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FT: Virginia preview

AMA GRAND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACING RETURNS TO VIRGINIA PICKERINGTON, Ohio (July 11, 2006) -- Virginia Motor Speedway, in Saluda, will host the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship on Saturday, July 15. The event, named the...

AMA GRAND NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP RACING RETURNS TO VIRGINIA

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (July 11, 2006) -- Virginia Motor Speedway, in Saluda, will host the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship on Saturday, July 15. The event, named the Burcham Cycles Joe Weatherly Memorial presented by Thurston Spring Service, Inc., marks the return of AMA Grand National to Virginia.

The last time Virginia hosted an AMA Grand National Championship race was in 1968 on a half-mile dirt oval that has now become Richmond International Raceway. The legendary Bart Markel won that race, 38 years ago.

This Saturday also marks the first time AMA Grand National motorcycles have raced on Virginia Motor Speedway. The track itself is a half-mile sandy clay oval 14 degree banking in both corners. The facility recently underwent major renovations and features new grandstands and sky boxes.

This weekend is round nine of the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship and round six of the Grand National Twins Championship. There have been four different winners in the four races that ran (the Syracuse main event was cancelled due to track and lighting conditions). Defending champion Chris Carr, of the Quality Checked Certified Pre-Owned Ford team, leads the way in the Twins series with 67 points, followed by Harley-Davidson factory rider Rich King with 60 points and Bryan Smith, of Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson with 54.

Carr was challenging for a win last week in Parkersburg, W. Va., when his bike had a rare mechanical problem. He was able to bring his bike home in fifth, but King chopped into Carr's series lead by finishing second to Virginia's own Mike Hacker.

King feels racing at a new track gives the advantage to the older, more experienced riders.

"Everyone's starting on equal ground," King says. "But the more veteran riders and mechanics can come in and look at the track and understand that the track is similar to another they raced on in the past and they can go to a familiar setup. We have very little time to get the bikes ready to race, especially since we've gone to transponders (electronically timed) qualifying.

"Coming to this new track for us will definitely give the advantage to the teams that get their setup really close right off the bat. If you're chasing a good setup in qualifying that's going to put you behind for the whole program. On these clay half-miles it's important to get a good starting position."

King says he's happy with where he is in the championship chase.

"I've yet to win a championship, but I think it's like racing on a mile. You've got to stay in the hunt somewhere near the front of the pack until the last three or four races. That's more than likely where the title is going to be decided, so in the races during this part of the year you just want to make sure you rack up as many points as possible to keep you in the championship picture."

Virginia fans will be rooting on for home state hero, Mike Hacker of the SuperTrapp/Docs Harley-Davidson team. Hacker took a surprise victory last weekend in Parkersburg, W. Va. It marked the fourth-career AMA Grand National victory for the 30-year-old from Colonial Heights.

"I don't know what to say. I never thought I'd win a National this year," said Hacker after winning last weekend. "I thought this year would be spent getting back into condition and next year would be the one." Hacker has fought injuries for the last four years and still has shoulder problems, but last Saturday was his night.

The race is named for Joe Weatherly, a Norfolk, Virginia native who was one of the leading motorcycle racers of the 1940s and '50s, before going on to a successful, but tragically short, career in NASCAR.

This weekend's race in Saluda will also feature a Pro Sports support race. For ticket information call 804-758-1867.

WHAT: Virginia Motor Speedway National Half-mile, round nine of the AMA Ford Quality Checked Grand National Championship -- round six of the Grand National Twins Championship.

WHERE: From Richmond: Take US Route 360 East to Tappahannock and turn right on US Route 17 South. Virginia Motor Speedway is located 25 miles South of Tappahannock on US Route 17 South.

WHEN: Saturday July 16, 2006
COURSE: Virginia Motor Speedway 1/2-mile sandy clay oval.

SCHEDULE: Gates open at 3 p.m.; Qualifying Practice begins at 5:00 p.m.; Opening Ceremonies at 7:00 p.m.

TICKETS: Reserved seat tickets are $30 with general admission $26. MasterCard and Visa accepted. The top ten rows on the front stretch are reserved seating; all others will be general admission. Fans can purchase tickets by calling (804) 758-1867 or by coming by the speedway's office between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

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Series AMA
Drivers Chris Carr