AMA-SBK: Fontana preview

Rival teams at Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s heels

By Motorcycle.Com Staff, Mar. 20, 2009
The 2009 AMA Pro Road Racing Series continues March 20-22 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. with the Suzuki AMA Pro Superbike Challenge.

The weekend will features five races on the 2.36-mile speedway road course. The American Superbike and Daytona Sportbike classes will each compete a double-header while up-and-coming racers will show their talent in the AMA Pro SuperSport West race.

Mat Mladin tops the AMA American Superbike standings after extending Suzuki’s winning streak to 46 with a victory at the March 5 opener in Daytona, Fla. Mladin’s Rockstar Makita Suzuki teammates also finished in the top five in Daytona with Tommy Hayden’s third- and Blake Young’s fifth-place results, but the race showed signs that Suzuki’s competitor’s are narrowing the gap.

Corona Honda’s Neil Hodgson and Foremost Ducati’s Larry Pegram each held the lead for several laps. Hodgson beat out Hayden in a photo finish for second while problems with his Ducati 1098R’s traction control prevented Pegram from being in the final mix.

Larry Pegram was impressive at the Daytona 200 in Ducati's return to AMA Superbike racing.“I am really looking forward to this weekend’s races. Fontana is one of my favorite tracks, and Ducati’s have always been good to ride around here,” says Pegram. “We have sorted out our electronics package since Daytona, and Auto Club Speedway has a long straight where we should be able to stretch the bike’s legs a bit. The track is a good blend of Daytona and a normal road course, so our settings here should prove useful throughout the rest of the season as well.”

Hodgson won’t be able to build on his second-place Daytona finish however due to a serious accident he suffered during training. The Corona Honda rider fell after hitting a fallen rider while training on his Motocross bike. Hodgson suffered a collapsed lung as well as rib and shoulder injuries in the fall and will not race in Fontana. Jake Holden will ride in Hodgson’s place for Corona Honda.

The Daytona Sportbike races in Fontana should be much different from the season-opening Daytona 200, a confusing race held under the lights. Several Daytona 200 entrants including race winner Ben Bostrom will shift their focus to the American Superbike class but the Daytona Sportbike class will still feature 47 entrants.

Graves Yamaha’s Josh Herrin and Team M4 Suzuki’s Jason DiSalvo finished on the podium in the Daytona 200 and will look to continue their success. Buell 1125R riders Shawn Higbee and Danny Eslick, Factory Aprilia rider Chaz Davies and Erion Honda’s Jake Zemke will also be in action.

The SuperSport West race will feature riders aged 16-21 on 600cc sportbikes. Erion Honda’s Tyler Odom took the victory in the class’ debut in Daytona.