikes Peak circuit. He's hoping to bag another win in Virginia.
One other rider to watch for in the Superstock race is VIR ace Lee Acree. The North Carolinian started the season with a podium finish in the Daytona Superstock race, but split with the Arclight Suzuki team. Acree formed his own team and if he enters at VIR will be among the favorites to win.
MBNA 250 Grand Prix
Rich Oliver wrapped up the MBNA 250 Grand Prix Series at Mid-Ohio to earn his fifth title. Oliver is undefeated in nine rounds this season and now turns his attention to completing a perfect season. The all-time wins leader in the history of the AMA 250 GP is looking to win his second VIR 250 race on his Team Oliver/Yamaha Mystery Schools-backed Yamaha. Last year's VIR winner and 2002 champ Chuck Sorensen will challenge Oliver on a Stargel Aprilia as will Irishman Simon Turner on a Priority Racing Honda.
The VIR Formula Xtreme race, along with highlights from the Superstock and 250GP races, will be taped and shown on Speed Channel on Sept. 9, in primetime at 10 p.m. Eastern. For additional information on the Suzuki Lightning Nationals contact VIR at (434) 822-7700 or visit www.virclub.com.
For immediate post-race results, points, live transponder scoring, in-depth series and rider information, regular columnists and much more, log onto www.USSuperbike.com, the official website of the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship.