PICKERINGTON, Ohio (August 14, 2007) – Yoshimura Suzuki’s Mat Mladin could reach a major milestone this weekend when the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited comes to Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton, Va., on Aug. 17-19 for the AMA Suzuki Big Kahuna Nationals. Mladin, the six-time AMA Superbike Champion from Australia, has the opportunity to score his 60th-career AMA Superbike victory.
Legendary Motorcycle Hall of Famer Fred Merkel set the standard in the mid-1980s when he tallied 20 AMA Superbike victories. In 1998 Miguel Duhamel eclipsed Merkel’s mark to become the all-time wins leader. In 2004 Mladin passed Duhamel to take over the title of all-time AMA Superbike wins leader and in the last three years Mladin has racked up an amazing 59 wins and now sits on the verge of cracking the 60-win barrier.
Mladin closed to within 17 points of series leader and defending champ Ben Spies with a double victory in the most recent rounds at Mid-Ohio Sports Car. Even though the championship is very much up for grabs as the series moves to VIR, Mladin says he’s focused simply on winning races.
“Honestly I'm not thinking about the points,” Mladin said. “If I win this championship, then we've done a really good job. We've given a lot of points away this year. At Daytona, and Utah, I made a silly mistake and crashed out of the lead. So we've given up a few this year. So to be in the position we're in is very good, anyway. To win the next five races would honestly mean a lot more to me than winning the championship. To win 13 races in a year, that'd be pretty cool. It'd be one of my better years, that's for sure, that I've ever had, and being 35 and over the hill, not too bad.”
If history is any indication the championship could draw even tighter at VIR. Mladin has swept VIR’s Big Kahuna Doubleheader the last two years and calls the Virginia circuit one of his favorites.
Spies is still the series leader, but he realizes that his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate is on a roll and he needs to step it up at VIR.
“It's going to be tough,” Spies said. “At Virginia last year before I smashed my hand up, we had some pretty good speed there. It's going to come down to crash or win. That's got to happen. I obviously don't want to crash, but it's got to be put on the line. If we're going to win this title, I've got to win a couple races. We've still got the points lead. It's not as big as we would like, but it's good for right now.”
Honda’s Miguel Duhamel, who swept the VIR doubleheader in 2004, will likely miss this year’s race after suffering injuries in a crash while testing at Road Atlanta on Aug. 8. Duhamel is ranked third in the standings. With Duhamel out, the only former VIR Superbike winner in the field other than Mladin is Yamaha’s Eric Bostrom. Bostrom is ranked ninth coming into VIR, but he has scored a couple of podium finishes in Yamaha’s first season back in Superbike after a five year absence. Bostrom and teammate Jason DiSalvo will try to give Yamaha its first Superbike win at VIR.
North Carolinian Jamie Hacking hopes to break through with another strong Superbike race this weekend on the Monster Energy Kawasaki. Hacking scored his second AMA Superbike podium of the season at Mid-Ohio.
“Going to VIR, we had a very good test there, the guys are pumped up,” Hacking said. “I'm pumped up now. We know we can run up front. I've just got to be more patient.”
This will be the seventh time the AMA Superbike Championship has visited VIR. The 50-year-old track was revamped in 2000 and began hosting the series in 2001. In that time the scenic track has quickly become one of the favorites of fans and racers alike.
ans will witness a full weekend of racing, stunt shows, fan parties, kids area, jumbo screen viewing, a new expanded vendor area, and much more. There’s something for everyone at the Big Kahuna. The Superbikes will do battle on VIR’s challenging 2.25-mile North Course.
Tickets are available by visiting http://www.m1event.com/ or call 770-965-4565 or 770-965-4566.
Both races of the VIR doubleheader will air on SPEED on Sunday, Aug. 19. Saturday’s race will be shown starting at 3:00 pm and Sunday’s race will have same-day coverage starting at 5:00 pm Eastern.