ELLENTON, Fla. – official series release — ShiftOne Photography photo —
AMSOIL Arenacross is known for its unpredictable nature, and that trademark came to fruition as the Race to the Championship reached its halfway point this past weekend, where Gavin Faith made his return to the winner’s circle and, in turn, moved into a tie with his teammate Chris Blose atop the championship standings.
With just three nights of racing remaining, the Race to the Championship heads to Nampa, Idaho, for the penultimate round of the 2016 season this Friday and Saturday from Ford Idaho Center in what is sure to be an all out battle in the chase for the Ricky Carmichael Cup.
This past weekend in Tacoma, Wash., a reversal of fortune ultimately led to Blose and Faith’s share of the points lead heading into Nampa. Two rounds ago in Salinas, Calif., Faith saw what looked to be a surefire overall win disappear in an instant when he crashed out of the lead in the second main event. That misfortune allowed Blose to take advantage of the opportunity to add to his points lead, which he did after finishing in a tie for the overall win, ultimately settling for second following a tiebreaker. One week later in Tacoma, it was Blose who found himself on the ground giving up the overall win. As fate would have it, Faith was there to seize the opportunity and take the win, erasing the three-point deficit he faced heading into the weekend.
Now just 90 main event laps across three nights of racing sit between these two riders and their first ever AMSOIL Arenacross title. Since the start of the Race to the Championship there has been little doubt that Blose and Faith are the riders to beat. They’ve been virtual locks for the podium every time the gate drops for a main event and have simply had to endure less misfortune than their fellow Race to the Championship competitors. Adversity is bound to strike in the intimate and intense confines of AMSOIL Arenacross, and while the championship co-leaders have both endured through their own hard luck, they know they cannot afford another misstep when the points are this close.
One rider who has quietly positioned himself third in points with a shot at the title is the third member of the Team Babbitt’s effort, Jacob Hayes. With back-to-back championship runner-ups the past two seasons, Hayes is arguably the most experienced rider in the Race to the Championship. Although he’s still chasing his first win in the playoff, he’s rattled off several podium finishes and has put Team Babbitt’s 1-2-3 in the Race to the Championship standings.
There are 13 points separating Hayes from his teammates in the Race to the Championship, and he’s been unexpectedly quiet through the first three rounds. Now that time is running out, this weekend in Nampa could be where Hayes makes a late push to tighten the points race heading into the finale in Las Vegas.
While Team Babbitt’s continues to lead the way, TiLUBE/TUF Racing Honda’s duo of Monster Energy AMA Supercrsoss veterans continue to step into the mix against their Kawasaki-mounted counterparts. Both Jace Owen and Ben Lamay have won at least one main event in the Race to the Championship and have finished on the overall podium in the playoff, with Lamay emerging with his first career overall win in Salinas. They sit fourth [Owen] and fifth [Lamay] in the standings, separated by five points. Owen is a manageable 16 points out of the lead, while Lamay is keeping his name in the hunt, 21 points back. While they will both have their work cut out for them over the final three nights of the season, their success in the Race to the Championship up to this point shows they’re going to give it their all.
The Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class welcomed its fourth consecutive first-time winner in Tacoma as Carlen Gardner enjoyed a dominant performance that carried him to the checkered flag. While Gardner savored the spoils of victory, Cody VanBuskirk was able to add to his slim lead in the championship standings.
A third-place finish in Tacoma, combined with a season-worst 11th-place result from Ben Nelko, allowed VanBuskirk to bring his advantage to double digits and now 11 points sit between the top two riders in the championship. VanBuskirk’s consistency has been crucial to his success in the Western Regional Championship thus far, and with three nights remaining he will look to keep posting solid results and force Nelko to finish in front of him.
CREDIT: AMSOIL Arenacross