Sears Point Preview

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
From the AMA
PICKERINGTON, Ohio - Honda Racing's Nicky Hayden is on a roll as he gets ready for rounds four and five of the 16-raceAMA Chevy Trucks U.S. Superbike Championship at Sears Points Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., May 3-5.

Hayden, 20, ofOwensboro, Ky., leads the series standings having won two of the three 2002 championship races heading into this weekend'sSupercuts Superbike Challenge doubleheader at Sears Point. To illustrate how hot the young Hayden is -- he's won six of the lastseven AMA Superbike rounds dating back to last July. A host of top AMA Superbike riders will be trying to cool Hayden's chargeat Sears Point with defending race winner Anthony Gobert, second in the championship, hoping to close the gap on Hayden's14-point lead in the series...

Last year at Sears Point, Gobert and Hayden battled the entire race in one of the all-time classic AMA Superbike races on the12-turn, 2.52-mile road course. After taking the checkered flag Gobert ended up in the infield care center suffering fromdehydration after winning both the Pro Honda Oils Supersport and the Chevy Trucks Superbike events within the span of a fewhours. Gobert, a 27-year-old Australian who rides for Yamaha, is considered by many to be the favorite to win at Sears Point.

Another Aussie sensation Mat Mladin, the three-time defending AMA Superbike Champion, will arrive at Sears Point sittingeighth in points after injuring his elbow in a practice session crash in March's opening round in Daytona Beach, Fla. The injurycaused him to miss the first race and lose valuable points. The No. 1 Suzuki rider has proven his toughness over the years. In fact,Mladin won the pole at Sears Point last year riding with a broken left leg. He should be close to 100 percent this weekend and islooking to make up a lot of ground in the points chase at Sonoma. Mladin won at Sears Point in 1999.

Another rider to watch this weekend will be Honda's Miguel Duhamel. The 14-year pro from Montreal is the all-time leadingAMA Superbike winner and has won a record four Superbike finals at Sears Point.

Joining former Sears Point Superbike winners Gobert, Mladin and Duhamel is Suzuki Aaron Yates, of Milledgeville, Ga. Yateswon the race in 1996 in a great duel with teammate Mat Mladin. Yates might be best known to Sears Point fans as the rider whocrashed spectacularly at over 100 mph head first into air barriers while leading the Supersport race last year. The air-filled safetybarrier did its job and Yates got up and dusted himself off and made the Superbike race later that day.

By far the biggest surprise in the series to this point is the solid showing of privateer racers Andrew Deatherage, of Cleveland andBrian Livengood from Snellville, Ga. Deatherage and Livengood stand third and fourth respectively in the AMA Superbikestandings - the highest ranking for privateers in the series in almost a decade.

Deatherage, 41, is an 11-year AMA Superbike competitor and has scored three-top ten finishes coming into this weekend's race.Deatherage is part of the Ground Zero Racing Group who is raising funds for the Uniformed Firefighters Association/FireDepartment of New York Memorial Scholarship Fund. Livengood, a three-year AMA Supersport racer, is riding his first fullseason of Superbike. Livengood has two top-10 finishes to his credit this year and to be ranked fourth as a privateer in his firstyear of AMA Superbike racing is nothing short of amazing.

This year will be mark the 25th anniversary of AMA Superbike racing at Sears Point. Paul Ritter, who at the time was a localracing pro from Oakland, Calif., won the inaugural AMA Superbike race at the Northern California racing facility in 1977 riding aDucati.

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Brent Avis
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