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2006 AMA Supermoto Championship Kicks Off at California Speedway

 PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 24, 2006) -- On April 29 the 2006 AMA Supermoto Championship presented by Parts Unlimited will take the green flag at California Speedway in Fontana. This is the fourth year of AMA Pro Racing’s newest championship series and it promises to be the best yet.

Team Red Bull KTM HMC’s Jurgen Kunzel will be back to defend his 2005 championship. Other pre-season favorites include Troy Lee Honda’s Jeff Ward, the 2004 series champ, and Graves Yamaha teammates Doug Henry and Mark Burkhart.

Kunzel took last year’s title in a dramatic down-to-the-wire final round in Reno. The German stole away the title after rival Ward crashed leaving the door open for Kunzel’s surprising comeback. It was a breakthrough year in 2005 for Kunzel. After being one of the fastest Supermoto riders in the AMA championship since its inception, he finally earned his first victory in Nashville, Tenn. Then lady luck smiled on Kunzel again at Reno helping him win the title.

“I could not believe that I won the championship,” Kunzel said after placing second in the final race at Reno last October. “I felt very bad for Jeff (Ward). He had a great season and it was a tough way for him to lose the championship. At the same time I’m overjoyed for my team. They put so much work into this. I’ve worked hard for three years to get to this point. I had so much bad luck in my racing career over here, perhaps I was due for a little good luck.”

Ward, of Newport Beach, Calif., will turn 45 this season, but the former AMA Motocross and Supercross star still thinks he has what it takes to beat riders half his age.

“I’m looking forward to this season,” said Ward, who, in spite of his age, is still one of the most aggressive riders in the series. “It should be good with Kunzel trying to hold on to the title and Doug Henry coming back healthy. And then you have guys like Mark Burkhart and my teammate Chris Fillmore coming on strong. I think the positive thing about racing at my age is my knowledge of how to quickly get a bike set up and knowing how and when to make my move in the races.”

Doug Henry was the fastest rider in the championship early on last year winning three straight rounds before suffering injury. The Graves Yamaha rider is a veteran motocross champ like Ward and comes back in 2006 healthy and eager to get back in competition.

“I feel just about 100 percent and am looking for a good season,” Henry said. “I’m really pumped about the new Yamaha YZF450. In stock form I went faster than I’ve ever gone on my practice track. My goal is to come out of Fontana with some good points. We have a break in the series after that race to correct any problems we might encounter in the first round, but hopefully we’ll be competitive from the start.”

While Supermoto’s version of the “Big Three” is Kunzel, Ward and Henry, many people, including his fellow competitors, see Graves Yamaha’s Mark Burkhart making it the “Fab Four” in 2006. Burkhart, who totally dominated AMA Supermoto Lites last year, shocked the established stars by moving up from Lites and dominating the main Supermoto class in the Reno Red Bull finale last year.

In addition to the two rounds of the premier AMA Supermoto class, fans at California Speedway will also get to see a round of the AMA Supermoto Unlimited and Supermoto Lites support classes.

Brandon Currie will try to keep the Supermoto Lites title in the Graves Yamaha camp. After riding a Kawasaki in ’05 and finishing runner up to Burkhart last year, Currie now gets the opportunity to ride for a proven championship team. Currie is expected to be the rider to beat, but there are a host of others hoping to fill the void left in Burkhart’s absence.

Old scores may be settled in the Supermoto Unlimited class this year. Last year’s championship ended in a remarkable and controversial finish in the final round. Two title contenders Micky Dymond and Darryl Atkins came together on the last corner of the last lap. Atkins went down and with it his hopes of the title. Some called Dymond’s pass an aggressive, but perfectly acceptable racing move, while others saw it as overly forceful. The two are slated to resume their rivalry at California Speedway. This year Atkins is expected to race the new Aprilia SXV550 twin-cylinder machine.

The opening AMA Supermoto Championship runs Saturday in conjunction with the Suzuki Superbike Challenge AMA Superbike Championship doubleheader. All the final Supermoto events will take place after the end of Saturday’s road racing action, giving fans the opportunity to see two major championship events in a single day.

OLN will telecast the series. Look for updated information and a complete broadcast schedule to be released soon.

For ticket information call 1-800-944-RACE (7223) or visit www.californiaspeedway.com.

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