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Sears Point: Round four preview

MLADIN AND SPIES BRING THEIR BATTLE TO INFINEON RACEWAY PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 12, 2006) -- This year is Mat Mladin's 10th anniversary of racing AMA Superbike. Since the Australian came on the scene in 1996 he has changed the landscape of ...

MLADIN AND SPIES BRING THEIR BATTLE TO INFINEON RACEWAY

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 12, 2006) -- This year is Mat Mladin's 10th anniversary of racing AMA Superbike. Since the Australian came on the scene in 1996 he has changed the landscape of Superbike racing in America. The six-time champ owns nearly every significant record in the series and shows no sign of slowing down. He also owns more wins at Infineon Raceway than any other rider. All things considered, you might expect Mladin to be the favorite coming into Infineon Raceway's Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown Weekend doubleheader on May 19-21. However, this year the all-time winningest rider in AMA Superbike history is facing perhaps the toughest challenge of his career in the form of Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Ben Spies.

As the championship rolls into the picturesque hills of Sonoma, Calif., Spies, 21 of Longview Texas, is riding a four-race winning streak and holds a 19-point lead in the standings. Spies swept the last two doubleheader rounds at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., and in Fontana, Calif., a couple of weeks ago. If he manages to earn another sweep at Infineon the whispers of Spies taking over as the top rider in the series from Mladin will grow louder.

For his part Spies has been very respectful of Mladin during his recent run of victories.

"I really have to thank the Yoshimura Suzuki crew for giving me another Suzuki GSX-R1000 to win on," said Spies from the podium at Fontana. "I don't know if the rest of the races will be quite this easy, but we've got to keep on it because Mat is a six-time champion and he's going to come back even harder. So we'll go home, do some homework and see what we can come up with for Infineon."

Mladin, who has won five of the last six AMA Superbike races at Infineon, looks at the sudden ascension of his young teammate as a refreshing challenge.

"I'm really cherishing the competition," Mladin said. "It's been a long time since I've been challenged, especially at the end of a race like that. It's what makes things go round. It's what's going to help me step-up and improve my game. When things happen a little too easy, like in 2005, when we won fairly comfortably each weekend, you could say that you get a little bit slack. I would certainly be one to say that it started to happen too easy and I needed a kick in the pants, and I've had a kick in the pants and it's time to get things moving."

Infineon hosts rounds six and seven of the 19-race AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited, but already it's starting to appear that the championship race is between Spies and Mladin. Miguel Duhamel hopes to make it a three-way run. The veteran Honda rider is third in the standings, but a distant 23-points back from Mladin. The five-time Infineon winner sees major improvements in his Honda this season and is looking to earn his fist victory of the season in Sonoma.

"Infineon has been a good track for me over the years," said Duhamel, the second leading AMA Superbike winner in series history. "I feel like our team is making good progress and we expect to run up front every weekend. I think if things go our way we have a shot at getting another win up there."

Duhamel's Honda teammate, Jake Zemke, is one of the hottest riders in the series coming into Infineon. The affable rider from Paso Robles, Calif., scored two straight podium finishes in Fontana and would love nothing better than to score his first Superbike win of the season. He knows what it takes to win at Infineon. He scored a Formula Xtreme victory at the circuit last May.

Joining Mladin and Duhamel as the only other past Infineon Superbike winner in the field is Yoshimura Suzuki's Aaron Yates. Yates' aggressive riding style works well at the challenging and technical 2.32-mile road course. He scored the win in the Superstock race there last year.

Brit Neil Hodgson has been steady on the Parts Unlimited Ducati so far and comes to this race ranked fourth in the standings. Hodgson will try to give Ducati its first victory at the circuit since local hero Paul Ritter won on one of the eye-catching Italian racers in 1978. Northern Californian native Ben Bostrom is the other Ducati rider in the field. Bostrom is hoping to spark his 2006 season with a strong weekend at Infineon. So far this year the former AMA Superbike champ has finished no better than sixth.

Tommy Hayden is doing Kawasaki proud in its return to fielding a factory Superbike effort. Hayden, ranked sixth, has scored two top-five finishes in his first ride on the superbikes in five years. He had a podium finish nearly in the bag last month at Barber before coming together with Yates on the last lap. Kawasaki last won an AMA Superbike race at Infineon in 1993.

Michael Jordan Suzuki's Jason Pridmore is the leading factory-support rider in the series. Pridmore, son of three-time AMA Superbike champ Reg Pridmore, is ranked ninth. Larry Pegram rounds out the top ten in the series. His Pegram Racing/Leo Vince Honda CBR1000RR is arguably one of best looking bikes in the field featuring a throwback paint scheme used by the Honda factory in the mid-1980s.

Infineon Raceway has proven its continued commitment to improving riders' safety by adding 102 pieces of additional soft barrier. Raceway officials implemented additional safety measures after a meeting with top riders Mat Mladin (Suzuki), Ben Spies (Suzuki), Jamie Hacking (Yamaha) and Jake Zemke (Honda) during a test session in March.

Tickets for the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown presented Supercuts can be purchased by calling 1.800.870.RACE or visiting www.infineonraceway.com. Camping is available and children under 12 are free.

-ama

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Series AMA
Drivers Larry Pegram , Tommy Hayden , Jamie Hacking , Aaron Yates , Neil Hodgson , Jake Zemke , Ben Spies , Jason Pridmore , Ben Bostrom