Spies Vs. Mladin at Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (May 11, 2007) – In 2006 young Texan Ben Spies ended veteran Mat Mladin’s long-time domination by earning the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited title. Mladin, while giving credit to his Yoshimura Suzuki teammate, claimed that one reason he lost the title was complacency on his part. The result is that Mladin, the six-time AMA Superbike Champion from Australia, trained harder than ever and is determined to take back the Superbike crown from Spies who is now entering the prime of his racing career.
The battle between Spies and Mladin so far this season has led many racing pundits to call the rivalry the greatest in the series since the classic Wayne Rainey/Kevin Schwantz clashes 20 years ago. The Spies/Mladin rivalry comes to Sonoma, California’s Infineon Raceway on May 18-20 for the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown. It is a doubleheader (rounds six and seven of 19 races) for the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited.
This year marks the 30th Anniversary for Infineon (formerly known as Sears Point Raceway) hosting AMA Superbike races. The series first visited the scenic track in 1977, one year after it was founded. Local hero Paul Ritter won the inaugural Sears Point Superbike race on a Ducati in 1977.
Spies and Mladin are coming off an epic battle in Fontana, Calif., on the last weekend of April. The teammates banged into each other several times in the early laps of the Saturday race before Spies opened a gap and held it to the checkered flag. The next day Mladin won a scintillating race holding off a determined Ben Spies by a mere .035 of a second. The race was one of the hardest fought in years.
“I felt like I rode okay [at Fontana] and put some pressure on in the end,” said Spies, after the memorable Sunday race in Fontana. “I just couldn't quite get the pass done. We gained a point over the course of the weekend, but that’s not too big of a deal. We’ll go back and look at some things on the bike and try to make it better for Infineon.”
Spies comes to Infineon with a nine-point lead in the standings. Last year Spies swept the Infineon Superbike double header and tied Miguel Duhamel for the record of six-consecutive AMA Superbike wins.
While Spies won both rounds in Sonoma last season, Mladin remains the winningest Superbike rider at the Northern California circuit, having earned six wins at Infineon dating back to 1999. Besides having to battle Spies and the rest of the talented AMA Superbike field, Mladin thinks the track itself also presents a major test.
“Infineon is probably one of the most challenging tracks we go to,” said Mladin, the all-time AMA Superbike wins leader with 54-career victories. “It has a bunch of corners connected by very few straights. It's a rider's track, that's for sure. It has a lot of blind corners over little hills. It's certainly one of the most challenging tracks each year.”
Honda’s Miguel Duhamel is a five-time Infineon Superbike winner and comes to this year’s race ranked third in the standings. He understands that in order to keep pace with the leading duo he’ll have to put his bike atop the podium, something he hasn’t done since 2004.
Duhamel won the AMA Superbike Championship in 1995.
Another former winner at Sonoma is Aaron Yates. Yates seems renewed this year on the Jordan Suzuki squad. He barely missed the Superbike podium at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., last month. A podium result for the team owned by basketball great Michael Jordan would be a major accomplishment for a non-factory team. Yates thinks he and his team will reach that milestone sometime this season. Yates is currently ranked sixth in the standings.
Yamaha’s return to the premier class has resulted in better than expected results so early in the season. Eric Bostrom, a native of the Bay Area, has led races and at Fontana late last month, earned two third-place finishes. It marked Yamaha’s first AMA Superbike podium appearance since the manufacturer last fielded a factory Superbike team in 2002.
“It feels good to be on the podium, but it feels even better to race with some people,” Bostrom commented after Fontana. “The team is really excited and it has been a long time since Yamaha has gotten on the podium. It was a really big accomplishment. It was the first time all year we came back by people and actually started advancing. It was a big race for us.”
Kawasaki is hoping to score its first Infineon Superbike victory in 14 years with riders Roger Hayden and Jamie Hacking. Colorful race manager Eraldo Ferracci returns to Infineon this year with his new MV Agusta Superbike squad. Another team to watch this weekend is the NFS Honda with a pair of famous riders in Doug Chandler and Kurtis Roberts who are attempting to be competitive on a low-budget racing squad.
Both Infineon Superbike races will be shown on SPEED back to back on Sunday, May 20 starting at 10:00 pm Eastern (7 pm Pacific).
Tickets for the Kawasaki AMA Superbike Showdown, presented by Supercuts are still available. Visit www.InfineonRaceway.com for addition information.
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