AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited: VIRginia International Raceway; Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals presented by Dunlop & Rockstar PICKERINGTON, Ohio - The 2008 AMA Superbike Championship is headed down the homestretch at...
AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited: VIRginia International Raceway; Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals presented by Dunlop & Rockstar
PICKERINGTON, Ohio - The 2008 AMA Superbike Championship is headed down the homestretch at VIRginia International Raceway on Aug. 15-17 for a pair of the season's final five Superbike-class contests.
VIRginia International Raceway is located just north of the North Carolina border in Alton, Va., which is 12 miles east of Danville, Va.
The popular venue, which boasts a resort-type atmosphere, hosts this week's Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals, presented by Dunlop & Rockstar. This event is a direct descendent of the original Big Kahuna weekends at Road Atlanta that kicked off the now prevalent doubleheader format trend in AMA Superbike racing.
AMA SUPERBIKE CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY PARTS UNLIMITED
Rockstar Makita Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin hit upon some historic numbers for himself and his team at Mid-Ohio, claiming wins #69 and 70 of his incredible AMA Superbike career, while extending Suzuki's unbeaten streak in the class to 40 on Saturday and pushing it to 41 on Sunday.
The Australian is positioned to continue to make history as the season winds down.
Mladin and teammate Ben Spies' rivalry has been defined by alternating runs of success and 2008 has proven to be no different. Mladin opened the year with three straight wins, which the Texan responded to by claiming an all-time AMA Superbike record with seven consecutive wins of his own.
However, a feat that had never previously been accomplished in the long history of AMA Superbike racing might very well have come under threat as soon as Spies' historic streak was snapped.
Mladin currently boasts four straight wins and the series is now headed to what are arguably the six-time champ's very best circuits. He was won six races in a row at VIR (seven in total) and four in a row at Road Atlanta (and eight of the last nine).
Additionally, VIR and Road Atlanta are the only circuits on the schedule at which Ben Spies has yet to claim an AMA Superbike win.
Pole Points in Play
Despite Mladin's second win streak of the season, Spies holds a healthy 27-point advantage in the points race (476-449). But if Mladin finishes out the season in perfect fashion, and Spies finishes second in the final seven races, Mladin will eclipse his rival by a single point.
Considering the experienced ace's past record at VIR and Road Atlanta, as well as his performance earlier this season at Laguna Seca, such a late-season flourish is not inconceivable. However, the biggest obstacle may just be those three pole-position points still up for grabs.
Spies has taken the last six poles, including the last race at Mid-Ohio, where he came into the event in considerable discomfort due to his recent appendix surgery. Last season, Spies won the title by a single point, thanks in large part to his nine (of a possible eleven) pole points.
Rise of the Spoiler
Mladin and Spies cannot just assume they'll be alone at the front anymore, however. Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jamie Hacking scored two more podium finishes at Mid-Ohio, upping his hot streak to eight podium appearances in the most recent nine races.
Even more impressive is the fact that he demonstrated the potential to challenge the Suzukis, not just run behind them in third. The British-born star lead a practice session in Ohio and pushed Mladin from second place during the first leg of Saturday's Superbike final.
While Mladin and Spies still took a pair of 1-2s, Hacking is giving the Suzukis the biggest worry they've faced at any point during their amazing 41-race run.
AMA PRO HONDA OILS SUPERSPORT CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY SHOEI
Bostrom , Bostrom and More Bostrom
Graves Motorsports Yamaha's Ben Bostrom continues to roll, picking up his fifth pole and sixth win of the season last time out at Mid-Ohio.
While the Californian has yet to win at VIR, he has looked nearly unstoppable this season aboard his R6 and the field could be facing yet another uphill battle in their attempt to slow the former AMA Superbike champion and World Superbike star in Virginia.
Bostrom and his closest competitor, Erion Honda Racing's Jake Zemke, have shared a good-natured rivalry throughout the season featuring plenty of playful press conferences by the charismatic duo.
However, as the championship race winds down their rivalry might just take on a more serious tone, especially in the wake of Erion Honda's unsuccessful protest of Bostrom's win in Ohio.
Bostrom leads the title race over Zemke 267-245.
Battle for Third
Zemke's Erion Honda Racing teammate, Josh Hayes, currently holds a slim four-point advantage over Team M4 EMGO Suzuki's Blake Young (207-203) in the fight for third place in the Supersport championship.
Both men may have to keep an eye on Young's teammate, Martin Cardenas, however. While the former 250GP star isn't in points contention, he has proven a force to be reckoned with since returning to form following an early-season injury, as evidenced by his Mid-Ohio runner-up result.
AMA FORMULA XTREME SERIES
Hayes Gets His First of the Year
At Mid-Ohio, two-time defending FX champ Josh Hayes finally got his first win of the season. Hayes will now look to add to his '08 trophy collection in a hurry, as he won the Formula Xtreme and Supersport classes at VIR in 2007.
Zemke Still in Control
Despite narrowly losing out to his teammate at Mid-Ohio, Zemke is still firmly in control atop the points order. He boasts more than a full race's advantage with just three contests remaining, leading second-ranked Attack Kawasaki rider Steve Rapp 235-196.
Martin Cardenas finished third at Mid-Ohio in the Formula Xtreme race as the Colombian came away from the weekend with a pair of top-three results.
Don't Forget About Pegram
LeoVince Foremost Insurance Ducati's Larry Pegram gave his rivals fits at the front of the Mid-Ohio race aboard his extremely quick 848cc Ducati. Last season at VIR, Pegram led early and pressured eventual winner Hayes for much of the contest before accepting second position.
AMA SUPERSTOCK SERIES PRESENTED BY DYNOJET
Finally Back on Top
Jordan Suzuki's Aaron Yates continued his amazing season-long top-two streak at Mid-Ohio. The Georgian finally climbed back atop the podium for his third win of the season after claiming victory in this year's first two races.
Yates now has more wins than any other rider in the class this year, followed by Corona Honda's Jake Holden, who has two, and his Jordan Suzuki teammate Geoff May and Team M4 EMGO Suzuki's Blake Young, who both picked up their first career wins earlier this season.
Yates now has a fairly commanding position in the title race, leading Holden 241-210 with just three races remaining.
Yates won the 2005 Superstock race at VIR. He's the only contender in the field to have won in the class at this circuit.
Yates' win at Mid-Ohio did not come easily, however, as he was pushed to the checkered flag by Young. The Wisconsin native was coming off his dramatic maiden victory at the prior race, passing Yates as the two raced up the hill at Road America to the stripe.
Young came close to immediately adding a second win to his resume in Ohio, passing the Georgian late in the race before giving way to his more experienced rival in the end.
COVERAGE ON SPEED
The weekend's AMA Superbike action will air on SPEED. The AMA Superbike doubleheader and the Supersport contest will be shown in a three-hour block on Sunday, Aug. 17, with Saturday's AMA Superbike race kicking the action off at 4:00pm Eastern, followed by the Supersport race at 5:00pm and Sunday's Superbike final at 6:00pm.
The Formula Xtreme and Superstock races will air on SPEED on Tuesday, Aug. 19, at 12:00pm Eastern.
Tickets for the Suzuki Big Kuhuna Nationals at VIRginia International Raceway can be obtain online at https://www.moto1usa.com/tickets.php or by calling 434.822.7700.