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Sep 26, 2001

Preview--AMA National At Virginia International Raceway

Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By David Swarts<BR><BR>Coming into the final two rounds of the AMA Chevy Trucks Superbike season at Willow Springs International Raceway and Virginia International Raceway, there were 26 riders with a mathematical chance of winning one or more of the six AMA National road racing Championships.<BR><BR>Now that Willow Springs has been cancelled and only the VIR round of the series remains, there are just 11 riders with achances at one of four Championship titles. Unfortunately, there <BR>is only one Championship truly to be decided at VIR, barring any major mishaps.<BR><BR>The four riders in contention for the Buell Pro Thunder Championship will decide their final pecking order at a separate finale, held in conjunction with the WERA Grand National Finals at Road Atlanta October 24-28.<BR><BR>The Superbike Championship is between Yoshimura Suzuki's Mat Mladin and Kawasaki's Eric Bostrom. Mladin leads Bostrom by 15 points going into VIR. <BR>That translates to Mladin only needing to finish 10th or better if Bostrom wins the race. If Bostrom wins and earns the bonus points for pole position and most laps led, Mladin would have to finish eighth or better to claim his third consecutive AMA Superbike Championship.<BR><BR>Mladin and Bostrom have both tested at VIR, and the track suits no particular riding style or type of bike. However, anything is possible in <BR>racing and VIR's tight, single-file esses sections plus the inclusion of pit stops in the longer-than-usual, 150-kilometer (93.2-mile) race could provide unforeseen excitement and drama.<BR><BR>One thing is for sure, Bostrom won't be distracted by having to defend his Honda Pro Oils 600cc Supersport Championship chase. Bostrom holds a commanding 31-point lead over American Honda's Miguel Duhamel and Yamaha's Anthony Gobert. It matters little that Duhamel likes the VIR track and is the winningest 600cc Supersport rider in AMA history, or that Gobert has more natural talent than many on the grid. Bostrom needs only to finish half of the race distance in 24th or better position to win the Championship that he lost in a tie-breaker to Kurtis Roberts in 2000.<BR><BR>Speaking of tie-breakers, the Lockhart-Phillips USA Formula Xtreme contest holds the weekend's most suspense. Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki's John <BR>"Hopper" Hopkins, 18, and Graves Motorsports Yamaha's Damon Buckmaster are tied for the point lead coming to VIR with 229 points each. Basically, the rider who beats the other, no matter where they finish in the final race results, will be the Formula Xtreme Champion. Throwing in potential bonus points complicates things, however, including making it possible for the worst-finishing rider in the race to win the Championship by taking both bonus points. Another strange scenario including the bonus points is that both riders could end up tied in points again after the race.<BR><BR>In the event of a Championship points tie, the tie-breaker would be number of race wins. It is again conceivable that Hopkins and Buckmaster could then be tied on points and number of race wins with two each. The second tie-breaker would be the number of second-place finishes, which Hopkins would win 4-0. Any way you want to do the math, it should be a race to remember.<BR><BR>The MBNA 250cc Grand Prix class doesn't look set for the dramatic season finale that Formula Xtreme promises, but the class Championship will taste no less sweet to Corbin Yamaha's Jimmy Filice if he can finish seventh or better Sunday at VIR. The only other rider with a mathematical chance of taking the title from Filice is four-time AMA 250cc GP Champion Rich Oliver. But <BR>even if Oliver wins all 38 points possible at VIR, Filice can still cruise home to the season Championship in seventh. Considering that Filice has only finished worst than third once during the season (fifth at Daytona), Oliver's chances look slimmer. However, the season finale will not only draw all of the season regulars looking to end their campaigns on high notes, but also potential wild cards like Randy Renfrow, Roland Sands and Michael Himmelsbach, making Filice's title far from secure.<BR><BR>With the WERA finale, the Buell Pro Thunder class has two rounds remaining, and each racer's worst two finishes are yet to be dropped. Which means that four riders have a chance of winning the Championship. Tom Montano is the current points leader, before the drops; Montano and defending Champion Jeff Nash both look to give Ducati North America a third consecutive class title. On the other side, Dave Estok and Mike Ciccotto are vying to give Buell its first Championship in the series that carries the company's name. All four riders have won during the year.<BR><BR>The Suzuki Genuine Accessories 750cc Supersport title was clinched by Corona Extra EBSCO Suzuki's Jimmy Moore when the Willow Springs round was cancelled and his 53-point lead over second place Team Valvoline EMGO Suzuki's Ben Spies became insurmountable.