Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series Notebook ¿ Denver

It all comes down to one weekend, two racers, two main events ¿ one champion. Yamaha-backed Chad Johnson, who’s led the points chase up to this past weekend in Memphis, is tied with first-year Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series racer (though no rookie) Brock Sellards. In a never-before-occurring feat in AMA Arenacross (formerly 250cc class) history, both racers are entering the final event tied at 375 points. Denver’s Coliseum, located in the heart of action sports central, will no doubt go off this weekend as the two top-flight motocross racers go all out in this fan-friendly microwave version of Amp’d Mobile AMA Supercross.

It’s been several years since the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series was held in the stately Denver Coliseum. The 10,000 seat arena was one of the original AMA National Arenacross venues, providing a large track surface within a highly energized building that’ll again prove to be the ideal setting for this weekend’s showdown. From the great Buddy Antunez vs. Denny Stephenson battles, right down to Denny’s dad getting into it in the pits with Billy Whitley’s crew! “The altitude not only makes it harder to jet the bikes, it also always seems to make the tensions higher,” said Pam Lambert, Arenacross National Event Manager and veteran of many AX wars. The Denver Coliseum replaced Pepsi Arena on the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series this year.

Johnson and Sellards will actually get a good look at each other on the track this morning (Thursday) – bright and early at 5:45 a.m. for a press day morning shoot with the KWGN (WB Ch. 2) “Morning News” team. The press day event promoting this weekend’s racing will also feature local racer Bryce Shonebeck (Colorado Springs). Shonebeck, 17, recently turned pro and did pretty well at Guthrie, Okla., earlier this year ¿ scoring a top ten finish in the AMA Arenacross Lites class.

Quotable: “In my 28 years of motocross I’ve never been involved with a series coming down to the last round with two riders tied in points,” said Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series announcer Tim Cotter. “And particularly one that’s been a comeback thing.” Note: At one point in the season Sellards trailed Johnson by 34 points.

What about the Arenacross Lites class? According to Arenacross Director Robert Hansen, after some early-season concerns, the new Arenacross Lites format has been an excellent way to go. “The whole Arenacross Lites class idea, and that it was not part of the championship, was questioned at first by the industry,” said Hansen. “I think a lot of us had our doubts about it. But throughout the season the Arenacross Lites class has proved time and time again that this has been the correct way to go. Last weekend (Memphis) we had guys like Jon Paul Jones and McFly Scheel up in the top five of the Arenacross Lites class. The weekend before that (Hampton) we had Adam Blessing and Braden Parks. So the parity we’re experiencing in the Lites class is a testament to the fact its building future Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series stars – a stepping stone for the premier AMA Arenacross class.”

More on the building¿Cotter added that the 7,500 people expected on Saturday night will provide much more amplitude for the racers in the 10,000-seat Coliseum than in the 19,000-seat Pepsi Arena. “The Coliseum may not have all the bells and whistles of Pepsi Center, but it has a lot of history. And given the fact we’ll come close to filling it up, it’ll be more fitting for the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series final. Arenacross is `in your face’ racing and there’s no question it’s going to be in Denver’s face this weekend.”

The Denver area is one of the top off-road motorcycle sales markets in the country. Lots of enthusiasm for this race is brewing ¿ even without the insanely close points chase. TThe last big race in Colorado was Lakewood’s Thunder Valley AMA MX National, which drew more than 20,000 fans. Look for NPG member David Claybaugh’s crew to be out in full force, including #906 Jared Carlson from nearby Aurora, Colo.

Not in the Denver area this weekend? Be sure to check out Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series action from Round Two at Des Moines (Iowa) on the Speed Channel this Sunday (Feb. 12th) at 4 p.m. EST.