Everything on the Line at Brainerd

Brent Avis
by Brent Avis
Pickerington, Ohio - At 35, Miguel Duhamel shows no signs of slowing downwhatsoever. The 1995 AMA Superbike Champion and all-time wins leader in thehistory of the series, comes to the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S. SuperbikeChampionship presented by Parts Unlimited event that runs June 28-30 at TheColonel's Brainerd International Raceway as a man on a mission.

Two yearsago, Duhamel tied Motorcycle Hall of Famer Wayne Rainey's record of threewins on the high-speed three-mile BIR circuit and this year the Honda veterancomes into Brainerd on atwo-race winning streak, something he hasn't been able to put together on theSuperbike tour since 1998...

Duhamel's quest to become the first four-timewinner at Brainerd won't be easy. He'll have a host of other top Superbikeriders to contend with including past Brainerd Superbike winners Nicky Haydenand Eric Bostrom.

“Brainerd has always been a strong track for me,” said Duhamel, a 12-yearveteran of the series. “To get a fourth win there and become the all-timeSuperbike win leader at the track would be pretty special. The fans havealways been behind me there and I hope I can give them a good show this year.”

Hayden comes into Brainerd the defending race winner and the series pointsleader. He edged out fellow Honda rider Kurtis Roberts last year in one ofthe closest finishes in AMA Superbike history. The 20-year-old Honda riderfrom Owensboro, Ky., already has six wins to his credit this year -- the mostAMA Superbike wins in a single season since Duhamel won six in 1995. IfHayden manages to win Sunday, it would mark the second highest number ofSuperbike wins in a season in the history of the series. Three-time champFred Merkel holds the single-season AMA Superbike win record of 10 victoriesin 1984.

Bostrom returns to Brainerd, the site of his very first AMA Superbike win in1998. The Kawasaki ace from Las Vegas has been working overtime this seasonrunning in both the AMA series and a number of World Superbike Championshipraces. Bostrom stands second to Hayden in the series standings and would loveto chip away at Hayden's 40-point lead with a victory this weekend. IfBostrom could come out on top it would mark the first win for Kawasaki atBrainerd since 1983 when Rainey took victory on a green machine.

Suzuki's top gun this year has been Aaron Yates. The veteran racer fromMilledgeville, Ga., has scored three podium finishes in the seven roundsleading up to Brainerd. Yates is looking for his first Superbike win of theseason and his first at Brainerd, where he has raced since 1996. He's nevermanaged better than a seventh-place finish in the race.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the season has been the off year thatdefending and three-time AMA Superbike champion Mat Mladin is going through.The 30-year-old Australian has managed only one podium finish this season (athird at Fontana, Calif., in April) and comes into this Sunday's race rankedsixth in the standings. It's a far cry from the series domination that Mladinhad enjoyed in the last three years. However, Mladin has shown signs ofcoming back to his old form in recent testing sessions. Even though hischances for a fourth title are slim, Mladin would still love to get back inthe win column this year, and there would be no better place than at Brainerdto make that comeback -- one of the few racetracks on the circuit whereMladin has not won. In fact, Suzuki riders have never won an AMA Superbikerace at BIR.

Local fans will be behind home-state hero Greg Fryer. Fryer, who won an AMAFormula Xtreme race in 1997, is expected to race in the Superbike race onSunday. Fryer scored his AMA Superbike career best 14th-place finish atBrainerd last year on a Yamaha.

Tune into Speed Channel's tape-delay coverage of the AMA Chevy Trucks U.S.Superbike Championship at 5 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, June 30. Additionalbroadcasts of this weekends coverage can be seen: For additional informationcontact Brainerd International Raceway at (810) 249-5530 or visitwww.brainerdraceway.com.

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