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Interview: Toyota AMA AX Series' Harv Whipple

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The lowdown from the referee of  the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series

AURORA, Ill., (Feb 2, 2007) – In the most competitive Toyota Arenacross Series ever, AMA official Harv Whipple is at the helm of providing a safe racing environment for the sport’s competitors.

Born & bred racing hare scrambles and enduros on the Iowa/Illinois border, Whipple eventually took his skills to the national level. Whipple is a true aficionado and historian of the sport of motocross and Toyota AMA Arenacross Series.

An electrician by trade, Whipple uses the vacation time he’s built up in order to travel with the barnstorming Toyota AMA Arenacross Series. Involved now with the series for 12 years, Whipple has grown with the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series.

Whipple took over as the head referee for the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series this past competition season. A tough position as a mediator between riders and the AMA rulebook, Whipple keeps a low profile and is well-liked throughout the series by the riders, mechanics and team managers.

We caught up with Whipple to get his take on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series season thus far, the changes that have been implemented this year and a few other things we though you might find interesting.

Question: As the referee for the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series, talk about the importance of relating to the riders.

Harv Whipple: ”I am a rider myself so I feel I can understand certain things well when the riders approach me with a situation or when there is a decision that has to be made. My main concern is to take care of the riders while they are on the track because I feel responsible for their safety. That is one thing that if you look at last year, I can only think of one rider that started the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series that was not able to finish because of injuries. In past years by the Christmas break there were at least a half dozen riders on the injury reserve list.”

Question: What do you attribute the advancements in track safety to?

Whipple: “In part to the AMA working with Live Nation’s track builders who have always built the most competitive and creative arenacross tracks, along with new mandates by the sanctioning body has led to these noticeable advancements.

Question: Another rule that has been modified is the new emphasis on the AMA Arenacross class. Has that progressed the way it was mapped out between Live Nation and the AMA prior to the start of the season?

Whipple: The premier AMA Arenacross class is now one of the advancement systems for Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross. Riders need to accumulate 100 points in the AMA Arenacross class in order to qualify to register to race a supercross. That being said we’ve taken steps to make Toyota AMA Arenacross as realistically close to supercross as possible so that the transition is easy for the riders and they are then prepared as best as we see fit to race at the next level.

Question: How has this effected the support class, aka AMA Arenacross Lites?

Whipple: “Live Nation has a supplemental rule that allows both the 250F & 450F displacement bikes to compete in the AMA Arenacross class so the riders with just a Lites bike that are going on to race the Eastern Region AMA Supercross Lites class at Atlanta after our season ends will have their machine prepared. There will also be four regions for the AMA Arenacross Lites class – North, South, East and West. And each of these regions will crown a regional champion and award him with a Toyota AMA Arenacross Series Regional Arenacross Lites No. 1 plate.”

Question: Another nice thing about the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series is that it showcases the amateur talent on Sunday’s – racers that are truly “next” in terms of being future stars of Toyota AMA Arenacross and Amp’d Mobile Supercross.

Whipple: “That’s definitely one of the benefits of the job. Over the years I’ve seen many greats come up from the ranks of racing amateurs on Sunday at the venues that host the pros on Friday and Saturday. This now culminates with the top five racers out of four different regions from all the classes being invited to the Toyota AMA Amateur Arenacross World Finals in Las Vegas (in conjunction with the U.S. Open). So in effect what Live Nation and the AMA are building here is minor league feeder system for supercross based on the major/minor league baseball model.”

Question: Finally, Harv, you’ve got an enviable job in one way in that you’re seated right in front of some unreal racing action night after night. And up to this point the 2006-’07 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series has been the most competitive on record in terms of diversity as no less than EIGHT racers have won AMA Arenacross class main events. Discuss the parity associated with the series this year.

Whipple: “That’s amazing. And I can think of at least three more possibilities where racers like Teddy Maier and Justin Buckelew could have won. I’m not sure if this has ever happened in the 22-year history of the AMA Arenacross Series, but if it has it’s been quite some time. Last season the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series championship came down to the last race of the last night. With three races left this season and knowing that anything can happen, there may be as many as five riders on the final night fighting for the keys to a new Toyota pickup!”

Question: Any parting words?

Whipple: I’d just thank my family who have helped me do what I love to do. I’ve got a wife and two girls that have put up with an awful lot over the past 12 year, including travel all over the nation and I’d just like to give them a quick thanks for putting up with me.”

Thanks for your time, Harv. Have a good race at Springfield (Ill.) this weekend!

For more information regarding the racing coming to Springfield, Ill., this weekend, the current series’ point standings and results, or the latest news on the series are all available at www.arenacross.com.

 

 

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