As those close to the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series pointed out last week, the championship race hasn’t been this close and this exciting – with a total of three racers vying for the lead – in quite some time.
However, with the good comes the bad and it is that the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series will have to do without its defending 2006-’07 champion – Bad Boy/TUF/Honda’s Danny Smith – for a yet-to-be determined amount of time. Last weekend at Dayton’s Nutter Center, Smith broke his collarbone and it looks like he will not be able to defend his title.
Coming out of the whoop section, Smith lost the rear end of his bike during practice last Saturday, high-sided, lost the bike – then landed back on top of it.
“The bars stabbed me right in the collarbone and it broke, I worked so hard to get ready for this season, to defend the title – it’s really disappointing. This is the first bone I’ve broke in eight years. But it could have been worse. I’ll be there watching it go down from here on in.” said Smith.
Reportedly, his doctor said: “Six weeks minimum - with or without surgery.”
Smith said that one of the reasons for his rough luck this year was the way he had to adjust to the new 250F rule. Though he agrees with the concept, he was one of a few riders – including Robbie Reynard (Reynard Modifications/Suzuki) – that’s had a tough time adjusting to the what he called the “all out” racing on the 250F versus the 450F, which Smith said was “more my style.”
“I knew it was going to be harder for me coming into the season,” he said. “I had some good races, and some not-so-good races. But the bottom line was I struggled and never could quite get it going.”
Smith’s team owner, TUF Racing’s Dave Antolak, backed Smith 100-percent throughout the year. “Danny’s riding real well. He’s bummed about his results, but we’re not bummed about him. You need some luck in racing and this has just not been his year.” Antolak said that last week and it rang true again in Dayton. Smith was some 70 points off the podium pace (219-149) behind Brock Sellards (Monster/Babbitt’s/Kawasaki) after the Dayton round and his return, if possible, would be more for pride than anything else.
We put Smith’s feet to the fire and asked him what his take was on the Chad Johnson/Kelly Smith/Brock Sellards title chase. “I definitely see it coming down to the wire – at least as close as it was last year,” he said. “Chad won’t run away with it. Maybe he could if there was one guy, but not two. He’ll (Chad) have to work harder because Brock’s been beating him out of the gate pretty consistently. And we all know how important starts are in arenacross. But Chad’s been fast for sure.
“The guy that eventually wins will get the advantage with the starts and he’s got to have it right upstairs.”
Last year at Broadbent Arena, Carolina Xpress/Suzuki’s Jim Neese won the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series’ opening night main event while Ohio’s Brock Sellards (Monster/Babbitt’s/Kawasaki) took top honors in the Saturday night main event.
Said Sellards: “We had a great crowd in Louisville last year and this year should be no different.I’m looking forward to racing in front of a packed house both nights at Broadbent Arena.”
“We all get back together in Louisville,” added Toyota AMA Arenacross Series announcer Tim Cotter. “The split series didn’t hurt us at all. We had the highest-ranked rider win in New Mexico (Team Faith/Yamaha’s Kevin Johnson) and the hottest racer in the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series win in Dayton – Brock Sellards.”
Live Nation’s Robert Hansen checked in from Albuquerque with supercrossonline.com’s Jim Holley and Jason Weigandt during the live broadcast of the Anaheim 2 Monster Energy® Supercross race and gave fans an update on the action. He also had this to say about the upcoming Louisville Toyota AMA Arenacross Series round: “The Johnsons (Kevin and FiberWise/Yamaha’s Keith) were on fire last week in Albuquerque and Keith was not happy having his little brother whip on him in front of the home crowd. This weekend both of them will have their hands full with all the regulars at Louisville. When the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series doesn’t split, the two-night rounds always produce some surprises. The (Louisville) track is long and narrow with unstable dirt, so look for a shake up in the points after this weekend.”
The Broadbent Arena floor Hansen speaks about is 39,000 square feet, or 137 feet wide and 310 feet long. The seating capacity at Broadbent is around 6,600 people and capacity crowds are expected. According to many on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series, they’ve wicked it up with the opening ceremonies – with lots of pyrotechnics, show lights and rider entrances – much like the opening to a Monster Energy® Supercross races.
Cotter also said to keep an eye on the feud building between Reynard and Kelly Smith. The two got into it on Saturday night in Dayton and Reynard ended up grabbing Smith by the throat. “A lot of drama that’s not going to be extinguished anytime soon,” said Cotter. “I even got roosted in the skirmish!”
2007-’08 AMA Arenacross Class Point Standings
2. Kelly Smith, Kaw, 222
3. Brock Sellards, Kaw, 219
4. Teddy Maier, Hon, 195
5. Kevin Johnson, Yam, 188
6. Keith Johnson, Yam, 185
7. Danny Smith, Hon, 149
8. Jim Neese, Suz, 144
9. Tommy Hofmaster, Yam, 141
10. Nathan Skaggs, Hon, 138
Tickets for the Jan. 25-27 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series at Louisville’s Broadbent Arena are available through www.arenacross.com, at the Broadbent Arena Box Office, all Ticketmaster outlets, online at www.ticketmaster.com or charge by phone at (502) 367-5001. Fees and handling may apply. Show time is Friday at Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Sunday (amateurs) at noon. Doors open Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m. Friday and Saturday advance tickets are $20 to $25 for adults, $5 for kids ages 2-12. Sunday’s tickets are $20 for adults, $5 for kids. All tickets $2 more day of show.