PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 25, 2003) -- Ben Spies, 19, of Longview, Texas, won the AMA Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series championship Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park. Spies was the foremost rider of the series earning five victories in...
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 25, 2003) -- Ben Spies, 19, of Longview, Texas, won the AMA Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme Series championship Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park. Spies was the foremost rider of the series earning five victories in 10 races on his factory Yoshimura Suzuki. The championship marked the first pro title for Spies, a former AMA Horizon Award winner, who is considered by many experts to be the leading up-and-coming rider in AMA road racing. It was also the third straight AMA Formula Xtreme championship for Suzuki.
Spies opened the 2003 AMA Formula Xtreme Series with dominating wins at California Speedway and Infineon Raceway. A crash at the rainy Road Atlanta round in May cost Spies the points lead.
From that point Erion Honda's Jake Zemke took over. Zemke, who actually tied last year's champion Jason Pridmore in the championship and lost in a tiebreaker, appeared to have control of the series until he uncharacteristically crashed at Road America.
It was then Graves Yamaha rider Damon Buckmaster's, a perennial contender for the Formula Xtreme title, turn to lead the series. But even the Aussie racing veteran Buckmaster found the Formula Xtreme lead a slippery proposition to hold on to. Buckmaster jumped the start of the last round in Monterey, Calif., came back to finish eighth in that race, yet he too lost the series lead.
After suffering through a sub-par mid-season, Spies came back to life in a big way. He proved he loved racing in the Golden State by taking a lopsided victory during the World Superbike weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and took back the series lead. >From there it was all Spies. He went on to win at Mid-Ohio and Virginia International Raceway to open up a nearly insurmountable lead. By the time the series rolled into Barber Motorsports Park Spies needed only to finish 23rd or better to win the championship. He cruised home to an easy third in the season finale behind Yamaha's Jamie Hacking and Zemke to take the top prize.
"The year went exactly like I wanted it to," Spies claimed. "We came here (to Barber Motorsports Park) with a 30-point lead, just did what we had to do. It was my first year with the factory team and it gives me confidence going into next year on superbike. I mean the championship was awesome and it's definitely going to be there forever, but I'm ready to get in the superbike class. We start testing next month and I'm ready to go."
Buckmaster once again came up just short in his title bid. He finished the year a distant 33-points down to Spies, even though the Aussie veteran was able to keep his hopes alive for a first AMA title until the final race. Buckmaster was runner-up to John Hopkins in 2001 and finished a close third last year to Jason Pridmore and Zemke. Zemke dropped one spot from his ranking last year and was third in this season's final standings.
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