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Daytona: Superstock preview

Revamped AMA Repsol Superstock Series attracts Deeper Field Defending AMA Formula Xtreme Champion Ben Spies among favorites in star-studded line-up PICKERINGTON, Ohio (February 27, 2004) -- Ben Spies was a breakout rider in the 2003 season....

Revamped AMA Repsol Superstock Series attracts Deeper Field
Defending AMA Formula Xtreme Champion Ben Spies among favorites in star-studded line-up

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (February 27, 2004) -- Ben Spies was a breakout rider in the 2003 season. The 19-year-old Texan went from young up-and-comer to the next big thing after winning five races en route to last year's Formula Xtreme Series. At times Spies dominated the series. Now Yoshimura Suzuki hopes the talented youngster can deliver a similar performance in the new AMA Repsol Superstock Series.

Considering the depth of the talent pool in the new series, Spies will have his hands full beginning with the opening round at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, March 4. This year's Superstock class allows for a significant increase in displacement but still requires that the equipment remain essentially stock. As Spies puts it "We're pretty much racing them right off the showroom floor." Opening up the displacement limits has attracted all the major manufactures to the class with everyone looking to showcase their 1000cc sport bikes.

Spies seems to be following in the path of other great Texas road racers like Kevin Schwantz, Colin Edwards and Doug Polen. Schwantz, Edwards and Polen, along with non-Texans like Freddie Spencer and John Kocinski, who came up racing the local CMRA club road races before getting national attention in the WERA Grand National Finals (CMRA is a WERA affiliate) and moving on to AMA Pro Racing competition. As hard as it is to believe Spies is entering his fifth season in AMA Pro Racing. He began his AMA career mid-way through the 2000 season a few days after turning 16. The Suzuki GSX-R1000 fits Spies like a glove. His style makes it look as if the speedy Suzuki is an extension of his body. Spies likes the new Superstock version of the Suzuki even more than the Xtreme bike of last year.

"The Superstock bike handles more like a 600," said Spies, a former AMA Horizon Award winner. "I feel like I can ride it harder, and I can feel the limit. I can feel what the bike is doing even though it's moving around more."

While Spies may be a slight favorite in the new Superstock class, he's by no means a shoo-in for the title. In fact, Spies is in for the battle of his young career. The Superstock class features an impressive roster as well as extensive manufacturer participation.

The biggest Superstock story in recent weeks is the signing of Anthony Gobert to the Erion Honda squad. Gobert will ride Honda's new CBR1000RR that in Superbike form was the fastest bike in pre-season testing. Gobert is considered one of the most naturally talented riders in the world. While many feel that Gobert's off-track problems have kept him from reaching his full potential, there's no question that the addition of Gobert to the class makes it one of the most anticipated pre-season motorcycle racing stories in years.

Gobert will be joining his younger brothers Alex (his Erion Honda teammate) and Aaron, who rides for Graves Yamaha, in Superstock. The possibility exists that the Goberts could become the first brothers to fill all three spots on an AMA road racing podium. Another brother act, the Haydens, Tommy and Roger Lee, will also compete in Superstock in the Kawasaki camp. Tommy, Roger Lee and Nicky Hayden (who now races in the Motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship) are the only brothers in the history of AMA Pro Racing to fill a national podium. That was at an AMA Grand National race in 2004 at the Springfield, Ill., TT.

Josh Hayes is the defending AMA Superstock champ. Even though the class was very different last year, Hayes is still considered a leading contender to win the title. Hayes will ride an Attack Kawasaki ZX-10R.

Arguably the most talented team overall in Superstock is Graves Yamaha with defending Supersport champ Jamie Hacking, Damon Buckmaster, the aforementioned Aaron Gobert and Jason DiSalvo. The Yamaha R1 has proven blazingly fast in pre-season testing. DiSalvo was the fastest of all Superstock riders in the most recent Daytona tire tests. The team has a solid mix of veterans and young riders and could be a real threat to sweep the podium at Daytona.

Valvoline EMGO Suzuki has been one of the top teams in AMA Pro Racing since the mid-1990s. This year the red, white and blue Valvoline EMGO GSX-Rs will carry Steve Rapp and Vincent Haskovec. The squad has cultivated some of the best young riders in recent years such as John Hopkins (now a factory Suzuki MotoGP rider) and Ben Spies. This season the team is going with older and more established riders and both Rapp and Haskovec could be serious contenders for the Superstock title.

Suzuki goes even deeper in Superstock with teams like Hooters Suzuki with John Haner and Eric Wood; the new Empire Racing Suzuki squad with Chris Caylor and Lee Acree; No Limit Suzuki's Jason Pridmore, Jimmy Moore and Jason Curtis; and Millennium Technologies Suzuki with last year's leading Superbike privateer Shawn Higbee.

Wildcards to consider at Daytona include Yamaha Canada's Pascal Picotte and Larry Pegram, who is forming a new Yamaha-based team. Both are former AMA Superbike winners.

For additional information on the race contact Daytona International Speedway at (386) 253-7223 or visit the website www.daytonainternationalspeedway.com.

The AMA Repsol Superstock opener will kick-off live SPEED Channel race coverage from the Speedway on Thursday, March 4, at 3 p.m. Eastern time.

For immediate post-race results, points, live transponder scoring, in-depth series and rider information, regular columnists and much more, log onto www.USSuperbike.com, the official website of the AMA Chevrolet Superbike Championship.

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Series AMA
Drivers Larry Pegram , Kevin Schwantz , Steve Rapp , Nicky Hayden , Joshua Hayes , Eric Wood , John Haner , Colin Edwards , Jamie Hacking , Lee Acree , Damon Buckmaster , Ben Spies , Vincent Haskovec , Aaron Gobert , Jason Curtis , Jason Pridmore , Shawn Higbee , Freddie Spencer