Tuesday, April 25, 2006


Young Texan leads Suzuki teammate Mladin coming into Fontana

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (April 25, 2006) -- Ben Spies leads the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited as the series makes its way west to California Speedway in Fontana, for the Suzuki Superbike Challenge on April 28-30. 

Spies is coming off the best race weekend of his young career. He swept the doubleheader round at Barber Motorsports Park, giving him newfound confidence coming into California Speedway this weekend, a track he calls one of his favorites.

"I don't know what it is, but it seems like I've always been upfront at California Speedway," said Spies, who briefly led the AMA Superbike Championship in his first full season last year after winning race one in last year's doubleheader in Fontana. "I grew up a lot on the same style tracks in Texas. It's got a lot of hard breaking and a lot of fast chicanes where you have to muscle the bikes through it. I'm a taller, bigger guy, but I'm definitely not the biggest guy in the class. For some reason when it comes to muscling the bike through fast stuff, someone in front of me is usually slowing me down."

Spies said that California Speedway puts major physical demands on a rider. The ferocity of the fast transitions is such that Spies once bent his bike's handlebars from the torque he placed on them. While the 21-year-old Texan, who is in his sophomore season of AMA Superbike, has headed the championship before, this time it's different as he feels ready to be the leader.

"I have some confidence now," Spies said. "We have a really good setup. We were just testing in Fontana a couple weeks ago and the bike was working really good. So it's probably not going to be a jump out and win the thing, but I'm hoping just to battle both races and see what happens."

The rider Spies is likely to have to go through to win again at California Speedway is teammate Mat Mladin. The defending and six-time champ is ranked second in the series after suffering an uncharacteristic crash last weekend in Alabama. Mladin, 34, of Australia, has won five of the eight AMA Superbike races in Fontana. He actually doesn't sound terribly concerned that he's fallen eight points behind Spies. In fact, he sort of takes some pleasure knowing that someone else has the target on his back coming into this weekend's doubleheader. 

"Now he's (Spies) got the points lead, so now he has to sleep with it," Mladin said. "Now he knows what it's going to feel like.

"I made a mistake at Barber, simple as that. We got a little lucky with how things worked out (a late race re-start that worked to Mladin's advantage) and now we just have to do what I know myself and my team can do in Fontana. I've had to come from behind before, but this time it looks like it's going to be a fun challenge since some of the others have found some extra speed."

Spies and Mladin are the only former California Speedway Superbike winners in the field.

Former AMA Superbike champ Miguel Duhamel is third in the standings, having scored two podium finishes in the previous three rounds. Duhamel, the veteran of the series, thinks he has more wins left in him, but he says things have to be near perfect.

"Our Honda CBR1000RR is good," he says. "We've just got to get the setup. It's sensitive. We're still discovering a lot of stuff, how one click (with the suspension) makes a difference compared what we've used in the past. Racing in just one class creates more of a sense of urgency to do well since you don't have another class to fall back on if you have a bad weekend in superbike."

Perhaps the biggest surprise in the young season is the speed shown by Kawasaki's Tommy Hayden. Hayden, who started on the front row for the first time in his superbike career, had a podium finish in his grasp last weekend in Alabama, before he and Suzuki's Aaron Yates collided on the final lap. Kawasaki's ZX-10RR is proving to be solid entry in the factory team's return to the series for the first time in five years.

"I am really looking forward to it," Hayden said of this weekend's event. "We have spent quite a bit of time riding and testing there and I always like coming out to California Speedway. The team is making a lot of progress with the bike and I think we are probably ahead of where we thought we might be at this point."

The Suzuki Superbike Challenge twin bill will be nationally televised on SPEED. Saturday's Superbike race will be televised beginning at 5 p.m. EST on Sunday, April 30, followed by live coverage of Sunday's Superbike final at 6 p.m.

Fans will have the opportunity on Saturday to watch two major events at California Speedway. In addition to the first of the AMA Superbike doubleheader the opening round of the AMA Supermoto Championship will take place in the late afternoon on a specially built course in the track's infield.

For ticket info call 1-800-944-RACE or visit the website www.californiaspeedway.com

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