AURORA, Ill. (March 14, 2008) – A humble, rather quiet family man from north central Wisconsin is poised to win one of the most aggressive, in-your-face forms of motorsports competition in existence. The Toyota AMA Arenacross Series…microwave supercross…supercross in a phone booth…however you refer to the sport it’s certainly a man’s way of making a living.
Bad Boy/TUF/Honda’s Chad Johnson is about to man up in an effort to become the sport’s king for this season.
At first glance Johnson just doesn’t have the look of a Toyota AMA Arenacross Series champion, much less a two-time champion. Tall and lanky, you can’t really group him with the hard-charging likes of the Monster/Babbitt’s/Kawasaki racers (Kelly Smith and Brock Sellards), nor even with veteran racers like defending series champ Danny Smith (Bad Boy/TUF/Honda) or Jim Neese (Carolina Xpress/Suzuki). Standing there amongst the aforementioned guys, hunched over in his team jacket, hat pulled down to his eyebrows - Johnson for some reason just doesn’t quite fit in.
That is until he throws a leg over his CRF250R and race officials drop the gate on a Toyota AMA Arenacross Series qualifier or main event. All of a sudden there’s a ‘Clark Kent/Superman’-like change that occurs. The mild mannered Johnson morphs into this lightning fast, cold, calculating arenacross tactician that can put in lap after lap of mistake-free riding in quarters so tight the mere mortal riders track each other in a single file line. And if it warrants striking out – BAM – Johnson cracks the throttle and reels in several guys ahead of him, aggressively taking their spots away like they were candy in the hands of kids who weren’t supposed to have it.
Johnson doesn’t talk smack. Maybe not at all. He’s again, very humble in victory or defeat. He also came into the season in better shape than any other rider, which showed when he could press the action from behind late in contests and still have a better hold on the handlebars than those trying to hold him off.
For his part Johnson says he hasn’t quite felt the stress that he did in the 2005-’06 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series season – one in which he was victorious by one point (417-416) over Sellards. Understandable. “This weekend is definitely not as stressful as Denver in ’06,” he says.
So relaxed is Johnson that he’s agreed to a bunch of advance media work this week, including a 4 a.m. TV morning shoot wake up call on race day Friday. But Johnson says he’s ready and is willing to lend a hand in anyway possible to promote this weekend’s final stop on the 2007-’08 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour.
“I’ve been riding, training, doing everything consistent these past couple weeks,” said Johnson. “I even came up a little early from Texas to test the race bikes – make sure everything’s rock solid, double and triple checked.”
There will be butterflies. Johnson knows that. But he’s ready, and his strategic approach is no secret for this weekend. “Good starts and stay out of the first turn chaos,” he said, in response to his game plan.
“Starts” have been Johnson’s Achilles heel this year, at least early in the year. But he addressed them with the same vigor and intensity that got him to the fitness level he enjoys.
“People used to tell me, when I was having problems with my starts, ‘Don’t work on them,’” said Johnson. “I tried going that route and it didn’t pay off. So as part of my practice riding I’d do 20 to 30 starts – every day. It ended up helping out a lot and I’ve for sure got better at them.”
Pull a good start. Stay out of trouble in the first turn. Johnson’s up 30 points. If he stays within four points of Kelly Smith on Friday at the Resch Center the title’s his – a main event early. But he also understands that ANYTHING can happen in Toyota AMA Arenacross Series racing.
“You try not to think about the things that could go wrong, just the things you have control over,” said Johnson. “I think the cool part, if I do win the championship, will be doing so in front of all my family and friends from Wisconsin. Guys I grew up with racing…it’s going to be an exciting weekend.”
Win or lose, Johnson wanted to make a point to thank TUF Racing’s Dave Antolak for giving him a team and a fast bike to race on this year. Also Bad Boy/TUF/Honda team manager Chris Hunter, along with crew chief Tracin Seng, Johnson’s mechanic Nate Vick, Johnson’s wife Annie, his two kids and, most of all, his mom and dad (Debbie and Rick) for being there since the beginning.
About the only thing left now is a chance at that other matching Toyota Tacoma 4x4 truck he’ll pick up if he wins the 2007-’08 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series championship this weekend. And given the price of gas, the scenic drive from Green Bay to Rhinelander would be another pretty cool aspect of winning the title in your home state, come to think of it.
2007-’08 AMA Arenacross Class Point Standings
2. Kelly Smith, Kaw, 398
3. Brock Sellards, Kaw, 372
4. Teddy Maier, Hon, 342
5. Kevin Johnson, Yam, 333
6. Keith Johnson, Yam, 319
7. Tom Hofmaster, Yam, 267
8. Jim Neese, Suz, 259
9. Gray Davenport, Kaw, 240
10. Robbie Reynard, Suz, 222
Advance tickets for the March 14-16 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series round at Green Bay’s Resch Center are available through www.arenacross.com, at the Resch Center Box Office, www.ticketstaronline.com, www.pmiwi.com, at the Oneida Casino or call (800) 895-0071 or (920) 494-3401. Show times are Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday (amateurs) at 12:00. Doors open Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m.. Friday, Saturday and Sunday advance tickets are $20 (all seats), $7 for kids ages 2-12. All seats $2 more day of show.