Chad Johnson was ready for this season. He was even ready before he knew what team he would race for!
Johnson won both nights of the opening weekend of the AMA National
Arenacross Series at Albany, a weekend that featured some new faces and
a new format. Also, Shawn Clark won the new Lites class both nights.
Johnson earned the #3 plate last year on a Shogun Yamaha behind #1
Darcy Lange (who’s racing supercross this season) and #2 Jeff Northrop
(now on a Honda) but was without a ride as the season approached. He
wanted to be ready anyway and had been working with tuner Junior
Jackson for weeks before they even knew what brand bike he would race.
The strategy paid off. With two weeks to go before Albany, a deal with
Yamaha came together and he showed up more than ready, sweeping the
weekend’s premier AMA Arenacross class.
format: The 125 class is renamed Arenacross Lites and doesn't count for
national points. It pays less but gives local A riders a chance to race
Friday and Saturday. The change seems to be work
The AMA National Arenacross Series, which technically hasn’t been
renamed Toyota Arenacross yet (but soon will be), got some format
changes. Instead of everyone running a 125 and a 250 main each night,
there is one premier class for 250 and 450 riders; the former 125
class, now named Lites, becomes a development class. Pros can still
race Lites, but the pay is less, and it doesn’t count for national
points. The fastest guy to race both classes was Shawn Clark, who won
both Lites mains and picked up a lot of contingency cash.
With some of the season regulars moving over to the BooKoo Arenacross
Series, which starts next weekend, not everyone was there. New names
showed up as well, and as usual in arenacross, there were some new
teams (or maybe new names for old teams). The biggest new names are
Greg Schnell, racing for Rockstar/American Suzuki, and Brock Sellards,
for Cernic’s/Tuf/Parts Unlimited. Schnell still was banged up from
crashing out of the U.S. Open but toughed it out. Sellards is teamed up
with Northrop, and Brock made the podium both nights. Also making the
podium both nights was John Dowd.
new team for Northrop and Sellards. Tuf didn't know a month ago that it
would be racing arenacross again, and Cernic's was added a few days
before the first round. That’s arenacross!
Friday’s heat races were some of the weekend’s best racing, with Jim
Neese doing battle with Shawn Clark on Lites. Northrop and Schnell
battled in the premier class, and Kevin Johnson and Dowd had a close
race, then Neese beat Sellards. It was good racing.
On Friday, the first holeshot went to Ohio’s Zach Ames, but the first
turn went into a whoop section and his front end took a dive at the end
of it, handing the lead over to Chad Johnson and Northrop. Johnson led
every lap and won. Northrop got turned around in the whoops and ended
up way back. Dowd was second and Sellards was third, even though he was
slowed for a couple of laps by a Tuf Block cover that was hanging from
his bike. Schnell was fourth, Neese fifth.
Zach Ames (#296) got the holeshot Saturday night and finished fourth
The next night, heat races were again pretty good—the best being when
Damien Plotts tried to get around Clark for an entire moto. The race
went to the last turn and Clark won.
Ames again took the holeshot in the main. He was passed by Sellards
right away, then Dowd and Chad Johnson, but no one else. Sellards led a
few laps, but Johnson made time on him in the whoops and, after a
couple of tries, made a pass that stuck. Johnson won again, with
Sellards second. (Brock later seemed pretty happy about making the
switch to this series, and he mentioned on the podium that he wasn’t
used to racing that close.) Dowd was third and Ames held onto fourth,
his best finish in the big-bike class.
These three made the podium both nights
Overall, the weekend went well. The track held up well and no one got
hurt, though high-school football and Halloween-weekend parties might
have affected the crowd. Next weekend the AMA series goes to Des
Moines, and the BooKoo series has its opener in Ft. Worth.