Eight months ago the most dramatic and wild finish in AMSOIL Arenacross history capped off an incredible season that vaulted the championship into the spotlight. When the dust settled it was Kyle Regal who emerged with his first career title, capping off a breakthrough campaign for the veteran rider. Now, just a handful of days remain until the 2016 season kicks off and Regal returns with a target on his back, ready to begin his title defense against the most competitive field of riders ever assembled in AMSOIL Arenacross this Saturday night, January 9, from Cincinnati’s U.S. Bank Arena.
The brand new Ricky Carmichael Cup, which was formally unveiled to the world on New Years Day, will symbolize this season’s championship quest as the world’s most intense riders battle to earn this coveted trophy. Named for the most successful rider to ever throw a leg over a motorcycle, the Ricky Carmichael Cup embodies the spirit of what made Ricky Carmichael the “Greatest of All Time,” which also personifies what it takes to be successful in AMSOIL Arenacross – fearlessness, tenacity, confidence and a relentless will to win.
Regal’s triumph a year ago marked the first major title for the Husqvarna brand, which returned to full-time competition in 2015. He’ll be aboard the same motorcycle as he chases back-to-back championships, but with new surroundings. The Junior Jackson-led Rockstar Energy Drink Husqvarna Factory Racing presented by FMC and OTSFF team will receive factory support, giving Regal the resources he needs to chase that second title. He’ll be teamed up alongside Gared Steinke, who claimed the final win of the 2015 season in Las Vegas, and up-and-comer Kyle Bitterman.
Many believe Regal’s toughest challenge for a repeat championship will come from his primary rival a season ago, Jacob Hayes, and the rest of his Team Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki squad. Hayes was the runner-up to Regal in 2015 and their season-ending battle in the Race to the Championship provided the most memorable title fight in series history, which culminated in a controversial pass on the opening lap of the final race of the season that left Regal on top and Hayes wondering what could have been in one of AMSOIL Arenacross’ most iconic moments. With a full offseason to relive that moment over and over, Hayes is undoubtedly more motivated than ever to turn fortune back in his favor.
Rounding out the overall strength of Team Babbitt’s is the return of Chris Blose, a multi-race winner in 2015, and the addition of Gavin Faith, who served as Regal’s teammate last season and finished third in the final standings. Team Babbitt’s has been at the forefront of AMSOIL Arenacross for several years and while they will once again have arguably the most formidable lineup in the championship, the rest of the field has proven the battle for victory is wide open every weekend.
Adding to the depth of talent in AMSOIL Arenacross for the 2016 season are a slew of veterans, led by Cory Green, who has arguably logged more laps in the series than any of his fellow competitors. The Team Babbitt’s/Reynard Mods Suzuki rider may not get the same attention as some of his counterparts, but over the past two seasons he has championship finishes of fifth and fourth, making him a formidable threat to challenge for the title thanks to his impressive consistency. In addition to Green, Travis Sewell will look to build off his seventh-place finish in the championship a year ago, while Michael McDade returns from an injury plagued 2015 with high hopes of battling at the front of the field. Daniel Herrlein was also impressive in the early part of last season and he’ll be another rider to watch for when the gate drops Saturday night.
The rising young stars of Ricky Carmichael’s Road to Supercross that will join the professional ranks this season are perhaps the most accomplished to date. Led by multi-time AMA Amateur National Champion and reigning Monster Energy Cup Amateur All Star winner Austin Forkner, this group of budding young talent looks more than capable of challenging for victory. With 2015 AMA Horizon Award Winner Benny Bloss, Chase Sexton and several other future talents set to join Forkner in this endeavor, there’s no shortage of talent throughout AMSOIL Arenacross.
Saturday night’s action from Cincinnati will kick off 14 rounds and a total of 19 nights of racing for the 2016 season. The highly anticipated Race to the Championship, which will ultimately decide who walks away as champion in Las Vegas on May 6, begins on March 12 in Lafayette, Louisiana, for a six-round showdown between the top 10 riders in the championship.
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