Spies emerges as frontrunner in AMA Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series. PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Ben Spies might be re-thinking his pre-season goals after easily winning the opening round of the Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series...
Spies emerges as frontrunner in AMA Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series.
PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- Ben Spies might be re-thinking his pre-season goals after easily winning the opening round of the Lockhart Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series in Fontana, Calif., last month. After being hired by Yoshimura Suzuki this winter Spies hoped to get a few podiums and at least be a top challenger in the series, but now he's thinking championship all the way. Spies, 18, from Longview, Texas, comes into round two of the 10-race Formula Xtreme Series on May 3 at Infineon Raceway (formerly Sears Point Raceway) the heavy favorite.
Spies, a former AMA Horizon Award winner during his amateur racing career, is now in his third year of professional racing and seems to be fulfilling the promise he showed as an amateur. At Fontana he totally dominated -- setting the pole by over a half-second faster than second-place qualifier Jamie Hacking and then led every lap of the 17-lap final en route to a 5.5-second margin of victory over Erion Honda's Jake Zemke.
"My confidence is high right now," Spies allowed. "I have the best team behind me and the best bike, so all I really need to do is just ride it up to its potential and I should come out okay. I know it's a long season so I'm not going to get too pumped up about leading the series at this point, but I have to admit that Fontana was a pleasant surprise."
Spies comes to Infineon seeking his first victory at the Sonoma, Calif., circuit. He finished fifth in the Formula Xtreme race there last year. If he is to win he'll have to overcome the likes of Damon Buckmaster and Jason Pridmore, both former Formula Xtreme winners at Infineon Raceway.
Both past winners have some catching up to do at Infineon. Buckmaster finished fifth in the season opener on his factory Yamaha R1. The friendly Aussie has to feel that he's long overdue to win a Formula Xtreme title. Buckmaster led nearly the entire season in 2001, only to lose the championship by one point to John Hopkins in the last race. Last year Buckmaster again led the Formula Xtreme point standings for much of the season only to suffer bad luck mid-season. He is the winningest rider in the series and one of the crowd favorites coming into this round. Expect to see him near the front.
Pridmore's title defense got off to an even shakier start. His Attack Suzuki blew up at the season opener and he comes into this weekend's race needing to quickly regroup. Pridmore has always been strong at Infineon, so look for him to be a top runner.
Jake Zemke was runner up to Buckmaster at Infineon last year and he'll be looking for another strong showing on the Erion Honda CBR954 this Saturday.
Marty Craggill came back strong after having surgery to repair a crushed disk in his neck during the off-season. The Aussie rider took third in the season opener aboard the Bruce Transportation Honda. Craggill was third at Infineon last year, so he has what it takes to be a leading contender.
Yamaha's Jamie Hacking is expected to be another leading contender this weekend. He crashed out of the season opener while running third.
The Infineon Raceway Formula Xtreme round will be shown on Speed Channel on Tuesday, May 13 at 10 p.m. EST.
GENUINE SUZUKI ACCESSORIES SUPERSTOCK SERIES
Tommy Hayden is proving that Kawasaki's ZX636 just might have the perfect combination of handling and speed to outdo the bigger 750cc bikes in the Genuine Suzuki Accessories Superstock Series. Hayden is riding a three-race winning streak in the series dating back to last year's season finale. The eldest of the racing Hayden brothers already has built a solid 18-point lead in the Superstock series over Adam Fergusson of Corona Suzuki. Hayden's teammate Tony Meiring, from nearby Tracy, Calif., is third in the standings. Hayden will attempt to be the first rider to put a bike smaller than a 750 atop the Infineon Raceway Superstock podium. The large field of Suzuki GSX-R750-mounted riders will do everything they can to prevent that.
MBNA 250 Grand Prix Series
Rich Oliver, a 23-year veteran of AMA racing, comes into Infineon Raceway leading the MBNA 250 Grand Prix Series with two wins. Oliver, 41, of Auberry, Calif., is a four-time 250 GP winner at Infineon, but is looking for his first win at the track since 1997. He announced at the start of the season that this would be his last full year as a pro racer. Defending series champ Chuck Sorensen, of San Jose, Calif., is second to Oliver coming into this weekend's race. Sorensen has won three of the last four 250 Grand Prix races at Infineon.
For ticket information contact Infineon Raceway at (800) 870-RACE or visit www.infineonraceway.com.
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 Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship.
About AMA Pro Racing
AMA Pro Racing is the leading sanctioning body for motorcycle sport in the United States. Its properties include the AMA Supercross Championship, the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Motocross Championship, the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S Superbike Championship, the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship and the AMA Red Bull Supermoto Championship. Nearly 2 million race fans attended AMA Pro Racing events during the 2002 season. For more information about AMA Pro Racing, visit www.amaproracing.com.