By Anthony Sansotta
The AMA Arenacross Series made stop number twelve of the 2011 season at the Verizon Wireless Arena in Little Rock, AR. Babbitt’s Monster Energy/TiLube Kawasaki rider Tyler Bowers came into the round with ten wins this season in the midst of an 8 race win streak. Bowers was the series points leader and led Tuf Honda’s Jeff Gibson by 46 points as the day program kicked off. One thing was clear as the first practice ended, Kelly Smith and his Team Faith Yamaha were ready for battle by posting the 3rd fastest lap and not far off Bowers as he headed into the night program.
In the lites class Foremost Insurance/Spinechillers/HondaofFairfield.com rider Patrick Massie came into Little Rock with a 29 point lead over Hot Rod’s MX rider Austin Coon. With Coon absent at this round, Massie was focused and ready to do what he needed to protect his points lead. West coast lites champion Chad Cook was on hand and showed serious speed throughout practice and qualifying.
Heat race action got under way and Kelly Smith didn’t get quite the start he was looking for, but came back through to pack to make a last lap pass on Chad Johnson that left the crowd on their feet. Heat two got under way and Tyler Bowers took off and captured yet another heat race victory and it looked as though Bowers would again be the man to beat heading into the main. The dash for cash again proved that Smith was ready to contend for a win as he launched off the gate and got out to a win in the 4 lap sprint. Letko KTM rider Tanner Moore took the win in the first lites heat, and Chad Cook jumped out to a lead followed by Patrick Massie in heat 2.
The main in the Arenacross class was a complete showdown. Bowers had more trouble in a single race than he has all season. He got off to a terrible start coming around the first turn near the back of the pack, and it just never came around for him from there. Every time he would start mounting a charge as he normally does, something seemed to go wrong. Cory Green got off to his best start of the season leading the first few laps, but Kelly Smith wasted no time as he got to the front and jetted out to just over a 5 second lead. Foremost Insurance/Spinechillers Racing/HondaofFairfield.com rider Nathan Skaggs slipped past Green, Chad Johnson quickly followed and the two started chipping away at Smith’s lead. CJ gave chase but Skaggs got clear of him and overcame the 5 second gap to pull right up on the back wheel of Kelly with 5 laps to go. The Team Faith rider dug deep and held on to take his first victory of the year and become the fifth different winner of the 2011 season. Bowers worked his way up to 9th and had a miscue that dropped him back to 11th where he would finish.
The lites main was all Chad Cook. He jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. Behind him points leader Patrick Massie settled into a comfortable second but came under some serious pressure toward the end of the race from heat winner Tanner Moore. Massie would hold off a hard charging Moore to secure second place and gain more valuable points in the east coast title chase. Massie now has a 51 point lead heading into the last 3 rounds and his consistency is clearly showing he wants the East coast crown.
Tyler Bowers still remains 39 points out in front of Jeff Gibson with just 3 rounds left. Jeff now has Chad Johnson on his heels, as CJ has closed the gap to 6 points as the series heads to Rockford, IL this weekend. The 2 day event could potentially see two new champions crowned as Bowers and Massie now have substantial points leads on the rest of the competition.