Story and Photos by Matt Wozney
The AMSOIL Arenacross Series rolled into Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, for round six just as Winter Storm Nemo slammed the entire northeast portion of the country. Just before the night show kicked off, the weather front began dumping inches of snow on the valley town. The poor weather kept fans at bay on Friday night, but was not enough to keep fans from funneling into the Mohegan Sun Arena on Saturday evening. While both nights of racing action epic, there was an added buzz in the packed stadium on Saturday night, as Speed captured the action and broadcasted it live around the nation.
Making an appearance in Wilkes-Barre was the GOAT himself, Ricky Carmichael. Carmichael has become an important part of this year's AMSOIL Arenacross series, providing input on the format and tracks along with the addition of the "Road To Supercross" program which bares his name. The concept will take expert/pro riders go through a grooming process before they make the jumps to the Monster Energy Supercross series.
On Friday night, Team Faith/Fly Racing/KTM's Jeff Gibson grabbed his first overall win of the 2013 season and 2nd main event win of the year with a 3-1 finish just edging out Monster Energy/Babbitt's/Kawasaki teammates Zach Ames and Tyler Bowers. Gibson, a former AMSOIL Arenacross champion and 2nd in points behind Bowers last year, has been one of the favorites in this series for sometime but it has been tough to stop the Monster Energy/Babbitt's/Kawasaki train running through the arenas this winter. Gibson's overall win was a big one for the Team Faith/Fly Racing/KTM team as its their first overall win in 2013.
Jeff Gibson second main event win of the season allowed him to claim his first overall win of the year on Friday night, as he edged Monster Energy/Babbitt's/Kawasaki teammates Tyler Bowers and Zach Ames for the top step of the podium. Gibson, a former AMSOIL Arenacross champion, is considered one of the favorites for this year's championship but has found it difficult to stop the momentum Bowers and Ames are carrying through each stop. Not only was it Gibson's first overall of the year, but the first of the year for the Team Faith/Fly Racing/KTM effort.
Saturday night belonged to Monster Energy/Babbitt's/Kawasaki's Tyler Bowers. He dominated both main events, his 14th and 15th wins of the year, despite the handicap that came from the inversion and eighth gate pick in the second main. Bowers looked on point throughout the night while his teammate, Zach Ames, came through for second overall with a 4-5 scores. Mosites Motorsports' Mike McDade pushed through a wrist injury all weekend to take third overall via 8-2 scores for third overall on Saturday night, which made up for a dismal Friday night that had him out of the top-10. MotoSport/KTM's Willy Browning and Mandingo Pickles/KTM rider Dave Ginolfi swapped third and seventh place finishes in both main events on Saturday to round out the top-five, their best rides so far this season. Gibson would go 2-9 to finish sixth overall.
Moose Racing/BMO Electric/Cycra's Michael Willard has been a force in the East Coast Lites class all season and topped both nights in Wilkes-Barre. His sweep of the weekend allowed him to claim the East Coast region championship over Hillview Motorsports/Foundation Station/In The Blood Tattoo's Steve Roman, by a mere eight-point margin. Roman made a final run for the title, but fell short with second place finishes on both nights. BWR Engines/FHK/Ride Engineering's Maxx Malatia stayed consistent and claimed third on both Friday and Saturday night.
The West Coast Lites series picks up the remaining four rounds, where New Yorker Michael Lang holds a two-point lead over Tyler Villopoto as they go into Little Rock this weekend.
With just four rounds left to go, the AMSOIL Arenacross tour now becomes the "Race To The Championship." Limited to the top-10 riders in the point standings, it essentially restarts the year and evens the playing field in a final go at the title. Tyler Bowers is on top with just a single point lead over teammate Zach Ames and two points over the Team Faith/Fly Racing/KTM teammates of Jeff Gibson and Kelly Smith. Nathan Skaggs, McDade, Browning, Gared Steinke, Daniel Blair, and Dave Ginolfi have all qualified for the chase and are once again in the battle to get the elusive AMSOIL Arenacross championship.