Aug 9, 2002
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Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By David Swarts<BR><BR>Thursday was a promoter practice day for the AMA Superbike National event at Virginia International Raceway. Practice started around noon and ran non-stop until 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time without any major incidents. The reason for the unusual schedule, said VIR Co-general Manager Jack Abbott, was because "we still had some stuff we needed to do to the track."<BR><BR>Abbott also said that the track, which is also the race promoter of the AMA event, has been advertising the races for the last two weeks and that advanced ticket sales are double over the 2001 event, the first AMA Superbike race at VIR.<BR><BR>One industry insider who left his travel arrangements until the last minute reports that most hotels in the area of VIR have been sold out for three months.<BR><BR>A surprise press conference was held Thursday in the VIR media center with riders American Honda's Nicky Hayden and Miguel Duhamel, Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom and Graves Yamaha's Damon Buckmaster.<BR><BR>Reporters asked Hayden, who leads the AMA Superbike Championship by 35 points over Bostrom with two races and 74 points remaining, if he had any special strategy for the weekend. "My main goal for the weekend is to do what it takes to win the title. I don't want to be too conservative on Saturday and then have something happen on Sunday," said Hayden. "Some people think 35 points is a lot, but I've been racing all my life and anything can go wrong."<BR><BR>Hayden, who turned 21 on July 30, was also asked about his recent outing in Michael Andretti's Indy race car on Wednesday, August 8 at Mid-Ohio. "It was definitely nice," said Hayden. "The car was pretty impressive. The thing was so fast. It was really fun.<BR><BR>"I never got real comfortable in it. It felt weird being strapped in so tightly. I mean, they really had me strapped in there tight! Plus, I'm used to being able to move around on a bike.<BR><BR>"Taking off in it was tough. Michael helped me a lot, but the clutch was weird. I pretty much had to do a burn out to get out of the pits." <BR><BR>Hayden ran 12 laps on the CART course, which runs without the chicane before the Keyhole turn, and said that his best time in the car was a 1:30. "And I only spun it once. I was trying to turn into turn six at the end of the back straight. On the data, they said the rear end was still unweighted from braking when I got on the gas. Man, it spun around so quick!" <BR><BR>And what did Andretti think of your RC51 Superbike, Nicky? "He acted like he liked it, but he had trouble shifting. He was wearing this brand new pair of boots, and they were pretty stiff. <BR><BR>"He said he had done some pretty cool stuff in his life, like flying in a jet fighter plane and stuff, but he told Greg White (of SPEED) that it was the coolest thing he had ever done in his life."<BR><BR>According to Hayden, Andretti said he owned four motorcycle dealerships on the East Coast, and he brought the general managers from each of the shops in for the event. Hayden also said that he and Andretti exchanged helmets.<BR><BR>When asked about what he is doing next year, Hayden said, "After this weekend, I'll sit down and think about it and make a decision. Obviously, I would love to stay with Honda." Then Hayden added, "But I really want to go to Grand Prix."<BR><BR>Bostrom was asked the same question and answered, "We're still working on next year trying to figure out where I'm headed. I'm just concentrating on sweeping the weekend; both Superbike races and the Pit Daddy (rider beauty) contest (for charity)." Bostrom then confirmed that he would be returning to Europe to ride in the Oschersleben round of the World Superbike Championship August 30 – September 1 in Germany.<BR><BR>Duhamel will be riding for American Honda in 2003, but when asked if he would ride Honda's newest CBR600, rumored to be labeled the "CBR600F5", Duhamel said, "It's an option, not an obligation. We'll see how it goes."<BR><BR>Duhamel was then asked about Honda team orders to help Hayden win the Championship. Duhamel said, "It sounds really easy on TV, but first, I need to be in that situation. If I'm in fifth place, there's not much I can do. Nobody has talked to me about team orders. It doesn't happen as often as you think."<BR><BR>Meanwhile, over at the Bruce Transportation Group pit, an Erion Honda CBR954RR Formula Xtreme bike was being redressed in Bruce bodywork with Jake Zemke's number 98. <BR><BR>"It's just a newer back-up bike," said Bruce Crew Chief Joey Osowski. "Our normal back-up bike is a 929."<BR>The bike was a back-up machine shared by Erion Honda riders Roger Lee Hayden and Mike Hale.<BR><BR>With five points separating them, Zemke, Buckmaster and Attack Suzuki's Jason Pridmore are in a virtual tie in the Formula Xtreme Championship coming into VIR. <BR><BR><BR>Meanwhile, after practice ended on Thursday, track co-owner Connie Nyholm took a few laps of her track on the back of a GSX-R1000 piloted by Chris Ulrich. Valvoline EMGO Suzuki's Ulrich said he reached 140 mph on the stock Suzuki with Nyholm on the back, and said that he got the rear end stepped out once in the esses during the two-up ride. Nyholm said afterwards, "I loved it."<BR><BR>For the ride, Nyholm was fully equipped with Kobe leathers and an FM helmet courtesy of Marrietta Motorsports, which has a display in the vendor area at the racetrack.<BR><BR>Nyholm also took a tour of the Valvoline EMGO Suzuki semi-truck and paddock set-up.