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Daytona: Round one preview

MLADIN OPENS TITLE DEFENSE AT DAYTONA The 30th Anniversary of the AMA Superbike Championship begins PICKERINGTON, Ohio (March 3, 2006) -- Mat Mladin comes to Daytona Beach, Fla., to open his title defense as the 2006 AMA Superbike ...

MLADIN OPENS TITLE DEFENSE AT DAYTONA
The 30th Anniversary of the AMA Superbike Championship begins

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (March 3, 2006) -- Mat Mladin comes to Daytona Beach, Fla., to open his title defense as the 2006 AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited kicks off on March 11. Mladin, the No. 1 Yoshimura Suzuki rider who turns 34 the day before the race, has the opportunity to win his seventh AMA Superbike title this season. This year also marks the 30th anniversary of the launch of the AMA Superbike Championship. Daytona International Speedway hosted the very first race of the series on March 5, 1976. Motorcycle Hall of Famer Steve McLaughlin won that race on a BMW.

Mladin feels confident that he and his team are ready to capture yet another AMA Superbike Championship in 2006.

"We've had successful pre-season testing," Mladin said. "Suzuki has given me a great motorcycle and I'm looking forward to the season. It's always important to get through Daytona with a good number of points. That's how I approach the race. If things come together and we have what it takes to go for the win, then that's a bonus."

Mladin heads up an impressive factory Suzuki lineup that includes up-and-coming Texan Ben Spies and hard-charging veteran Aaron Yates, from Georgia. Last year the factory Suzuki trio took three of the four top finishing spots at Daytona. This year the team would love nothing better than to sweep the podium.

Honda is placing more emphasis on the premier Superbike class this year. Like Mladin, Honda's veteran Miguel Duhamel is a proven winner at Daytona. He feels the team has made major improvements since last year's sub-par season.

"We have the help once again of HRC (Honda Racing Corporation) with our Superbike program," Duhamel said. "Combine that with what American Honda learned developing the CBR1000RR last year and I think we have a winning combination. After Daytona, Superbike is the only class I'm concentrating on, so that focus on a single championship should be a benefit as well."

Duhamel will compete in the Daytona 200 by Honda (the Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme opener), as well as the Daytona Superbike race but is slated to just race in the Superbike class after the season opener.

Jake Zemke is the other factory Honda entry in the AMA Superbike opener at Daytona. Zemke would love to earn his second-career AMA Superbike victory next weekend. Kawasaki is back in the AMA Superbike fray with a factory effort featuring the brother combination of Tommy and Roger Lee Hayden. Kawasaki has a rich tradition at Daytona, winning three Daytona 200s in the 1990s with Scott Russell. It's been 11 years since Team Green last stood atop the podium, but with the Haydens, Kawasaki has two of the fastest riders in all of AMA racing making the team a contender in spite of this being the first test for the new Kawasaki ZX10R Superbike.

Ducati has been a contender in the Daytona Superbike race nearly every year since 1976, but the Italian maker has only won the race one time -- in 1977 with Cook Neilson. Once again in 2006 the team hopes to score the ever-elusive Daytona victory with either Neil Hodgson or Ben Bostrom. Both have extensive Superbike experience at both the World and national level. Hodgson is a former British and World Superbike champ, while Bostrom claimed the AMA Superbike title in 1998.

Jordan Suzuki has easily the strongest non-factory team entered in the Daytona Superbike race. Jason Pridmore, Steve Rapp and Jacob Holden are likely to race alongside the factory squads in the 70-kilometer race. Pridmore is the son of three-time AMA Superbike Champion Reg Pridmore and has a pair of AMA road racing titles to his own credit.

A number of privateer riders hope to find the speed to mix it up with the factory riders at Daytona. Former AMA Superbike winner Larry Pegram is chief among those. The Ohio racing veteran is slated to ride a Pegram Racing Honda in the Daytona Superbike contest. New Englander Eric Wood is another top privateer expected to be among the leaders on his Hooter's Suzuki.

On March 11, SPEED will offer morning-to-evening coverage of Daytona Motorcycle Week racing. The day starts at 11 a.m. EST with flag-to-flag coverage of the 2006 AMA Superbike Championship Presented by Parts Unlimited season opener. For ticket information visit www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

About AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the leading sanctioning body for motorcycle sport in the United States. Its properties include the Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross Series, the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship presented by FMF, the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited, the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship and the AMA Supermoto Championship. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.

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Series AMA
Drivers Larry Pegram , Steve Rapp , Miguel Duhamel , Eric Wood , Scott Russell , Aaron Yates , Neil Hodgson , Jake Zemke , Roger Lee Hayden , Ben Spies , Jason Pridmore , Jacob Holden , Ben Bostrom , Steve McLaughlin