Toyota AMA Arenacross Series Notebook: Charlotte

This weekend’s stop on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series — Round Three @ Charlotte’s (N.C.) Bobcats Arena marks the first time dirt will hit the floor at the brand new arena — home of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. Here’s some interesting facts on the sparkling new facility — opening just last month (October, 2005).

  • Maximum attendance: 20,200
  • Building cost: $200 million
  • 22 ticket/box office windows
  • The NBA’s largest LED video screen
  • Home to: Bobcats (NBA), Sting (WNBA), Checkers (ECHL — hockey)
  • Food courts, mobile kiosks and various restaurants all featuring diverse menus

Clear Channel’s Rigg Hipps — the foremost authority on arena-style motocross track building in the United States — has his work cut out for him. Along with the fact he and his four-man crew have to painstakingly cover an ice surface, the Bobcats play the night prior to the dirt move in so they have to wait until the NBA floor is removed and the retractable stands are moved back until they can begin to lay down their plywood. The first of 100-150 truck loads (depending on the size of the truck) of dirt will hit the Bobcats Arena floor at 9 a.m. and the work will continue for 28 hours straight to get ready for Friday’s 1:30 p.m. practice session.

Local yokels Jim Neese (Julian, N.C.) and Jim Chester (Lenoir, N.C.) will no doubt be the favorites in front of the hometown fans at Charlotte — just like AMA Arenacross Lites winner at Des Moines (Cody Gilmore) was at the last race.

Speaking of that, Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series announcer Tim Cotter says that the new class structure has not only provided fans with better racing than in years past, but it also has given the local kid — like Gilmore — the opportunity to get on the podium. “If we’d have added the top five to six 250 guys in the AMA Lites class (formerly 125cc class), Cody would have maybe got fifth or sixth,” said Cotter. “Instead, with the new structure, he won. And I think that’s great for the fans — to see a local kid do well.”

More on the new class structure at Toyota AMA Arenacross Series: In the past, the top five racers in the AMA Arenacross class (formerly 250cc class) may have logged 50 laps before the final race. With the new structure they can run as few as eight. Race officials at Clear Channel have said that this makes for a much fresher field in the finals — and subsequently better racing.

Racing the best has no doubt been Yamaha’s “Rad” Chad Johnson. The Rhinelander, Wis., native is undefeated in four AMA Arenacross class motos — winning the last one in Des Moines in come-from-behind fashion. You gotta wonder what Arenacross newcomers Brock Sellards and Greg Schnell are thinking. But one rider who definitely picked it up at Round Two was Jeff Northrop — going 2-2 on Friday and Saturday to move into second place overall in the points. Still, Johnson’s speed shows for sure that he put in an incredible amount of time during the off season to get to where he is now.

Overall Points/AMA Arenacross Class

  1. “Rad” Chad Johnson (Yamaha), 100 points
  2. Jeff Northrop (Honda), 72 points
  3. Brock Sellards (Honda), 68 points
  4. Jim Neese (Suzuki), 63 points
  5. Greg Schnell (Suzuki), 59 points.

Flowers from Jon Bon Jovi? The night before Toyota/AMA Arenacross went off in Des Moines, ’80s rocker Bon Jovi jammed for a big crowd at Wells Fargo Arena. Sharing the same backstage show office as Bon Jovi’s people, Clear Channel’s race officials were welcomed by two dozen red roses — a gift to Bon Jovi left behind by his staff. So, according to CCE staff, every girl that walked into the show office that weekend got a big, beautiful red rose — courtesy of Bon Jovi!

Ashley, the new Miss Arenacross, has reportedly jumped into her new gig with both feet and has been a big hit with fans. Like with Michelle Falls (Stephenson) before her, Ashley does a great jjob interacting with the fans and carrying on a good rapport with the racers. And coming from a hotbed of motocross out in NorCal and western Nevada, Ashley can hold her own in a bench racing session!

Finally, in a tune up for the upcoming Amp’d Mobile/AMA Supercross Series season, popular racer Tyler Evan$ will use the Reno (Nev.) Regional Arenacross to get his bike dialed-in and the rust knocked off the joints a bit — having not raced the Nationals or anything significant since the Vegas SX in May of ’05