PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 15, 2003) -- Three-time AMA Superbike Champion Mathew Mladin will try to become the first four-time champ in series history this weekend, Sept. 19-21, at the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship presented by Parts...
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 15, 2003) -- Three-time AMA Superbike Champion Mathew Mladin will try to become the first four-time champ in series history this weekend, Sept. 19-21, at the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited doubleheader at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala.
Mladin, 31, is hoping to accomplish a goal that AMA racing legends Reg Pridmore, Fred Merkel and Doug Chandler were never able to fulfill. All three were three-time AMA Superbike champs and all three tried to win a fourth title, but came up short.
Mladin is almost a lock to win his fourth. Coming into this weekend's doubleheader Mladin has a commanding 37-point lead over Yoshimura Suzuki teammate Aaron Yates. Honda's Ben Bostrom, third in the championship point standings, is the only other rider with a mathematical chance of winning the title. Mladin needs just 38 points in the final two rounds to clinch the title. A win is worth 36 points. In addition a point is awarded for winning the pole and for leading the most laps in each race.
This weekend's event will mark the debut of AMA Superbike racing at the new Barber Motorsports Park. The 700-acre complex is a state-of-the-art facility and already considered one of the premier road courses in the country. This weekend will also feature the opening of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of rare, vintage and racing motorcycles in the world.
Mladin has the opportunity to rewrite a number of AMA Superbike records at Barber. In addition to possibly becoming the first four-time champion, the Aussie also can break the single season AMA Superbike wins record of 10, a record he currently shares with Fred Merkel. If Mladin manages to win both of the season-ending rounds at Barber he would tie Miguel Duhamel on the all-time AMA Superbike wins list. Duhamel currently leads the list with 26-career Superbike wins; Mladin has 24 coming into the Barber doubleheader. Mladin was the fastest Superbike rider in testing at Barber earlier this summer.
If Mladin has any superstition in him at all he might be suffering some sleepless nights in the week leading up to Barber. The previous three-time AMA Superbike champions all met with nothing but tough luck in their quest to become four-time champs. Pridmore won the first three AMA Superbike titles, but when trying to earn his fourth title in 1979 Pridmore sustained serious injuries and even though he might have been able to come back he was 40-years-old at the time and decided it was better to retire from racing. Merkel left the U.S. after winning his third AMA Superbike title in 1986. The Californian went on to win a pair of World Superbike Championships before returning to race the AMA series again in 1994. Merkel tried unsuccessfully for two years to win a fourth AMA Superbike title, like Pridmore he decided to hang up his leathers after a bad crash at the end of the 1995 season and retired to a ranch in New Zealand. The other three-time AMA Superbike champion Doug Chandler came the closest to winning a fourth title. After winning his third in 1997 he finished runner-up in the series to Ben Bostrom in 1998. Chandler continued trying to capture the elusive fourth title in the coming years, and even though he now seems to have turned his attention to AMA Supermoto racing, the 37-year-old veteran hasn't closed the book on trying to come back to Superbike racing.
While Mladin has been dominant this season with 10 wins, four other riders have earned victories this season. Miguel Duhamel, Eric Bostrom, Aaron Yates and Kurtis Roberts all have stood atop the podium this year. Roberts finally earned his first AMA Superbike win in his 34th-career race. Some believe now that Roberts has finally won a race the flood gates may open and he could be the rider to beat in the final two rounds at Barber.
Duhamel has plenty of incentive to win at Barber. The Canadian likes being the all-time AMA Superbike wins leader and he's likely to turn in a pair of very strong rides trying to protect that record from Mladin.
Duhamel's Honda teammate Bostrom also has a strong desire to win this weekend. If there is one curse in AMA Superbike racing it seems to be the curse of riders returning from World Superbike competition. The aforementioned Merkel, who at the time was the all-time AMA Superbike wins leader, never won another AMA Superbike race after he returned from World Superbike competition. The same can be said of Doug Polen and Scott Russell. Three of the most talented and respected riders in the history of Superbike racing were not able to string together a single victory between them after coming back from the World Superbike Series. Bostrom hopes to escape that curse and take his first home win since coming back from three seasons of World Superbike.
For additional information on this weekend's doubleheader contact Barber Motorsports Park at (205) 967-4745 or visit the website www.barbermotorsports.com. Both Superbike rounds at Barber will be taped and shown in primetime on Speed Channel on Tuesday night, Sept. 23, starting at 9 p.m. Eastern time.
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.