Yoshimura Suzuki's Ben Spies
recently won his first AMA Superbike Championship race and in the
process pulled off one of the rarest feats in the history of the series.
By taking his first Superbike win two weeks ago at California Speedway,
in Fontana, Calif., the young Texan claimed the series standings and in
the process became only the second rookie ever to lead the AMA Superbike
Championship. Motorcycle Hall of Fame legend Eddie Lawson was the first
to accomplish the feat in 1980.
Spies brings his series lead to Sonoma, California's Infineon Raceway
and the Kawasaki Superbike Showdown Doubleheader, rounds six and seven
of the 17-race AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited
on May 13-15.
The victory for Spies in Fontana not only gave him the series lead it
also made him only one of four riders to win in every category of AMA
road racing. Spies joins Miguel Duhamel, Nicky Hayden and Jamie Hacking
as the only riders to win all four categories - Superbike, Supersport,
Formula Xtreme and Superstock.
While Spies is happy to have the lead he admits that he may be an
interloper to the top position. He won the first round of the California
Speedway doubleheader two weeks ago after teammate Mat Mladin was forced
to retire with a rare mechanical failure on his factory Suzuki.
"It wasn't the way I wanted to do it," said Spies, who went on to say he
would have much rather earned a win over Mat Mladin at full strength.
"This (California Speedway) is one of my stronger tracks and I hope to
get stronger as the season goes on, but I knew I rode well here and our
first shot might have been here. Just the way things worked out, it was
kind of a weird win. I really wish that I could have gotten good starts
off the line and that Mat wouldn't have had any problems."
Mladin returned strong in the second California Speedway race and took
his fourth win in five starts. As the series moves to Sonoma he finds
himself out of the series lead for the first time in two years (just
three points behind Spies) but seemed to take his misfortune at Fontana
"We had a clutch problem and that's just the way it goes," said Mladin
after being forced to retire from Fontana's race one after his bike's
clutch failed after two re-starts. "Fortunately, we'd built up enough of
a points lead that we're only a little bit behind. We're five races into
it and the championship starts again.
"There is no better challenge for a rider than at Infineon (Raceway).
It's got elevation changes, tight corners and a number of other
challenges. I love it. Any rider who says he doesn't like a challenge
like that is very different than me. That's why we do this for a
Northern California racing fans will get their first opportunity to
watch former World Superbike champ Britain's Neil Hodgson go up against
the AMA Superbike regulars. Hodgson also looks forward to facing the
challenging Infineon Raceway road course.
"I've only been on the track once (testing in March) but it's one of my
top 10 tracks in the world," said Hodgson who is a close third in the
standings. "It has all the characteristics that you want in a track.
It's the ultimate test for a rider. I've watched this track 1,000 times
on video but that doesn't do it justice. You just don't realize how
tough the track is until you ride a few laps."
Infineon Raceway (formerly called Sears Point) has one of the richest
histories of all the AMA circuits. The 12-turn, 2.32-mile road course,
nestled in California's scenic wine growing region, has hosted AMA
Superbike races since 1977. The all-time Superbike wins leader at
Infineon is Honda's Miguel Duhamel. Duhamel has five race wins at the
track dating back to 1993. He hopes to find the combination to earn his
first victory of the season this weekend.
Another rider to watch at Infineon is Yoshimura Suzuki's Aaron Yates.
The Georgian won his first AMA Superbike race at the track nine years
ago with a dramatic last-lap pass on Mladin.
Marty Craggill has climbed to the top of the non-factory Superbike
riders in the series with four straight top-10 finishes on his Mat
Mladin Motorsports Suzuki. "I've raced at Infineon twice," said
Craggill, who comes into the doubleheader ranked seventh. "I got on the
box there in Formula Xtreme in 2002 so I feel good about that track."
Local riders have traditionally done well at Infineon Raceway, which
hosts numerous AFM racing events. Many expect David Stanton, of
Lafayette, Calif., to be a contender on the Arclight Suzuki.
"I'm hoping to at least do as well as I did last year and maybe improve
on that," said Stanton, who was seventh in the first Superbike race last
year and crashed while running sixth in the second. "I race at Infineon
so much that it does give you a bit of an advantage. I raced there just
last week in fact. It's tough to compete with the speed of the factory
bikes, but I'm hoping my knowledge of the track will give me an edge."