Alton, Va. (Aug. 5) ? When AMA Pro Racing puts on a season finale, they don't mess around. At this weekend's VIR Lightning Nationals at VIRginia International Raceway near Danville, Va., featuring the Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship ...
Alton, Va. (Aug. 5) ? When AMA Pro Racing puts on a season finale, they don't mess around. At this weekend's VIR Lightning Nationals at VIRginia International Raceway near Danville, Va., featuring the Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited, four of AMA Pro Racing's five professional road racing championships will be decided on VIR's beautiful and challenging 2.25-mile North Course.
Of course the headline attraction is the Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship, in which Honda's Nicky Hayden leads Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom by 35 points, 450-415. With the Superbike finale being a double-header, and 37 maximum points available from each of the two final races, fans can expect a barn-burner between two factory-backed riders who are destined for international superstardom.
Hayden has won eight of the 14 races contested thus far this season, and would like to add at least one more at VIR. If he has a perfect weekend, Hayden could tie the all-time record of 10 wins in a single season set by Fred Merkel in 1984.
"Eight is great, but nine would be fine!" smiled the 21-year-old Owensboro, Ky., native.
For his part, 26-year-old Californian Bostrom knows exactly what he has to do.
"I want to win both races," he said. "That's my goal, and to be fast and set the pace right away. We tested really well there recently, and I think it'll be a good weekend for Kawasaki. I just hope that the weather won't be too hot, and that we can go out and have a lot of fun."
The closest battle among the five pro series is the one in the Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series, where three riders are within five points of each other. Graves Yamaha's Damon Buckmaster leads with 246 points, closely followed by Honda's Jake Zemke (244) and Attack Suzuki's Jason Pridmore (241). Hanging on to long-shot chance is Honda Mike Hale, with 210.
Local fans will have someone to cheer for in the Genuine Suzuki Accessories SuperStock Series, where Arclight Suzuki's Lee Acree of nearby Jamestown, N.C., has a 26-point deficit to Corona Suzuki's Jimmy Moore, the defending series champ who leads 258-232. Kawasaki's Tommy Hayden, older brother of Nicky, has an outside shot at 222.
In the MBNA 250 Grand Prix Series, Team Stargel Aprilia's Charles Sorenson is looking reasonably safe with 267 points, sitting 31 points ahead of Team Oliver Yamaha's Perry Melneciuc (236), with Honda-mounted Team America GP Racing's Jason DiSalvo third at 233.
The only title of the five to have been clinched is the Pro Honda Oils U.S. SuperSport Championship, which was claimed by Team Blimpie Yoshimura Suzuki's Aaron Yates at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course two weeks ago. As it turned out, Yates injured his left arm in a crash in the second of two Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike races at Mid-Ohio, and is questionable for VIR, so his timing in the SuperSport championship was perfect. He still lies fourth in the Superbike points (316), sandwiched between Hayden's Honda teammate Miguel Duhamel (346) and Bleu Bayou Ducati's Pascal Picotte (304), so there's plenty to race for if his injuries will allow.
The action gets underway on Friday, Aug. 9, with practice for all five series and qualifying for the Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Series starting at 2:40 p.m. and Genuine Suzuki Accessories SuperStock Series at 4:20 p.m. Saturday opens with more practice, followed by a second round of qualifying for the Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Series (9:50 a.m.), qualifying for the Pro Honda Oils U.S. SuperSport Championship (11:00 a.m.), Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike practice (12:40 p.m.), Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series qualifying (1:10 p.m.), the first of two Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Series races (26 laps, 2:00 p.m.), MBNA 250 Grand Prix Series qualifying and the and Genuine Suzuki Accessories SuperStock Series race (16 laps). Final practices will be Sunday morning, followed by the final races of the 2002 season for the Pro Honda Oils U.S. SuperSport Championship (16 laps), MBNA 250 Grand Prix Series (16 laps), Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series (16 laps) and the Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Series (26 laps), with the first race taking the green flag at 12:00 noon.
Once all the racing is over on Sunday, perhaps the most highly anticipated competition of the weekend will take place, as most of the top riders in all five series will strut their stuff in both riding leathers and swimwear to determine the winner of the inaugural Pit Daddy beauty pageant. With thousands of dollars' worth of prizes to be raffled off during the evening (proceeds benefiting the Clayton Foundation to help injured riders) and some of the biggest egos in all of professional American motorcycle road racing on the line, it will be a night to remember. More information will be available at the Cycle News booth at the track.
Three-day advance Super Tickets priced at $50 and single-day advance tickets for Saturday ($30) and Sunday ($35) will be available through various ticket outlets. Check VIR's website, www.virclub.com, for ticket outlets. At the gate, three-day Super Tickets will be priced at $55 and one-day tickets for Friday ($10), Saturday ($35) and Sunday ($40) will also be available. VIR is a family-friendly facility, where children 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Spectator camping is available.
VIRginia International Raceway is a multi-purpose road racing facility, located on the Dan River 12 miles east of Danville, Va., and just north of historic Milton, N.C. In addition to its 3.27-mile natural-terrain road racing circuit (which is also designed to be operated as two autonomous, full-service courses), VIR is the cornerstone of VIR Club, America's first motorsports country club, and the VIR Raceplex Industrial Park.
VIR made history from 1957 to 1974 and is doing so again. The renovated original circuit has 17 challenging turns and 130 feet of elevation change. In addition to spectator events, the track is also available to rent for testing, driving schools and club days. Future plans for VIR include resort lodging and the VIR Euro Rally School and Corporate Motorsport Experience, which will feature three rally stages plus a kart track, motocross track, ATV and SUV training grounds and an advanced safari course.
For more information, contact VIR at 888-RACE099 or visit the track's website at www.virclub.com.