Toyota AMA Arenacross Series’ Reno (Nev.) AX Notebook

November 15, 2006 1:10pm

Off to the “Biggest Little City in America” for Round Three of the 2006-’07 season – 15th anniversary of “Arenacross!”

AURORA, Ill., (Nov. 15, 2006 ) – Riding the wave of record pro and amateur rider turnout, along with sizable attendance figures that are up from last year, the 2006-’07 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series heads west this weekend to rockin’ Reno, Nev., for round three of the series.

So, in the indelible words of Horace Greeley, “Go West young man” certainly applies to the nation’s top arenacross racers as Reno’s Livestock Events Center is preparing for what will no doubt amount to two HUGE nights of Toyota AMA Arenacross Series racing – celebrating its 15th year of Toyota AMA Arenacross!

Leading the series is TUF Racing’s Danny Smith. Smith has been the most consistent racer on the tour so far, although Robbie Reynard is coming on like a hurricane. Smith won the Friday AMA Arenacross class opener in Des Moines (Iowa) – a race which Reynard failed to even qualify for – then has finished on the podium on two other occasions (3rd in Des Moines on Saturday and 2nd in Albany, N.Y., on Saturday). Hot on their heels is Greg Schnell of the Junior Jackson racing team. Schnell’s just a couple points behind Reynard, who trails Smith by ten.

So where’s defending series champ Chad Johnson been? Says Toyota AMA Arenacross announcer Tim Cotter: “If I’m Chad Johnson, I’m worried.” Last week at Albany Chad Johnson, running the Suzuki/Junior Jackson racing colors, had to race the LCQ – and finished 3rd in that (three qualify for the main) – in order to get into Albany’s Saturday night AMA Arenacross class program. Things are certainly heating up for Reno this weekend and Johnson better be on the schtick and punch through with some big points, or else he’s going to enter the second part of the season with a lot of ground to make up.

And not to single out Johnson, his teammate, Greg Schnell, actually had the series point lead heading into Saturday in Albany – and failed to qualify for the main! Just another sign that this year’s Toyota AMA Arenacross Series field is deeper than it’s ever been in recent years.

Speaking of a ‘lot of ground,’ the race surface at Reno’s Livestock Events Center is the largest the racers will see all season. Kind of a AX/SX hybrid track, lap times will be up, additional obstacles will be added by premier AX track builder Rigg Hipps and his crew and fans will enjoy a lot of areas where riders can set up and pass. This unique track layout might favor some of the racers with recent Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross experience, such as Smith and any one of a number of local SoCal pros/supercross regulars that are expected to make the trip up to Reno.

You also might want to keep one eye on the battle brewing between Team Faith’s Kevin Johnson – winner of last Saturday’s AMA Arenacross class main event in Albany – and the hyper fast Teddy Maier (Ti Lube/Storm Lake Honda). In good, ‘ol fashioned smash mouth main event racing on Saturday at Albany, KJ punted Maier, who had pulled the holeshot, off the track and out of the race. While both are pros and know that ‘dropping the gloves’ will get them fined and/or worse, there’s definitely some tension that should make for an exciting race-within-a-race this weekend between those two rippers.

Here’s something to chew on. What’s going to happen when the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series returns to action Jan. 5-6 in Charlotte…and Grand Rapids, Mich.? In combining last year’s Regional Toyota AMA Arenacross Series into what last year was called the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series – and now calling it the 2006-’07 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series – there are now four weekends that feature Toyota AMA Arenacross in two different cities. And both races, on the same weekend score the same points towards the national title. So, will some riders opt out of the higher purse races (Charlotte, Dayton, Ohio, Denver and Wheeling, Pa.) to gain – potentially – more year-end points at the lower purse races? TUF Racing’s Dave Antolak doesn’t really think so. “I don’t think there’ll be any strategy like that, at least not with the top five guys,” he said. “The teams will go to the higher purse races. So we’re going to Charlotte (vs. Grand Rapids) because it pays more money.” Developing…

Along the lines of money, Antolak is digging into his bank account to help his buddy Brock Sellards get back up and racing again. Last year’s Toyota AMA Arenacross Series Arenacross class runner up – by one stinking point – Sellards recently lost his sponsorship for the upcoming Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series. So Antolak’s helping Sellards get to Reno and ready to race and will look to add some additional sponsors to TUF Racing here during the break so Sellards has a AX ride for the rest of the season. Sellards is in 13th place overall having raced only one event (Des Moines) and could easily move into the top ten with a solid finish in Reno this weekend.

Good to see Jim Neese back up on the podium. The veteran North Carolinian won his first AMA Lites class main event of the year this past weekend in Albany. Neese is running the series with his buddy, Jim Chester, for the new Suzuki of Durham-backed Carolina Express program.

The “House was on FIRE,” according to Cotter at Albany when the legendary John “Junkyard” Dowd rolled out onto the track on Friday. Dowd had the backing of more than 1,000 Boy Scouts in a cool promotion put on by Live Nation to fill the Pepsi Center’s upper bowl. The Scouts had a special on-track pre-race party and came away as HUGE Dowdy fans. So they went bananas when the Massachusetts native came out during the opening ceremonies.

Also dusting off the leathers was longtime Eastern MX great Barry Carsten. Coupled with Dowd and Reynard, the old established MX guard gave the younger guys a bit of a whipping at Albany as Reynard won Friday night with Dowd on the podium in 2nd. On Saturday Dowd and Reynard went 4-5. Carsten made the mains both nights – in both the AMA Arenacross and AMA Arenacross Lites classes – and got the ‘Ironman’ award from Cotter.

One cool thing going on with the Reno AX this weekend is Live Nation’s promotional manager Patti Mapes has got it dialed in with the Food Bank of Northern Nevada on a promotion that’ll bring in food for the needy. Fans attending the Reno AX on Saturday are encouraged to bring three canned items each – along with their event tickets – to gain free access to Saturday’s 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Track Party. All the riders will be there signing autographs and such, so try and hook it up!

Finally, Reno’s like “Bowler Heaven.” If you get a chance, check out the National Bowling Stadium on 300 N. Center St. Noteworthy: Dunlop Tires’ Marshall Plumb is the best bowler in motocross, having rolled a number of perfect ‘300’ games.