The days are winding down to the start of the 2011 AMA Arenacross Series and with each passing hour, the tension increases as the world’s fastest arenacross riders prepare to battle for a newly-vacant national championship.
Just a few weeks ago, the news of three-time and reigning AMA Arenacross Series Champion Josh Demuth’s premature end to defending his crown hit headlines. After putting forth an exceptional effort to fend off his Babbitt’s Monster Energy/TiLube Kawasaki presented by Maxxis teammates in addition to leading the most dominant performance by a single team in series history, Demuth suffered a wrist injury during preparation for his 2011 defense.With only a handful of weeks to the start of the season, Demuth’s return before this Saturday’s premiere round from the BOK Center in Tulsa, Okla., is out of the question. In fact, his return to racing at all in 2011 is currently up in the air. As a result, last year’s championship podium finishers in Chad Johnson and Tyler Bowers, in addition to 2009 Champion Jeff Gibson, assumed the role of title favorites.This trio of riders are no strangers to success. Johnson is a two-time AMA Arenacross Series Champion in his own right and returns to the Babbitt’s stable for a chance at tying his good friend Demuth with a threesome of number one plates.With a series-leading nine victories, Bowers appeared well on his way to the 2010 title, but misfortune struck the future star with just two rounds remaining. As a result, he was unable to compete in the final two rounds, instead watching his pair of teammates battle for the crown from the sidelines. There isn’t a rider in the AMA Arenacross Series in 2011 with more unfinished business than Bowers.Just one year after bursting onto the AMA Arenacross Series scene with an incredible championship run during his first full season on the circuit, Gibson found frustration in 2010. While he managed to be the only rider in the series to challenge the Babbitt’s powerhouse on a weekly basis, it was a down season by Gibson’s standards. However, after a full season of adjustment to the 450cc bike, he is back with TUF Honda ready to rebound.In addition to Johnson, Bowers and Gibson, a bevy of talented up and comers combined with series veterans are all eager to throw their names into the mix. Nathan Skaggs and Zach Ames of the Foremost Insurance/Spinechillers/Honda Fairfield Racing team have been breakout stars over the past two AMA Arenacross seasons. Both have captured coveted victories in the AMA Arenacross class and alongside a fully healthy teammate in Willy Browning, should be able to make a serious run for the title.Several other Arenacross veterans will also look to be in the mix, including Demuth’s replacement at Babbitt’s for the 2011 season in experienced rider Gray Davenport. His familiarity with Kawasaki is longstanding and he should adjust to the bike well. Joining Davenport are fellow well known riders like Jim Neese, Robbie Reynard and the 2011 Team Faith Arenacross lineup of Kevin Johnson and Kelly Smith.A new team could potentially make some noise in the premier division thanks to a pair of talented brothers. Both Daniel and Vincent Blair have made a name for themselves as talented privateer riders on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross, an FIM World Championship, schedule, but for 2011, they are shifting their focus to the AMA Arenacross Series. The newly-formed MainEventRock.com Honda team will give the California boys a chance to translate their skills onto the intimate confines of arenacross.As always, the exciting AMA Arenacross Lites class will accompany the big bikes at all 14 stops of the championship. Divided into West and East regions, the AMA Arenacross Lites championships pit the youngest and most talented arenacross riders in the country head-to-head. Last season, a pair of new faces in Daniel Aulsaybrook and A.J. Catanzaro grabbed their first taste of glory at the professional level by taking the respective regional crowns for MMCR/GPF Kawasaki. This season, MMCR/GPF Kawasaki will be focusing its efforts on the AMA Arenacross class title with Aulsaybrook and its newest addition of former AMA Arenacross Lites Regional Champion Dave Ginolfi leading the way. With a new lineup of future talent ready to bring fans to their feet, it will be interesting to see who comes out on top on season’s end in each region of the AMA Arenacross Lites class.No matter how things play out over the course of the next three and a half months, it is sure to be exciting. The AMA Arenacross Series is one of the most unique forms of racing on the planet and it is guaranteed to produce fireworks. It all kicks off in just a few days from the BOK Center in Tulsa, Saturday, Jan. 8, starting at 7:30 p.m. (EST).