This weekend’s anticipated return to Reno, Nev., means it’s crunch time for several riders in AMSOIL Arenacross, featuring Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross. The eighth stop of the 2014 season from the Livestock Events Center serves as the final opportunity for riders in the premier Arenacross Class to secure their position in the season-ending Race to the Championship, which will commence over the final four rounds of the season to crown a champion.
With two nights of action scheduled this weekend on Friday, February 21, and Saturday, February 22, the action is sure to be some of the most dramatic of the season as riders vie for a spot inside the top 10 in the championship point standings. The Race to the Championship is a playoff-inspired battle between the best riders in AMSOIL Arenacross over the course of four rounds and six nights of action. Points are reset for the 10 qualified riders who will then battle it out to determine who emerges as the 2014 AMSOIL Arenacross Champion.
Last season, the Race to the Championship produced arguably the most memorable and dramatic battle for the title in AMSOIL Arenacross history. The groundbreaking initiative for the sport places an emphasis on peaking at the right time, meaning any rider on a hot streak could ultimately break through as champion no matter where inside the top 10 he begins his quest. That unpredictability will begin this weekend as a handful of riders are still in search of locking in their spots to be a part of the Race to the Championship.
Currently, just 27 points separate riders occupying sixth through 11th in the Arenacross Class standings. Farmers Insurance/Reynard Mods Suzuki’s Cory Green sits in the most enviable position of this group in sixth and has been consistent throughout the season. With the first round of the Race to the Championship set to kick off at his hometown stop in Tulsa, Okla., Green wants nothing more than a chance to potentially put himself in the title hunt in front of family and friends.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the pressure will be on veteran Kelly Smith who currently sits on the outside looking in from his 11th place position. The Team Faith/FLY Racing KTM rider is no stranger to competing with a lot on the line and that experience could very well work in his favor in Reno. Smith is just seven points behind Motosport Hillsboro Kawasaki’s Gared Steinke in 10th and can take solace in knowing that he is the only rider not currently qualified that is eligible to break into the top 10. As a result, he has little to lose and a lot to gain as the pursuant of Steinke.
In addition to Green, Steinke, and Smith, three other riders will look to be at their best inside the Livestock Events Center on both nights in search of earning as many points as possible to at least maintain their current standings, if not improving them heading into the Race to the Championship. Motosport.com/MJM Express/Spinechillers Racing KTM’s Willy Browning sits in a tie for sixth with Green in the standings and has been in this position before. His years of experience should also work in his favor towards maintaining his standing and fending off the advances of TZR Woodstock KTM’s Travis Sewell in eighth and Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki presented by Maxxis rookie Colt Nichols in ninth.
Only three riders have officially secured their spots inside the Race to the Championship thanks in large part to the tremendous success they’ve had this season. Leading the way is Babbitt’s Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki’s Zach Ames who has led the Arenacross Class standings for the bulk of the 2014 season and is the most consistent rider in the championship up to this point. Joining Ames is close friend and Babbitt’s teammate Tyler Bowers, the winningest rider in the championship this season and reigning three-time AMSOIL Arenacross Champion. The third member of the group is TiLUBE/PBR/TUF Racing Honda’s Jacob Hayes, a rookie to the championship and a member of the Road to Supercross. Both Bowers and Hayes enter Reno fresh off overall wins this past weekend in Nampa, Idaho, while Ames is carrying considerable momentum thanks to a string of podium efforts.
Sitting third and fourth in the standings is TiLUBE/PBR/TUF Racing Honda’s Kyle Regal and Motosport.com/MJM Express/Spinechillers Racing Kawasaki’s Michael McDade. While neither rider has officially secured his spot in the Race to the Championship both are close. Regal enjoys a 39-point cushion on Smith and given how well he’s rode in recent weeks, he’s surely confident a pair of solid nights should securely lock him in. McDade, however, is in a much more uncertain position. The Kawasaki rider has stood atop the podium in 2014, giving him an even greater edge, but suffered an apparent wrist injury last weekend in Nampa that sidelined him from action last Saturday. With a 34-point gap separating McDade from Smith, there is a chance McDade will need to defend his position. Currently, McDade is playing this weekend by ear. He will be in Reno and ready for action, but will choose to forego racing if he isn’t at risk of falling outside the top 10 in an effort to allow for additional recovery heading into Tulsa. His potential absence is an opportunity for each of the riders behind him to improve their standing and will be a major focal point throughout the weekend.
The battle for the Race to the Championship headlines this weekend’s action in Reno, which will once again host a round of AMSOIL Arenacross and is one of the most historic stops on the schedule. The drama unfolds Friday, February 21, and continues on Saturday, February 22, with each night beginning at 10 p.m. ET.
The entire AMSOIL Arenacross season will air on FOX Sports 1, including re-airs on FOX Sports 2.
Logo courtesy American Motorcyclist Association