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Daytona: Seasoned riders seek win

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Mathew Mladin has never been much on history. The 29-year-old Australian prefers to live in the present. But the possible historic significance of Mladin in this year's Daytona 200 by Arai cannot be denied. The three-time AMA...

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Mathew Mladin has never been much on history. The 29-year-old Australian prefers to live in the present. But the possible historic significance of Mladin in this year's Daytona 200 by Arai cannot be denied. The three-time AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Champion has the chance to become the first rider in the history of America's biggest motorcycle race to win it three years in a row. If the Suzuki star can pull it off, before a live television audience on Sunday, March 10 at 1 p.m., on Speed Channel (which happens to be Mladin's birthday), he will etch his name even deeper in the annals of American motorcycle racing. Even more importantly to Mladin is a good finish at Daytona, which could be key in his quest to become the first four-time AMA Superbike Champion. Since coming to the U.S. series from the World Championship Grand Prix circuit in 1996, Mladin has racked up an impressive 14 AMA Superbike wins. That places him in a three-way tie for fifth on the all-time wins list with Scott Russell and Eddie Lawson. In just six years Mladin has also become the all-time leader in AMA Superbike poles with 24. While all of those numbers are indeed impressive, the number that means the most to Mladin is the No. 1, which graces his factory Yoshimura Suzuki GSXR750 Superbike.

In spite of the fact that Mladin is considered one of the best riders in the history of AMA road racing, he always gives much of the credit for his success to his team.

"I've got a great team behind me," Mladin said. "I've got the right people that do the right job. In all their different areas where they have to be good, they are. I've got a good crew chief. I've got a good chassis guy. I've got a good engine builder. I've got a good guy doing data acquisition. I've got the right people for the right job. That makes all the difference. Without those guys, we wouldn't have won anything." Motorcycling's pre-season punditry has pointed at young Nicky Hayden as the rider most likely to end Mladin's reign atop AMA Superbike. The 20-year-old Honda racing ace from Owensboro, Ky., ended the 2001 campaign with four-consecutive wins. Many feel that Hayden experienced a breakthrough last year and will be extremely tough to beat this year. If he manages to win the 200 he would be one of the youngest riders in history to accomplish the feat.

Many consider Yamaha's Anthony Gobert as the most naturally talented racer in AMA Superbike. Last year the Aussie looked strong until a hard crash in Loudon, N.H., put a damper on his season. Gobert is fully recovered and looked very strong in pre-season testing, including the annual tire tests at Daytona last December. Of course when talking Daytona, never count out Canadian Miguel Duhamel.

A three-time Daytona 200 winner, Duhamel has proven in past years that if he is near the front at the end of the race he should be the one to watch. Duhamel beat Russell at the line in 1996 and Mladin in 1999 in two of the closest races in Daytona 200 history.

Then there are the young, but thoroughly experienced riders Eric Bostrom (Kawasaki), Kurtis Roberts (Honda) and Jamie Hacking (Suzuki). All three have made it to the winner's circle at the Daytona 200 and each will be striving to make a move to the top rung of the podium in this year's race.

Tickets for the Daytona 200 by Arai can be purchased by calling Daytona's ticket office at (386) 253-7223 or via the Internet at www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

-ama-

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Series AMA
Drivers Anthony Gobert , Kurtis Roberts , Mathew Mladin , Nicky Hayden , Miguel Duhamel , Jamie Hacking , Scott Russell , Eric Bostrom , Eddie Lawson