Toyota AMA Arenacross Series Interview: Bad Boy/TUF/Honda’s Dave Antolak

TUF Racing’s Wisconsin native, Chad Johnson (Rhinelander), is odds-on favorite to win the overall Toyota AMA Arenacross Championship at the Resch Center
AURORA, Ill. (March 11, 2008) – This Friday and Saturday nights Bad Boy/TUF/Honda team owner Dave Antolak – and his top racer this year, Chad Johnson – are in the driver’s seat in terms of bringing home the team’s second-straight Toyota AMA Arenacross Series championship.
Johnson, who holds down a 30-point lead over Kelly Smith (428-398) for the championship points race, is going about business as usual this weekend. In typical Toyota AMA Arenacross Series all hands on deck fashion, Johnson will be up at 4 a.m. on Friday in the cold of Green Bay, Wis., at the Resch Center at 5 a.m. – booted up and ready to ride and talk to some local morning television stations before having to return at noon to get ready for pro practice.
This year one of the longest-running, most successful programs on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour is Dave Antolak’s TUF Racing team.
Antolak’s TUF Racing program won its first Toyota AMA Arenacross Series titles in 1996 and ’97 (Jimmy Gaddis and Buddy Antunez). Antolak’s TUF Racing program has long been synonymous with excellence in arenacross racing. Based out of DeKalb, Ill., with his TUF Powersports retail business and his nearby indoor WIR (Waterman International Raceway) MX track – the racers on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series tour will be practicing this week (and many have throughout the season) – Antolak plays a key role in the overall success of the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series.
These days you’ll also find Antolak trucking his son, Chris, around to races from several AMA districts, including Illinois, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa – honing his motocross skills and competing for a spot on the amateur national championship stage at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch in Tennessee.
This weekend, though, is what it’s all about on the pro side of the equation. The math is pretty simple: Chad Johnson stays out of major trouble and keeps his bike on two wheels and he’s the champ. The victory would be the second in as many years for Antolak’s TUF Racing team and fourth in the past dozen years of Toyota AMA Arenacross Series racing – which would definitely rank them as one of the dynasty teams of the sport. Chad Johnson – what a story. He had deal fall through on him late and is fortunate enough to get picked back up by Bad Boy/TUF/Honda here to start the 2007-’08 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series season. You’ve known Chad for some time. Talk about your relationship.
Antolak: “Chad started riding for me when he was on 85s so I’ve pretty much seen him grow. Chad was always one of those riders who worked hard to get where he got. Being from Rhinelander (Wis.) probably slowed his career down at the beginning, as his riding season was shorter than most. But I always admired his drive and desire and that’s why we took him with us in 2000 on the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series before anyone knew who he was. I remember our team manager Chris Hunter thinking I was crazy taking this no name rider from the north with us. I love to remind Chris about that any time I can.” You almost didn’t have Chad on your roster this year. Tell us what happened with that.
Antolak: “This year we were lucky to have everything fall together with Chad. His deal with Suzuki fell through, and he called me to see if we had some room. We already had an offer out to another rider, but he had one more day to give me an answer. When the other rider said he wanted to change the contract, I said thanks but no thanks and told Chad he was back. With Chad I didn’t even need a contract because we both trust each other and that relationship will make this championship even seem better than the others.” You had to know from the 2007-’08 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series opener in Des Moines (Iowa) that Chad had a good a shot as anybody to win this. At what point or points in the season do you think Chad really grabbed the upper hand on the rest of the field, namely Kelly Smith and Brock Sellards?
Antolak: “Actually I knew that before he even agreed to ride for us. I thought he would be our biggest competition. Funny how thing seem to have a way of working out.” You guys entered the 2007-’08 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series season as the defending champs with Danny Smith. Has the TUF Racing program ever won back-to-back Toyota AMA Arenacross Series titles?
Antolak: “We won our first two championships back to back in 1996 and 1997 with Jimmy Gaddis and Buddy Antunez. After those first two wins we thought it was easy and that we couldn’t lose. We didn’t win again until last year. It didn’t take us long to realize that you need good luck as well as the best program.” It’s gotta be cool for your team finishing up this action-packed Toyota AMA Arenacross Series season just north of your backyard in Green Bay. Talk about the fan contingent TUF Racing is bringing up, along with Chad’s backers coming in from Rhinelander.
Antolak: “Chad’s excited about it being in Green Bay, but I don’t think it matters where you win a championship as long as you win it.” What do you guys have planned once the Toyota AMA Arenacross Series concludes? Will you be doing some racing with your son?
Antolak: “I think I have one week off and then it’s off to do some Loretta Lynn’s qualifiers with my son, Chris. It’s his last year in the youth classes and he wants to qualify for Tennessee this time. We went to Las Vegas for the Amateur Arenacross World Finals at the MGM Grand last year, and I think he’s caught the bug of going to the bigger races and the better competition. I haven’t pushed him much, because I didn’t want to be a mini bike dad, but now he’s pushing me to go. I have a great time taking him so will be going for it this year. One thing for sure we have those CRF250 Hondas running well, so most of my work is already done.” Thanks, Dave. And good luck this weekend.
Antolak: “Thank you.”
2007-’08 AMA Arenacross Class Point Standings
1.       Chad Johnson, Hon, 428

2.       Kelly Smith, Kaw, 398

3.       Brock Sellards, Kaw, 372

4.       Teddy Maier, Hon, 342

5.       Kevin Johnson, Yam, 333

6.       Keith Johnson, Yam, 319

7.       Tom Hofmaster, Yam, 267

8.       Jim Neese, Suz, 259

9.       Gray Davenport, Kaw, 240

10.   Robbie Reynard, Suz, 222

Advance tickets for the March 14-16 Toyota AMA Arenacross Series round at Green Bay’s Resch Center are available through, at the Resch Center Box Office,,, at the Oneida Casino or call (800) 895-0071 or (920) 494-3401. Show times are Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m. and Sunday (amateurs) at 12:00. Doors open Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., Sunday at 11 a.m.. Friday, Saturday and Sunday advance tickets are $20 (all seats), $7 for kids ages 2-12. All seats $2 more day of show.
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