One of those teams was Babbitt’s Monster Energy Kawasaki. Based out of nearby Muskegon, Mich., a significant portion of the pre-race excitement has been generated by the hometown team. Not only does the perennial front-running squad have a new lineup for 2009, but on New Years day, Babbitt’s Sports Center hosted its second annual pre-race party. Fans came out to meet Miss Arenacross Lindsey Scheltema and the series’ top riders while indulging on autographs, food, and Monster Energy Drink.
“As one of the largest dealers in the state of Michigan, it is an honor to be able to have an open house,” said owner Eddie Babbitt. “It’s kind of unreal. The amount of attention this brings and the notoriety from our race team, as a team owner it is great news for a depressed economy. People love to go out and know about stuff like this.”
“As a Babbitt’s team rider and Grand Rapids native myself, this is something I am proud to be a part of,” added Scheltema, a Women’s Motocross Championship competitor. “This is not only good for myself and Babbitt’s, but arenacross as a whole.
“It allows families to continue to celebrate the New Year and be a part of something that is unlike anything they have ever seen before. I couldn’t be more excited to start the season at home. Word is spreading fast.”
For 2009, Babbitt’s welcomes the series’ top two riders from 2008 in defending champion Chad Johnson and runner-up Kelly Smith.
“We’re excited. The whole town is,” exclaimed Babbitt. “A lot of local amateur riders and our customers are really pumped. The buzz from this (race) is incredible. Both guys are extremely confident coming into the season, making sure their in peak shape and fine tuning their bikes to perfection.”
Friends off the track, Johnson and Smith have a tremendous amount of respect for one another. But once the duo is on track, it’s every man for himself. With a season of bar-to-bar action behind them, these newfound teammates are on the cusp of a budding rivalry that will surely bring a lot of attention to the series.
“Even though they are teammates, both of them have the same expectations,” explained Babbitt’s Team Manager Denny Bartz. “They want to win real bad. When it comes down to it, it doesn’t matter what the bike says on it. Anyone on the track is a competitor and that’s the bottom line.”
2008 Champion Johnson echoes that sentiment.
“Kelly and I are good friends,” he added. “What happens on the track stays on the track. Whoever comes out on top, the other will surely be happy for him because it will be well deserved.”
While a lot of talk is centered around the Team Green riders, everyone is keeping an eye on two-time champion Josh Demuth. The legendary AMA Arenacross Series rider is making his return to the circuit with the defending championship team of Tuf Honda. With the hometown buzz, Babbitt’s Monster Energy Kawasaki will look to take advantage of the additional attention.
“Josh is good and he will do really well,” explained Babbitt. “When he wants to win, he is fully capable of doing so. (The race) is a big deal around here and this is worth talking about.”
“Kelly’s hometown is just an hour and a half north of Grand Rapids,” added Bartz. “This is his hometown race as well and he will definitely be fired up.”
“Josh (Demuth) has been around for a while. He’s smart and he’s fast,” explained Johnson. “Being so close to the team’s home really just makes everything more fun. I can’t wait.”
The first gates drop on the 2009 AMA Arenacross Series season on Friday, January 2 beginning at 7:30 p.m.. The action continues Saturday night from Van Andel Arena at 7:30 p.m. for night two, followed by Amateur Day on Sunday, beginning at 12 noon.
A limited number of Gold Circle seating is available. Kid’s seats are just $5 (excluding Gold Circle.) Tickets are available at Van Andel Arena Box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, by phone 616-456-3333 and discounted tickets available at Babbitt’s Sports Center.
Tickets are available online at www.arenacross.com, www.ticketmaster.com, www.tickets.com. For more information on the AMA Arenacross Series log on to www.arenacross.com.
About Feld Motor Sports Feld Motor Sports, Inc. is the world leader in specialized arena and stadium-based motor sports entertainment. Feld Motor Sports, Inc. productions include Monster Jam®, Monster Energy® Supercross, AMA Arenacross Series, Freestyle Motocross, and IHRA® Nitro Jam®. Feld Motor Sports, Inc. is a division of Feld Entertainment, the world’s largest producer of live family entertainment. For more information on Feld Entertainment, visit www.feldentertainment.com.