With two rounds and four races completed, the 2009 AMA Arenacross Series championship is slowly starting to take shape. Collectively there have been seven different winners in a total of eight races across the AMA Arenacross and AMA Arenacross Lites classes, it has become virtually impossible to pick a winner on any given night. However, a quick look at the results and series point standings reveals an interesting characteristic. The boys from Ohio are turning some heads.
While preseason favorites Chad Johnson, Josh Demuth, and Kelly Smith have all had their ups and downs this season, a pair of Ohio natives are taking the series by storm.
Series points leader Jeff Gibson, of Thornville, Ohio, has been an early-season revelation. While a true veteran of the sport and one of the most experienced riders on the track, it has been five years since he raced arenacross on a regular basis. Logic would suggest it would take Gibson a few rounds to find his rhythm, but being teamed up with Mahindra Tractors/Tuf Honda, winners of the last two series titles, has helped him find his groove quickly. In addition to leading the point standings, Gibson has one victory, coming last Friday in Baltimore, and has not finished worse than third.
“The season has gone really well so far,” said Gibson. “The Mahindra Tractors/Tuf Honda team is awesome, but I know anything can happen. It’s a long season. I couldn’t be happier with how things are going right now though.”
Hot on Gibson’s heels is Bainbridge, Ohio’s Nathan Skaggs. Running for the underdog Spinechillers/Storm Lake Honda team, he is the only multiple winner this season, grabbing Saturday night victories in both Grand Rapids and Baltimore. A relative unknown on the circuit, he is making the most of his opportunity with Dallas Avery’s team and is quickly making a name for himself.
“This is what I’ve expected of myself,” explained Skaggs. “Last year I got a slow start. So far this year everything is working out. The bikes are great and keep getting better and better. I definitely wouldn’t be doing as well if I didn’t have these bikes. They are the best (Dallas) can give us. I’m just taking things race by race. There are a lot of races and I know I don’t need to win every one. I just need to stay close.”
The current top 10 in the AMA Arenacross class features five riders from Ohio. Gibson and Skaggs lead the way in first and second, while Sherodsville’s Brock Sellards, Thornville’s Michael Willard, and Batavia’s Codi Adams follow in fourth (tied) and seventh, respectively.
Sellards hasn’t had the year he hoped for on his Triple Effect Kawasaki, but with nine rounds of racing still remaining, he will undoubtedly be in the thick of the title chase in March.
Willard took the AMA Arenacross world by storm in November when he won three of the four races across each class at the Des Moines, Iowa prequel race on a virtually stock bike. Since signing with Team Green Kawasaki, he has continued to dial in the bike and is chipping away towards the top of the standings.
Adams started the season with a big win in the AMA Arenacross Lites class at the season opener from Grand Rapids, Mich. He has carried over that success into the premier class, posting a season-best seventh-place finish aboard his CCM/Pro Circuit Yamaha.
The Ohio influence is also in effect in the AMA Arenacross Lites class. Rushville, Ohio’s Willy Browning has competed in each race of the season, in both the Midwest Division and Eastern Division. Much like his Spinechillers teammate Skaggs, Browning has found tremendous success and leads the point standings for each division, garnering one win in Grand Rapids while posting podium finishes in each race aboard his Spinechillers/Suzuki City Suzuki.
“I don’t know what it is with (Ohio riders) this season,” said Gibson. “It’s not like all the Ohio guys get together when we aren’t racing and ride motos together. I guess it comes from all the indoor races we did when we were younger. Everyone is just so talented and there is a continual inflow of local riders stepping up into the series. I’m proud to be a part of it and can’t wait to race at home.”
This weekend, the intimate and exciting action of the AMA Arenacross Series will be showcased at the Ervin J. Nutter Center on the campus of Wright State University. Serving as southwest Ohio’s premier sports and entertainment complex, the Nutter Center is home to NCAA Division I Wright State Raiders athletics and the ECHL’s Dayton Bombers hockey team.
Opened in 1990 and named for famous Ohioan Ervin J. Nutter, the main arena of the center seats a maximum of 12,000, but the facility also houses four basketball courts, a recreation running track, a fitness center, classrooms, and 60,000 square feet of exhibit space.
The first gates drop on the Dayton AMA Arenacross Series Presented by Kenda Tire on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Amateur Day concludes an exciting weekend of action on Sunday, beginning at 12 noon.
All Gold Circle Level seats cost just $25. Mid-level seats are $18 for adults and $5 for kids, ages 2-12. Upper level tickets are available for $10 for adults and $5 for kids. Tickets cost $2 more the day of the race. Purchase at Nutter Center Box Office and Ticketmaster charge by phone at (937) 228-2323.