Rockford AX Notebook
Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series
AMA’s new AX format: According to Clear Channel Motorsports’ Pam Lambert, the new format (80 percent AMA Arenacross class, 20-percent AMA Lites class) for the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series’ scoring system has led to a more involved, more amped crowd at the races. “At Charlotte on Saturday night we had 5,000 fans – all of which were HIGHLY into the racing,” said Lambert. “In the past, when the fans saw the same racers, same numbers, same bikes all evening long, we lacked some excitement in the fact that there was limited anticipation. With the new format the anticipation seems to build over the course of the qualifiers – and literally explodes in both main events (AX and Lites classes). So from what we’ve seen so far the crowds are really reacting well to the new format.”
Also doing well…: As the Toyota AMA AX Series gets set to open up its fourth round of the season at Rockford’s Metrocentre this Friday and Saturday, Lambert says the series has hit full stride. “The U.S. Air Force Freestyle MX Exhibition team has their routine dialed and has been real popular with the fans. Our new Miss Arenacross – Ashley – is a big hit with the fans as well. And as we’ve become used to the new scoring system and evening format, there’s no lag time between the racing and entertainment.”
Tim Cotter’s back!: Absent from the Charlotte round because he was emceeing the AMA Awards Banquet in Vegas, popular Toyota/AMA Arenacross announcer Tim Cotter will return to Rockford to pump up the always packed Metrocentre. Note: If you’re going to the race, make sure you congratulate Tim on his West Virginia Mountaineer football team making college football’s Bowl Championship Series (BCS)!
Rockford AX legend: This is the 11th year for the Rockford round of the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series – making it one of the longest-running rounds on the tour. Along with the racing, Rockford was home to one of the more legendary brawls on the AX tour when, in 1999, Pittsburgh’s Mad Mike Jones and Michigan’s Todd DeHoop got into a man-sized melee in the Rockford pits under the stands and it spilled back out onto the track before police broke it up.
Locals only: A number of racers from the state of Illinois will be competing this weekend on their home track in Rockford. Freeport’s Kevin Markwardt has been hauling as of late, sitting in 13th place overall in the premier AMA Arenacross class after three rounds (Albany, Des Moines & Charlotte). An AMA Lites class specialist, Markwardt is joined in the top 25 in the Arenacross class by Kody Molitor (Maple Park). Other Illinois-based riders competing include: Denny Dooley (Mattoon) and Robert Fisher (Harvard).
Leading the series: “Rad” Chad Johnson has won all but one main event thus far and is going to be tough to beat at Rockford – a place he calls his “hometown track.” The Yamaha-backed Johnson, from nearby Rhinelander, Wisc., will face stiff competition from the Illinois-based Thor/Honda/Tuf Racing team’s Brock Sellards and Jeff Northrop. Sellards and Northrop are running 2-3 in the series.
Top returner: Jeff Northrop was on the podium last year in the Arenacross class. Defending Rockford race winner Darcy Lange has moved on to race supercross this year. Keep an eye on Northrop this weekend. Word in the pits is that the NorCal racer has his new Tuf Racing Honda dialed in and is ready to break through with a win.
What’s up with Schnell?: Top AX prospect Greg Schnell (Rockstar/Suzuki) banged up his hand and wrist a bit at Charlotte – to go with the wrenched back and ribs he’s been dealing with since a gnarly practice get off at the U.S. Open in Vegas. According to those close to the Schnell camp, the defending Open 125 class champ has the speed to match Johnson, Sellards and Northrop – but just needs a start or a break to get up on the winner’s stand.
In the news: Both Molitor (Rockford Register Star) and Dooley (Mattoon Journal Gazette) will be the subject of feature stories running prior to this weekend’s race. Dooley, 30, is a perennial Loretta’s qualifier and, get this, still has a grandfather (Wayne Moffett) that rides at 85 years old! Dooley said his granddad used to own Moffett’s Triumph/Suzuki in Mattoon and still gets after it at local poker runs here and there on his street bike!
Floor size & track construction: The Metrocentre’s floor will be perfect for Arenacross. The 10,000 seat venue also hosts a USHRA-sanctioned “Thunder Nationals” monster truck event on Feb. 3 & 4. Trick is getting the track ready in time for Friday’s event seeing as how they have to transform the arena from hockey to basketball to Arenacross in less than a week. Leave it up to the world’s top Arenacross track builder – Clear Channel Motorsports’ Rigg Hipps – to bring everything together for this weekend’s show. “It’s always a bit hectic when you move in over an ice sheet, but we’ll get it done,” said Hipps.
Sponsoring Rockford: Hammertime Sports, Inc., of Belvidere, Ill., is the presenting sponsor for the Rockford AX. Carrying a full line of Kawasaki, Yamaha and Polaris vehicles, Hammertime Sports is well known for its unparalleled customer service. Check ‘em out at www.hammertimesports.com.
Pro Teams: Rockford’s Metrocentre – a longtime stop on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross tour, is also home to three pro sports teams, including: The Rockford Ice Hogs – last year’s United Hockey League’s “Franchise of the Year.” The Rockford Lightening – celebrating its 20th anniversary of competition in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA), a feeder league to the NBA. And the Rockford Raptors, members of the Arena Football League.
About the building (according to www.centreevents.com): Centre Events is technically the D/B/A for "Rockford Metropolitan Exposition, Auditorium, and Office Building Authority" . . .Centre Events is much easier to say! We are a municipal corporation, which was established by the Rockford Civic Center Act in 1969 for the purpose of promoting, operating, and maintaining expositions, conventions, sports, and theatrical and cultural activities in the County of Winnebago, Illinois. Centre Events currently owns and operates the MetroCentre, which is a 10,000-seat arena located in Downtown Rockford. Centre Events also operates the Coronado Theatre, which is a first-class performing arts and entertainment center that is owned by the City of Rockford, and we operate Davis Park at Founders Landing, which is a seven-acre outdoor venue along the Rock River that is owned by the City of Rockford and is maintained by the Rockford Park District.
Saturday’s a blast!: Clear Channel’s Rockford AX promotion manager Nicole Champagne has pulled out all the stops to make Saturday at the Metrocentre a memorable event for those in attendance. An early entry coupon and ticket gets folks into the arena as early as 1:30 p.m. for a big party complete with all sorts of stuff for the kids (face painting booths, clowns, etc.), a U.S. Air Force interactive booth and the band, “Detagoh,” providing the ‘live’ tunes. Everybody can watch pro practice, then get autographs afterwards from their favorite riders – along with Miss AX. So it’ll be a real ‘festival’ atmosphere at the Metrocentre all day long on Saturday. Note: Early entry passes are available at the 10th Inning Bar & Grill (corner of Riverside and Mulford), wxrx.com, arenacross.com and hammertimesports.com.