AMA Arenacross Final
The 2011 AMA Arenacross Series season has been a showcase of veteran talent versus the youthful exuberance of a rising star in the sport.
At just 20 years of age, Babbitt’s Monster Energy/TiLUBE Kawasaki presented by Maxxis rider Tyler Bowers will walk away with his first career professional title. However, despite capturing 11 wins so far this season, it wasn’t an easy road for the Kentucky native.
As the new season kicked off back in January, it looked as if the veterans were going to assert their control over the championship. While Bowers entered the season as the title favorite, fellow riders Jeff Gibson and Chad Johnson were determined to make that task as difficult as possible.
Gibson quickly caught fire and surged to the first three wins of the season aboard his TUF Honda. Behind him, Johnson stayed close, showcasing tremendous consistency early in the season. While the veteran duo with three AMA Arenacross Series championships between them got off to a hot start, Bowers was looking for his rhythm.
When the championship entered Denver on the fourth weekend of the season, Gibson looked to be the rider to beat. However, Bowers was slowly coming back into the form that won him nine races during the 2010 season and by the time the series left Colorado, Gibson’s winning streak was over and Bowers had broke through for his first victory of 2011. From that point, the championship landscape was altered in favor of Bowers.
As he still looked to dial in his fitness and racing approach, Bowers was a podium fixture. A big win for Johnson in addition to an underdog victory by AMA Arenacross Series rookie Cole Siebler added some nice parity to the middle portion of the season, but no one expected the dominating run by Bowers that followed.
The Louisville round on the 2011 AMA Arenacross Schedule had been circled on Bowers’ calendar for some time. As a native of nearby Danville, Bowers was looking forward to returning to his hometown and competing at a race he grew up riding as a kid.
With tons of family and friends in the stands cheering him on, Bowers took his third win of the season inside the Freedom Hall, vaulting him into the Arenacross class points lead. The win was a huge confidence booster for Bowers and it ignited a wave of momentum that no other rider could stop.
A weekend sweep of two nights in Reno, another victory in Sacramento followed by back-to-back wins in Wichita and Greenville, and finally another dual-night sweep in Council Bluffs resulted in an incredible eight-race winning streak that saw Bowers’ points lead grow from two points following Louisville, to 46 points at the conclusion of Round 11 in Council Bluffs.
The sport hadn’t seen such dominance in many years and it harked back to the days of AMA Arenacross Series legend Buddy Antunez’s dominance in the late 90’s. A star had been born.
What made several of Bowers’ victorious efforts even more impressive was the amount of work he was forced to do out on the track, overcoming poor starts and passing several of the fastest riders in the series in order to get to the front. Perhaps no victory was more defining of Bowers’ season than his dramatic final-lap pass over Gibson to take the opening-night win in Council Bluffs.
As the schedule hit Little Rock for the home stretch of the season, Bowers experienced a rare instance of misfortune out on the track. Prior to that evening, his worst result of the season was fourth, but in Arkansas, Bowers finished outside the top 10, opening the door for his championship rivals. Another veteran rider in Team Faith Yamaha’s Kelly Smith took advantage of Bowers’ misfortune to become the fifth different winner in 2011.
When Bowers experienced even more trouble the following weekend in Rockford, Smith was there again to go back-to-back. All the while, both Gibson and Johnson did what they could to close the gap in the standings, but it was too little too late. Bowers closed out two nights of racing in Rockford with his 11th win and secured the 2011 AMA Arenacross Series Championship by doing so.
While the championship has been decided, pride is on the line tomorrow night in Des Moines. Each and every rider wants to head into the offseason on a high note and will lay it all on the line for the chance to do so. The five current race winners from this season – Bowers, Gibson, Johnson, Smith and Siebler – will all be in top form while several other series stalwarts like Zach Ames, Nathan Skaggs and Gray Davenport will be eager to stand atop the podium for the final time in 2011.
Another rider looking to end the season on a high note is Arenacross Lites competitor Vicki Golden. The groundbreaking women’s rider has been one of the highlights of the 2011 AMA Arenacross Season, becoming the first full-time women’s competitor in series history in addition to becoming the first woman to qualify for an AMA Arenacross Series main event.
Continuing to receive support from the TUF Honda team, Golden will look to achieve her goal of finishing inside the top 10 on Saturday, which would set yet another historic mark in the sport.
Wells Fargo Arena has been a longtime staple of the AMA Arenacross Series. For the past two seasons, it has served as the host venue for the annual prequel race, but it returns to the schedule this year in the fitting position of season finale.
The arena is located in the heart of Des Moines, Iowa as part of the Iowa Events Center. Built in 2005, it can hold up to 16,980 fans with various seating charts depending on the event. In the past, the arena has served as the home to the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League, Iowa Chops of the American Hockey League, and Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League.
The 14th and final round of the 2011 AMA Arenacross Series kicks off from Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, on Saturday, April 9. The action kicks off at 7 p.m. CT!