SPIES A RARE ROOKIE AMA SUPERBIKE POINTS LEADER COMING INTO INFINEON RACEWAY Hall of Famer Eddie Lawson last rookie to lead series PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 6, 2005) -- Yoshimura Suzuki's Ben Spies recently won his first AMA Superbike Championship...
SPIES A RARE ROOKIE AMA SUPERBIKE POINTS LEADER COMING INTO INFINEON RACEWAY
Hall of Famer Eddie Lawson last rookie to lead series
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 6, 2005) -- Yoshimura Suzuki's Ben Spies recently won his first AMA Superbike Championship race and in the process pulled off one of the rarest feats in the history of the series. By taking his first Superbike win two weeks ago at California Speedway, in Fontana, Calif., the young Texan claimed the series standings and in the process became only the second rookie ever to lead the AMA Superbike Championship. Motorcycle Hall of Fame legend Eddie Lawson was the first to accomplish the feat in 1980.
Spies brings his series lead to Sonoma, California's Infineon Raceway and the Kawasaki Superbike Showdown Doubleheader, rounds six and seven of the 17-race AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited on May 13-15.
The victory for Spies in Fontana not only gave him the series lead it also made him only one of four riders to win in every category of AMA road racing. Spies joins Miguel Duhamel, Nicky Hayden and Jamie Hacking as the only riders to win all four categories -- Superbike, Supersport, Formula Xtreme and Superstock.
While Spies is happy to have the lead he admits that he may be an interloper to the top position. He won the first round of the California Speedway doubleheader two weeks ago after teammate Mat Mladin was forced to retire with a rare mechanical failure on his factory Suzuki.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to do it," said Spies, who went on to say he would have much rather earned a win over Mat Mladin at full strength. "This (California Speedway) is one of my stronger tracks and I hope to get stronger as the season goes on, but I knew I rode well here and our first shot might have been here. Just the way things worked out, it was kind of a weird win. I really wish that I could have gotten good starts off the line and that Mat wouldn't have had any problems."
Mladin returned strong in the second California Speedway race and took his fourth win in five starts. As the series moves to Sonoma he finds himself out of the series lead for the first time in two years (just three points behind Spies) but seemed to take his misfortune at Fontana in stride.
"We had a clutch problem and that's just the way it goes," said Mladin after being forced to retire from Fontana's race one after his bike's clutch failed after two re-starts. "Fortunately, we'd built up enough of a points lead that we're only a little bit behind. We're five races into it and the championship starts again.
"There is no better challenge for a rider than at Infineon (Raceway). It's got elevation changes, tight corners and a number of other challenges. I love it. Any rider who says he doesn't like a challenge like that is very different than me. That's why we do this for a living."
Northern California racing fans will get their first opportunity to watch former World Superbike champ Britain's Neil Hodgson go up against the AMA Superbike regulars. Hodgson also looks forward to facing the challenging Infineon Raceway road course.
"I've only been on the track once (testing in March) but it's one of my top 10 tracks in the world," said Hodgson who is a close third in the standings. "It has all the characteristics that you want in a track. It's the ultimate test for a rider. I've watched this track 1,000 times on video but that doesn't do it justice. You just don't realize how tough the track is until you ride a few laps."
Infineon Raceway (formerly called Sears Point) has one of the richest histories of all the AMA circuits. The 12-turn, 2.32-mile road course, nestled in California's scenic wine growing region, has hosted AMA Superbike races since 1977. The all-time Superbike wins leader at Infineon is Honda's Miguel Duhamel. Duhamel has five race wins at the track dating back to 1993. He hopes to find the combination to earn his first victory of the season this weekend.
Another rider to watch at Infineon is Yoshimura Suzuki's Aaron Yates. The Georgian won his first AMA Superbike race at the track nine years ago with a dramatic last-lap pass on Mladin.
Marty Craggill has climbed to the top of the non-factory Superbike riders in the series with four straight top-10 finishes on his Mat Mladin Motorsports Suzuki. "I've raced at Infineon twice," said Craggill, who comes into the doubleheader ranked seventh. "I got on the box there in Formula Xtreme in 2002 so I feel good about that track."
Local riders have traditionally done well at Infineon Raceway, which hosts numerous AFM racing events. Many expect David Stanton, of Lafayette, Calif., to be a contender on the Arclight Suzuki.
"I'm hoping to at least do as well as I did last year and maybe improve on that," said Stanton, who was seventh in the first Superbike race last year and crashed while running sixth in the second. "I race at Infineon so much that it does give you a bit of an advantage. I raced there just last week in fact. It's tough to compete with the speed of the factory bikes, but I'm hoping my knowledge of the track will give me an edge."
SPEED Channel will provide extensive coverage of the Kawasaki Superbike Showdown Doubleheader starting with Saturday's Superbike event being televised at 12 p.m. EST on Sunday, May 15. Live coverage of Sunday's Superbike final begins at 6 p.m. EST.
Tickets to the Kawasaki Superbike Showdown Doubleheader can be purchased at all Ticketmaster outlets including Tower Records, Wherrehouse Music, Ritmo Latino, select Save Mart Supermarkets and Rite Aid stores. For additional inquiries or questions please contact the Infineon Raceway Ticket Office at 1-800-870-RACE.
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