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Sears Point: Supersport preview

Hayden heads Pro Honda Oils Supersport Championship Presented by Shoei for the first time Oldest of the racing Hayden brothers likes his chances at Infineon Raceway PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 23, 2004) -- Tommy Hayden is in his ninth year of...

Hayden heads Pro Honda Oils Supersport Championship Presented by Shoei for the first time
Oldest of the racing Hayden brothers likes his chances at Infineon Raceway

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 23, 2004) -- Tommy Hayden is in his ninth year of racing in the Pro Honda Oils Supersport Championship presented by Shoei. The oldest of the famous trio of Hayden brothers, Tommy has finished in the top five in the AMA Supersport Championship a total of five times and was runner-up twice. Hayden is ranked sixth on the all-time AMA Supersport wins list and he has the distinction of winning an AMA Supersport race by one of the largest margins in the history of the series when he smoked the rest of the field by over 16 seconds in the rain at Laguna Seca in 1999. In spite of his impressive accomplishments, the one thing Hayden has never done is lead the series point standings -- until now. Hayden finds himself atop the championship as it moves to round three on April 30-May 2, as part of the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Hayden is coming off a victory on his Kawasaki ZX-6RR at California Speedway earlier this month. That win moved him past Daytona winner Jason DiSalvo into the championship lead. His younger brother Roger Lee Hayden is third in the series, also riding a Kawasaki. While the elder Hayden is happy with his position at this point in the year, he's not thinking too far ahead.

"Yeah, it's great to be on top of the series, but it's not like I'm going to celebrate yet," Hayden said. "It's really early and there's a lot of racing to be done. I am happy because it seems in the past I've always started the year slow in Supersport and have had to charge back to get into the championship race. This year I've gotten off to a good start so I need to keep my momentum going."

Hayden tested a couple of times at Infineon and feels he has as much of an opportunity as anyone to win.

"I comfortable with the bike," Hayden added. "The handling is great and we now have the power we didn't have last year. Now I can just concentrate on riding the bike and not worry about anything else. My ZX-6RR is dialed in and it seems to work well on any type of track so I like my chances at Sears (Infineon Raceway)."

The one thing working against Hayden at Infineon is history. In the years he's raced Supersport there Hayden has never finished better than fifth, plus a Kawasaki rider has not won at the track in Supersport since 1996 when Thomas Stevens rode a Kawasaki to victory. Then again, history was against Jamie Hacking last year. He'd suffered a miserable past at Infineon only to finally break through and earn a victory last year. He went on to win the AMA Supersport title.

Hacking will be one of the favorites again this year. The No. 1 Yamaha rider comes into this weekend tied for fourth in the standings, but is only 12 points out of first. It's a tight race overall in Supersport with the top seven riders separated by only 20 points.

Local hero Steve Rapp of Valvoline EMGO Suzuki leads Suzuki in the points. Rapp, an Oakland native, is seventh in the series after scoring a pair of top-10 finishes in the first two rounds. Yoshimura Suzuki's Ben Spies also figures to make a big leap from his current 11th-place in the point standings this week. After blowing out a shock and not scoring a single point at Daytona, Spies charged back to finish second at California Speedway. Look for the talented Texan to be a serious contender.

Privateer Michael Barnes is experiencing resurgence this year. The Floridian veteran has raced AMA Supersport since its inception and finds himself in a solid sixth in the standings. Those who like to root for the underdog need to look no further than Barnes to find a favorite.

Call 800-870-RACE, or visit www.infineonraceway.com or www.ticketmaster.com for additional information on the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown. The Infineon Supersport race will shown live at 4 p.m. Eastern on SPEED Channel on Sunday, May 2.

-ama-

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Series AMA
Drivers Steve Rapp , Tommy Hayden , Jamie Hacking , Roger Lee Hayden , Ben Spies , Michael Barnes