AURORA, Ill., (Feb. 14, 2007) – The Brothers Johnson – Kevin and Keith – will re-write the motocross history books this weekend when they take to the track at Nashville’s (Tenn.) Municipal Auditorium to decide the third and final podium spot in overall standings of the 2006-’07 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series.
Never before have two brothers been in the hunt for an overall podium spot in a major motocross-oriented (including supercross and arenacross) championship series. In fact, you’d have to go all the way back to 1991 where Tyson (3rd) and Tallon (1st) joined Jeremy McGrath (2nd) on the 125cc podium at the Houston Supercross round, just to find brothers on the podium at a major motocross series – much less the overall podium.
A mere four points separate Team Faith/Yamaha’s Kevin Johnson, 24, from his Bobby J’s Yamaha-sponsored brother, Keith, 27, for third place overall in the Arenacross class (303-299). To put that into perspective in the sport of Toyota AMA Arenacross, mess up a start on one night and the title goes to your brother.
“Four points? We might as well be tied,” says Keith.
Rewind back to 2001. During that season, and the following year, Keith was racing Yamahas for LCR Racing. Kevin, who is three years younger than Keith, was brought on by his older brother to race on the team as well. The two Albuquerque, N.M., natives were teammates, with some saying their best battles coming in the semi rather than on the track.
“If this was all happening a few years ago we’d have come to punches,” said Kevin.
Going their separate ways soon there after, Kevin would hook up with the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series while Keith moved from team to team on the Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross Series tour. Last year Kevin had his best arenacross season ever, finishing third overall, while Keith broke his leg at the Houston round and missed the remainder of the supercross season.
“After last year I didn’t know what I was going to do,” said Keith. “I was just over it.”
Enter Team Faith/Yamaha’s Brian O’Rourke, aka “Brian O.”
“My brother mentioned something about me possibly being interested in racing the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series and Brian O called me and said that even though they didn’t have an opening on the team, Team Faith would haul my bikes around and all I needed to do was get myself to the races,” said Keith. “So things have basically come full circle now - my brother helping me out with a ride.”
The subject of some GREAT pre-race interviews on top of the catapult jump with Toyota AMA Arenacross Series announcer Tim Cotter, the Johnsons are having fun with what’s now become a friendly rivalry on the track and, better yet, a situation where the guys aren’t at each others throats.
“We train, practice, travel and race together every weekend, so we pretty much decided to have fun with it,” said Kevin. “We’re able to joke with each other a little bit, he (Keith) says I’m going down and I say ‘I’m going to kick his butt.’”
Kevin Johnson has really made a name for himself on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour. Not only is he capable of winning on any given night – and has – Kevin also performs with the Team Faith FMX team during intermission at the events, bringing an arsenal of tricks you don’t see as often because they’re so old (laughter from Kevin). Add to that the rivalry with his brother and this year’s definitely been a career highlight for the racer from the town that’s home to such motocross greats as Ivan and Gio Tedesco, Ryan Clark, Isiah Johnson and Justin Buckelew.
“I know in the mains he’s (Keith) either one in front of me or one behind me,” said Kevin. “And I’ve got to at least end up what I was in last year (3rd o/a) – not slip back to fourth.”
And for Keith, there’s a bit of career redemption happening – coming back from a serious leg injury to contest a series that has featured an amazing ten different main event Arenacross class winners. Added Kevin on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series competition level: “Any night there’s eight to nine guys on the line that could win with a good start.” And Keith’s certainly one of these guys, with two main event wins to his credit this year (as does Kevin).
“Kevin’s scatter brained,” says Keith. “He used to be fast as heck for one lap, then that was it. I’ve always beaten him. But now it’s different, which stinks because if I beat him nobody gives a crap. But if he (Kevin) beats me? Forget it, everybody’s all over me and I never hear the end of it.”
So what do the Johnson brothers’ parents think of all this? “They’re just like ‘Whatever,’” said Keith with a laugh.
So the stage is set this weekend in Nashville for a historic battle at the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series’ final stop of the 2006-’07 campaign. With Danny Smith (TUF/Cernic’s/Honda) holding a 19-point lead over Robbie Reynard (Reynard Modifications/Honda), look for Smith to let Reynard go if things get close – in order to preserve the title. Do, however, keep a watchful eye on the No. 3 bike of Kevin Johnson and the No. 168 of Keith Johnson as the brothers battle for the third and final Arenacross class podium spot.
“At Springfield (Ill.) Kevin was ahead of me and I was catching up, I could feel that he was trying harder than he had all season to stay ahead of me,” said Keith. “It was cool to watch, but at the same time I felt I shouldn’t put him into the bales if I caught him. But maybe I’ll change that thought process in Nashville (laughs).”
Added Kevin: “We both have done really well this year and I’m just hoping there’s no catastrophe.”
For more information regarding the racing coming to Nashville this weekend, the current series’ point standings and results, or the latest news on the series are all available at www.arenacross.com.