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VIR: Round nine doubleheader preview

SPIES COULD BREAK SINGLE-SEASON WIN MARK AT VIR PICKERINGTON, Ohio (August 14, 2006) -- It took 11 years for Fred Merkel's record of 10 wins in a single AMA Superbike season to fall. Now, less than 12 months after Mat Mladin finally broke the...

SPIES COULD BREAK SINGLE-SEASON WIN MARK AT VIR

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (August 14, 2006) -- It took 11 years for Fred Merkel's record of 10 wins in a single AMA Superbike season to fall. Now, less than 12 months after Mat Mladin finally broke the long-standing record with his 11-win season, Yoshimura Suzuki's Ben Spies comes to Virginia International Raceway's Big Kahuna Nationals presented by Parts Unlimited in Alton, Va., on August 18-20, with the opportunity to match or better the historic mark.

Spies, 22, of Longview, Texas, leads the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited with a comfortable 45-point margin over defending champ and teammate Mladin. With five rounds remaining in the 2006 season, including the Suzuki Big Kahuna doubleheader, it appears likely that Spies will break the single season win record, but VIR fans will have the first opportunity to watch history in the making.

Spies has followed AMA Superbike racing for most of his life. Legend has it that at just nine-years-old he offered two-time World Superbike champ and fellow Texan Doug Polen racing advice. So he understands the significance of breaking the all-time single-season record.

"That would be a huge accomplishment," Spies said. "Right now, the championship is the biggest thing in my mind. It has been all year long. Even in the position we're in, what do you do, because you don't have to be on your best day from here on out. But if the bike's good I won't do anything different than what you've been doing all year. The championship is the first thing that we've got to keep shooting for, and whatever comes after that's just a bonus."

Spies has been so dominant that even six-time AMA Superbike Champion and all-time wins leader Mat Mladin seems to be looking ahead to 2007, even with five races remaining in this year's championship.

"The championship is essentially almost out of reach," Mladin said with uncharacteristic resignation. "We need to start thinking about how we're going to bridge the gap for next year and that's what we're doing in these races-- I've been in the position where you're leading the championship with a few races to go -- and he's controlling it from the front. We're just sort of picking up the scraps like mangy dogs. At the moment there's nothing we can do but we're trying hard. Next year is another year and we're going to keep pushing this year and see if we can get in front of him."

With Mladin perhaps looking to 2007, third place Miguel Duhamel is encouraged by the progress he's making this summer on his factory Honda CBR1000RR. The 1995 AMA Superbike champ earned consecutive podium finishes at the most recent event at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, and is looking forward to Virginia.

"I've had a lot of good success there. I'm thinking of 2004," said Duhamel, who won both Superbike races as well as Formula Xtreme at VIR that year. "I think our bike is approaching the kind of setup that we've been looking for for a little while now. Obviously, this doesn't hurt the old confidence, and it's going to doubly boost my chances to go harder. I think the team will be motivated, and I'm motivated. So yeah, I'm looking forward to it. I'm really, really excited about the rest of this season. Hopefully we can get a little closer to Ben and have a shot at winning it."

Duhamel will try to match or better Mladin's record of three Superbike wins at VIR. The scenic 2.25-mile circuit has hosted AMA Superbike races since 2001. Mladin and Duhamel are the only former VIR winners in the field.

Britain's Neil Hodgson and his Parts Unlimited Ducati teammate Ben Bostrom are still hoping to give the Italian maker its first victory this season. At times the two have been very competitive with Hodgson scoring a podium finish at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Bostrom leading laps at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah. Yet Ducati remains winless since Hodgson's excellent ride in the rain at Road America in June of 2005. A win at VIR would give the team a big boost.

Kawasaki has also shown promise in its first season back in Superbike since 2002. Eric Bostrom put a Kawasaki atop the winners' podium three years ago. Tommy and Roger Lee Hayden will both try to win their first AMA Superbike race, and at the same time giving Kawasaki a victory in its return to the premier road racing championship in America.

Jason Pridmore heads up an impressive list of riders from independent teams in the series. Pridmore rides for the Jordan Suzuki squad and has the simple goal at VIR of running with, and maybe ahead of, a few of the factory teams.

The Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals will be televised on SPEED. Saturday's race is live at 4:00 p.m. eastern, while Sunday's race will be shown on a same day tape-delayed basis starting at 6:00 p.m. eastern.

For additional information call 434.822.7700 or visit the website www.virclub.com.

WHAT: The Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals presented by Parts Unlimited, rounds 15 and 16 of the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited.

WHERE: VIR is located in Alton, Va., about 12 miles east of Danville, and about an hour drive from Greensboro or Raleigh on the North Carolina state line.

WHEN: August 18-20, 2006.

COURSE: Virginia International Raceway's 2.25-mile, 17-turn North Course.

SCHEDULE: Friday, Aug. 18 -- Practice begins 8:30 a.m., qualifying at 2:00 p.m.; Saturday, Aug. 19 -- Practice begin at 8:30 a.m., Superbike race one at 4:00 p.m., Formula Xtreme final at 5:15 p.m.; Sunday, Aug. 20 - Practice begins at 9:00 a.m., Superstock final at 11:50 a.m., Supersport final at 2:00 p.m., Superbike race two at 3:15 p.m.

TICKETS: Call 866-443-8849 Toll Free or on the web at www.M1Event.com.

-credit: ama

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About this article
Series AMA
Drivers Miguel Duhamel , Eric Bostrom , Neil Hodgson , Roger Lee Hayden , Ben Spies , Jason Pridmore