The 2011 AMA Arenacross Series got underway last Saturday night with a hotly-contested battle for the win between TUF Honda’s Jeff Gibson and the Babbitt’s Monster Energy/TiLUBE Kawasaki presented by Maxxis duo of Tyler Bowers and Chad Johnson. In the end after 25 laps of edge-of-your-seat excitement, Gibson prevailed to take an early lead in the championship.
Two seasons ago, Gibson entered the AMA Arenacross Series full time after spending most of his career in Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship. The Ohio native hoped his honed skills on the larger supercross layouts would translate to the tighter, more technical tracks of arenacross. After 11 rounds, he stood above the rest as the 2009 AMA Arenacross Series Champion, posting six victories along the way. The sport had found a new star.
Entering the 2010 season, the target was on Gibson’s back as he looked for back-to-back titles and the fourth consecutive championship for TUF Honda. However, an offseason crash left Gibson in the hospital, in need of emergency surgery that would leave him bed ridden for some time. While he healed up in time for the start of the 2010 championship, Gibson never seemed to find his rhythm, failing to win a single race and finishing fourth in the Arenacross class title fight.
After what Gibson considered to be a disappointing year, he put in countless hours of preparation to return to the top of the AMA Arenacross Series. After his performance in Tulsa last weekend, it looks like he’s where he wants to be.
Jeff, you’re off to a great start this season, going two-for-two in the first couple rounds. After such a great year in 2009 followed by frustration in 2010, how does it feel to be back in front?
“It fees really good right now. I’m really excited about how things are going. I feel really comfortable on the bike and I feel blessed (to be in this position). I’m excited for the race this weekend and I’m just trying to enjoy everything I have right now.”
What do you feel has contributed to the success you’ve had this year?
“I don’t know. I’ve been riding really well recently and I put a lot of work into the offseason. I’m really focused and I want (the championship) bad. In the 2010 season, I was coming off an injury and it really set me back. Coming into 2011, I was healthy all summer and it allowed me to put in the work that needed to be done.”
You mentioned 2010 and the trouble you had. Did the injury affect you more than you thought and just take you a lot longer to fully come back from?
“I think that was the big thing. The injury really threw me back and I think that’s why I was faster on the 250 (rather than the 450). I wasn’t strong enough to ride the 450 yet. When the series switched over, I was really fighting that and it took me a while to get used to it. But, since I wasn’t healthy the whole year, I think it was a big thing coming into last season.”
Have you done anything differently in preparation for 2011?
“No. There’s nothing really different. I’ve been able to focus a lot more and put in some hard work like I did before the 2009 season. I’m happy with that and I just need to keep moving forward.”
It’s been only two rounds and there are still 12 more to go, but with the success you’ve had so early, how do you think that plays to your advantage?
“I (actually) think it’s a bigger bulls eye on my back. We are only two races into the season and there is a lot of racing left. I ultimately have to just take it one race at a time.”
Would you say that the talent level in the AMA Arenacross Series is deeper than ever?
“Yeah it is. It’s a really tough field this year. It’s unfortunate with the loss of Josh (Demuth), but there are a couple more guys that have come into the series. Even without Josh, it’s kind of sad, but it’s still really tough. Everyone goes the same speed and lap times are so close. I think it’s going to lead to a good season.”
It’s seems like you’ve found a home at TUF Honda. What is it about the team that works so well for you?
“I just feel real comfortable with the TUF Honda team. This is my third year with them and my third year with my mechanic Andy Brennan and he and I get along really well. He actually lives only 35-40 minutes away from me. And the whole team just gets along really well. I love being a part of the team and I love riding a Honda. I feel really comfortable on the bike.”
The series heads to Dayton this weekend, which is sort of a homecoming for you racing in your home state. How does it feel to race so close to home?
“I’m really excited about it. I love going to Dayton. It’s one of my favorite rounds. I’m able to sleep in my own bed the night before and drive up (to the race) that morning. There’s a ton of Ohio fans that show up and I have a lot of family and friends that come out, plus my wife can go to this race. It’s just really cool.”
Round three of the 2011 AMA Arenacross Series kicks off in just a few days from the Nutter Center in Dayton, Ohio, Saturday, January 22 starting at 7:00 p.m. ET!
New for 2011, live timing and scoring from each round of the AMA Arenacross Series. To follow the intense racing action live, log onto www.arenacross.com. Never miss out on the latest news! Follow the AMA Arenacross Series on Facebook and Twitter! Log on to http://www.facebook.com/AMAarenacross and http://twitter.com/arenacross today!