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Daytona: Round one preview

SPIES BEGINS TITLE DEFENSE AT DAYTONA SUPERBIKE OPENER Texan looking for first victory at Daytona International Speedway PICKERINGTON, Ohio (March 1, 2007) -- In only his second full season of AMA Superbike Championship racing Yoshimura Suzuki's...

SPIES BEGINS TITLE DEFENSE AT DAYTONA SUPERBIKE OPENER
Texan looking for first victory at Daytona International Speedway

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (March 1, 2007) -- In only his second full season of AMA Superbike Championship racing Yoshimura Suzuki's Ben Spies broke through to earn the series title last season. The 22-year-old from Longview, Texas, comes to the 2007 season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Saturday, March 10, with one goal in mind and that's to defend the championship he fought so hard to earn in 2006.

"I like being the champion and want to do what it takes to do it again next year," said Spies, who is the second youngest AMA Superbike Champion. "If anything, winning has made me more driven to do it again. My goal isn't to win one. It's to win as many championships as I can. The weaknesses I did have, I want to make them better and that's what I'm thinking about."

If Spies is to win a second straight AMA Superbike Championship his biggest challenge is likely to come from his own teammate Mat Mladin. Mladin, the all-time winningest rider in AMA Superbike history, is the defending winner of the Daytona Superbike race. He made a clever last-lap move to put his Suzuki GSX-R1000 Superbike in a position to draft past Spies to earn a thrilling victory. Mladin, who will turn 35 the day of the race, is reportedly in the best shape of his life, training intensely during the off season. Like Spies, Mladin seems more eager than ever to get this season started.

He commented on the rematch after the last race of 2006.

"Next year is going to be fun and I'm looking forward to it," Mladin said. "I've won six championships and 51 races and by the time I had realized that complacency had set in, it was a bit too late. I think Ben is smart enough to know that we're not going to go away easily. We'll be back ready to rock and roll next year and I can't wait. He's a great young rider and for me it was awesome to have someone to pick my game back up."

Spies and Mladin are joined this year by eldest of the racing Hayden brothers, Tommy. Tommy Hayden and his youngest brother Roger Lee, who rides for Kawasaki, will try to follow in middle brother Nicky's footsteps. Nicky Hayden, the current MotoGP world champion, won the Daytona Superbike race (then the Daytona 200) in 2002.

Joining Roger Lee Hayden on the Monster Energy Kawasaki squad is Jamie Hacking. Last year Hacking had a dream season, becoming only the second rider in history to win the AMA Supersport and AMA Superstock titles in the same season. Hacking has been eager to get back on Superbikes. It's been five years since the British born rider, who now lives in North Carolina, has raced in the premier AMA class. He was AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year in 1998.

One of the biggest stories in the off-season was the announcement that Yamaha was returning to the Superbike ranks. Eric Bostrom and Jason DiSalvo will pilot the potent new Yamaha YZF-R1. Yamaha always finds a way to build ultra-fast Superbikes for Daytona. Those machines carried riders like Eddie Lawson, David Sadowski and Scott Russell to victory at Daytona in years past. Bostrom and DiSalvo would like to start a new legacy for the company beginning at Daytona this year.

"Our team has plenty of experience, but we face a formidable challenge," said Bostrom of the new Yamaha effort. "It's going to be tough to bridge that gap. It would be amazing if we could come out of the first race, come out swinging and run up there. That's our plan. Anything short of that and I will be disappointed."

Also returning to AMA Superbike is famed owner/tuner Eraldo Ferracci. Italian Luca Scassa and Georgian Matt Lynn will ride with the newly formed Fast by Ferracci MV Agusta team. Under Ferracci's guidance Ducati won two World Superbike and two AMA Superbike Championships in the 1990s. MV Agusta, a rare Italian racing brand, is hoping that Ferracci can work his Superbike magic once again. This will mark the first appearance for MV in the Daytona Superbike race.

Honda will have vast experience in their stable with Miguel Duhamel and Jake Zemke. Duhamel is second on the all-time AMA Superbike wins list and is aiming to come out of the box strong in 2007.

"I need to pounce on any opportunity I have to win," said Duhamel. "Daytona has always been good to me. Some tracks it may be difficult for us to win, but at others I feel we have a good shot at it and Daytona is one of those."

A number of leading support teams hope to challenge the factory teams at Daytona. Michael Jordan Motorsports Suzuki has leading rider Aaron Yates. Yates will be gunning to prove that he still deserves to be counted among one of the elite in AMA Superbike. Corona Extra Honda will run Superbike this year with former MotoGP rider James Ellison from England. Kurtis Roberts and three-time AMA Superbike champion Doug Chandler are also slated to race at Daytona with the NFS Racing team.

SPEED television coverage on Saturday, March 10, kicks off at 11:00 a.m. Eastern with the opening round of the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited.

Tickets are available via www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

-credit: ama

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Series AMA
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Miguel Duhamel , Tommy Hayden , Doug Chandler , Scott Russell , David Sadowski , Aaron Yates , Eric Bostrom , Jake Zemke , Roger Lee Hayden , Ben Spies , Eddie Lawson , James Ellison , Matt Lynn , Luca Scassa