Last season, Babbitt’s Monster Energy/TiLUBE Kawasaki presented by Maxxis rider Tyler Bowers was the fastest competitor in the AMA Arenacross Series.
He posted nine wins and had a considerable points lead in the Arenacross class championship only to suffer a season-ending broken leg as the schedule drew to a close.
Watching the title slip away was one of the hardest things Bowers has ever had to deal with, and after months of rehab and endless hours of training, he came into 2011 fully prepared to take care of some unfinished business.
After a slow start to kick off the 2011 AMA Arenacross Series, Bowers has come on strong in the past two weeks, taking wins at both Denver and Toledo.
Now, he sits just three points out of the Arenacross class points lead behind TUF Honda’s Jeff Gibson and appears to be coming into the similar form that was so dominant one year ago.
As the championship heads to Louisville’s Freedom Hall this weekend, Bowers, a Kentucky native from nearby Danville, is celebrating a bit of a homecoming in his own right.
With family and friends behind him, this could be Bowers’ chance to take over the top spot in the championship. We caught up with Tyler to see how his 2011 season has gone, and see how difficult his recovery to get back to this level was to endure.
Q. Tyler, you got off to a bit of a slow start this season, but in the last couple weeks you’ve come on strong. What has attributed to that?
Tyler Bowers says: "It’s been a wild offseason for me. I broke my femur in March and I worked my tail off just to be able to walk again this summer. So to come back (riding), it was a real challenge to be able to control that big motorcycle. At the tracks at the beginning of the season, I put a lot of pressure on myself and I pushed a little too hard thinking I needed to get going and get out to a quick start (to the season). I was making mistakes more than anything.
"After two rounds of that, I decided I was going to have some fun so I went to Dayton and just enjoyed myself. It worked out pretty good. I had some bad luck that was out of my control, but I was able to come back up to fourth without getting tired. That ended up being a real confidence booster for me.
"From there I realized that I was putting too much into my training during the week and was wearing myself out so I just took a step back and tried to enjoy myself. My team and I went back to the basics and just got back into the mindset of riding my dirt bike because I love it and enjoy it.
"In Denver I knew I was the fastest guy out on the track because I’ve had the fastest lap times every weekend. I knew that no matter what happened (in the race) I could get to the front. In the main, I got a pretty good start and moved into third and started battling with (Jeff Gibson). I ended up falling, but caught up to Gibby again, which was a huge confidence booster. Everything just seemed to be clicking that night and I was happy to come out with a win. I’ve put so much pressure on myself this season and it’s good to know that all the hard work is starting to pay off."
Q. Would you say the competition this year is a lot deeper and tougher than it was last season?
Tyler Bowers says: "I don’t know. It’s always tough and it for sure gets tougher when everyone’s healthy. I know a lot of guys have put in a lot of hard work to get to the front and its showing. (Gray) Davenport is one of those guys, coming on board with the Babbitt’s team. He’s had a good program for years and now he’s getting a good chance and his confidence is up there. Cole Siebler was also brought in (by TUF Honda).
"I’ve known him for a long time and it’s good to see him riding well. There’s a few other guys that have put together good programs too, like Dano Aulsaybrook, who’s a really fast young rider. I’ve been impressed with him this season."
Q. You mentioned coming back from your broken leg. How hard has it been to come back from that?
Tyler Bowers says: "It was hard, but it all worked out for the better. (Last season) I got a little burnt out. It was just non-stop on the grind, at the gym and at the track every day. You just start thinking, this is great and all and I love riding my dirt bike, but this is a lot work right now.
"But after being unable to do anything for three-and-a-half months, I realized there isn’t anything I’d rather do than race dirt bikes for a living. I put a lot of work into training and the gym this summer, in addition to a lot of physical therapy to get ready to go and I’d say I’m only about 75 percent right now. I’m just willing to put in the work and do what I need to do each week. I’m feeling confident on the bike right now."
Q. How do you feel about coming home to Kentucky this weekend and racing in Louisville?
Tyler Bowers says: "I love it. I’ve always loved it. I grew up racing (the Louisville Arenacross) a lot as a kid during the winters (in Kentucky). It’s always been one of my favorite rounds and it has a bigger floor space, plus it’s close to home so I enjoy going back.
"I’m excited about it this weekend. I’ve been staying out in California during the week, but now I get to go home and sort of hang out. I haven’t been here in about three-and-a-half to four months. I have a lot of family and friends there to hang out with and we’re just going to keep everything positive."
You’re a little bit closer to Jeff Gibson now in the championship, just three points out of first. What are you looking to do this weekend and the rest of the season?
"Just keep riding smart. I love winning and I hate losing, so I want to get some wins out of this deal, but I need to get that championship. I was able to close in the points this past weekend, but Jeff (Gibson) is a great rider and a great racer. He’s been a top contender in the series so far this season so it’s not going to be easy. He hasn’t really had a bad weekend yet and I haven’t either. It’s a long season and it’ll play out in time, but I’m going to do everything I can."
Round six of the 2011 AMA Arenacross Series kicks off in just a few days from the Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky., on Saturday, Feb. 12, starting at 7 p.m. (EST).
New for 2011! Live timing and scoring from each round of the AMA Arenacross Series. To follow the intense racing action live, log onto Arenacross.com.