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Rookie of the Year Johnson looking for Tunica repeat. PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- 2002 Ricky Graham AMA U.S. Flat Track Rookie of the Year Jake Johnson earned his very first AMA Grand National victory last year in the inaugural Tunica (Miss.) Short ...

Rookie of the Year Johnson looking for Tunica repeat.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- 2002 Ricky Graham AMA U.S. Flat Track Rookie of the Year Jake Johnson earned his very first AMA Grand National victory last year in the inaugural Tunica (Miss.) Short Track event. Johnson returns to Tunica Arena & Exposition Center on Saturday, March 29, with the goal of picking up his second-career Grand National victory. Johnson, 18, of Deptford, N.J., was one of the big surprises of last year's AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship. The young rookie scored seven top-five finishes in the series, including his Tunica victory, and ended the 2002 season ranked seventh. Johnson returns to Tunica this year riding for Moroney's Harley-Davidson on a Honda-backed CR450 short-track bike. He comes into round two of the championships ranked fourth after a solid ride at the Daytona Short Track season opener.

"It's going to be a lot tougher for me this year," Johnson said. "I grew up racing a lot of little indoor bullring tracks so I had an advantage. But now everyone has raced the track and will have a better idea on how to set up their bikes. Like all short tracks, qualifying is really important and it doesn't hurt to have a little luck."

Leading the series is defending champion Chris Carr. Carr, 35, from Fleetwood, Pa., is seeking his fifth AMA Grand National Championship and got off to a great start by winning the series opener in Daytona Beach, Fla. Carr, who rides with sponsorship from Quality Checked Certified Pre-Owned Ford, was fifth at Tunica last year and will be looking to improve on that mark.

Johnny Murphree is perhaps the rider in the best position to come out of Tunica on top of the point standings. Murphree led most of the season opener at Daytona before being passed late by Carr. Add to that the fact that Murphree was a very close runner-up to Johnson at Tunica last year and you begin to see how Murphree just may be the rider to watch.

The 2003 AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship is shaping up to be one of the best in years. A number of motorcycle manufacturers have jumped into the series. In addition to the long established Harley-Davidson squad, teams backed by Honda, KTM, Suzuki, Yamaha, and VOR are participating. giving the series the ingredients to make for one of the most hotly contested championships in the five decades of AMA Grand National racing.

The Tunica Short Track National is presented by the IMDA, Quality Certified Pre-Owned Ford, FedEx, Memphis Shades and Bumpus Harley Davidson. Skybox tickets are available at $45 in advance, $50 race week; reserved and bleacher seats are available at only $20 in advance, $25 race week. Gates open at 3 p.m., with races starting at 7 p.m.

Let IMDA take care of all your arrangements by purchasing a VIP package for Tunica. To make your weekend "Grand" IMDA will be offering a VIP package. The package will include two-night hotel accommodations at The Grand Casino, 2 skybox seats, 2 T-shirts, 2 pit passes, and 2 race programs for only $260.

Leave the driving up to someone else. Gutteridge Harley Davidson will be sponsoring a bus trip from Danville, Illinois leaving on Friday, March 28 and returning on Sunday, March 30.

For tickets and information call the IMDA office at (217) 753-8866 or E-mail at info@illinoismda.com.

For immediate post-race results, points, in-depth series and rider information, regular columnists and much more, log onto www.1800FlatTrack.com, the official website of the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship.

<pre> Schedule of Events Tunica Arena, Tunica, Mississippi Saturday, March 29, 2003

3:00 p.m.                        -     Practice
4:15 p.m.                        -     Qualifying heats
7:00 p.m.                        -     Opening Ceremonies
7:30 p.m. -  7:40 p.m.           -     1st Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat
7:40 p.m. -  7:50 p.m.           -     2nd Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat
7:50 p.m. -  8:00 p.m.           -     3rd Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat
8:00 p.m. -  8:10 p.m.           -     4th Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat
8:10 p.m. -- 8:20 p.m.           -     5th Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat
8:20 p.m. -  8:30 p.m.           -     6th Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat
8:30 p.m. -  8:40 p.m.           -     1st Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi
8:40 p.m. -  8:50 p.m.           -     2nd Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi
8:50 p.m. -  9:00 p.m.           -     3rd Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi
9:00 p.m. -  9:10 p.m.           -     4th Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi
9:25 p.m. -  9:40 p.m.           -     AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE GRAND NATIONAL FINAL
9:45 p.m.                        -     Victory Circle for Grand National

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Series AMA
Drivers Chris Carr