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Crunch Time For Thor/Honda/TUF Racing’s Jeff Northrop

Early start doesn’t match up to NorCal racers expectations he set to start Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series season

AURORA, Ill., (Jan. 17, 2006) – Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series star Jeff Northrop reeled off two podium finishes at Dallas recently to start the second half of the country’s only AMA-sanctioned national arenacross series. A good start, no doubt, but Northrop ran into some bad luck on Friday the 13th in Baltimore, banging up his hand but holding on for a 4th place finish before suffering a broken bike on Saturday, which dropped him from 3rd to 5th in the overall standings.

“I’m definitely disappointed,” said Northrop of Team Thor/Honda/TUFF Racing. “I wanted to be the series leader, winning races right off the bat. I’ve had some ups and downs, a couple good races, a couple bad races.”

Northrop hesitantly puts part of the blame for his uncharacteristic slow start on getting used to the new bike he’s racing. Having been on Kawasakis exclusively for the past decade, and a two-stroke at that, Northrop admittedly got a slow start on the new Honda CRF450R in the series’ AMA Arenacross class.

“We kind of got the bikes and team together with very little time to test,” said Northrop. “Because of that I was trying new stuff every weekend, basically doing my testing in actual race situations. New suspension set up, a motor that’s totally different that the Kawasakis I was used to riding. At times I’ve been frustrated, but I’m liking it now. I knew it would take some work to make it happen, but with my results to start the second half of the season I’m confident we’ve got things going in the right direction.”

At the Albany (N.Y.) opener, Northrop didn’t figure in the AMA Arenacross class scoring on Friday, then could only manage a 5th on Saturday. Northrop bounced back with two 2nds at Round Two in Des Moines (Iowa), then went 6/9 at Rockford (Ill.).

“The beginning of the season definitely didn’t go as planned, but now my stuff’s good,” said Northrop. “I’m in third, keep pounding out laps, trying to do what Chad did at the start.”

When asked if the competition is tougher this year, Northrop said: “The top guys are every bit as fast as they have been in the past. We’re maybe not quite as deep, in that the 10th place guy isn’t as fast this year as he was last year. But 6th, 7th and 8th are every bit as fast. The pace is fast and we’ve had some great racing.”

In Baltimore this past weekend, after banging up his hand on Friday, Northrop ran into the back of rival Shawn Clark in Saturday’s AMA Arenacross class main event, breaking a shroud off his fork and pulling his brake cable into the wheel. Northrop actually had to pull of the track and have his brake cable zip-tied to the fork so it wouldn’t get torn off while he was riding. This cost him a bunch of time and took him out of the top five in scoring.

“I’ll just have to file it under ‘stupid luck,’” said Northrop. “Third to fifth overall in the standing in one weekend. I’m pretty disappointed, but looking forward to Guthrie and showing people I have what it takes to win.

Northrop’s Baltimore experience ended up 180-degrees of what accomplished last year when he won the main.

As for Guthrie this weekend, Northrop says he’s going to be right at home. “The dirt’s always awesome, it’s a supercross style track – which is what I’ve been training on lately,” said Northrop. “I’m looking forward to it.”

Bottom line with Jeff Northrop is this: He’s one of the fastest arenacross racers in the world, he hooked up with arguably the best team in arenacross and has what it takes to get to the top.

“All I want to do is win like everybody else,” he says.

The Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series returns to action this week at Guthrie’s (Okla.) Lazy E Arena for Round Seven of the ten-round series. For more information on the Guthrie race, check out www.lazye.com/arena/ or contact Lazy E Arena at (405) 282-RIDE.

Tickets are available online at www.arenacross.com, www.ticketmaster.com, www.tickets.com. For more information on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series log on to www.arenacross.com.

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