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Jan 10, 2002

Racers And Sponsors Left Hanging: AMA Pro Thunder 2002 Schedule Still Not Complete

Copyright 2002, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By David Swarts<BR><BR>Buell American Motorcycles, which sponsored the AMA Pro Thunder class in 2000 and 2001, still does not have a complete 2002 AMA Pro Thunder schedule, according to Buell spokesman Paul James.<BR><BR>As a result, James said, Buell has not made any decisions regarding support of the class or teams entered in the class.<BR><BR>AMA Pro Racing has made no formal statement regarding the Pro Thunder schedule even though the first Pro Thunder race is now less than eight weeks away.<BR><BR>AMA Superbike Manager Ron Barrick said at the December 7 AMA Pro Racing Awards "Banquet" that there will be no Pro Thunder races at five of the 10 scheduled AMA Nationals, all of which will host Superbike double-header races. (Pro Thunder will be held at Road America, despite the fact that Road America hosts a Superbike double-header.) This leaves the Pro Thunder class with only five events on the schedule for 2002.<BR><BR>In 2001, three displaced Pro Thunder races ran with the WERA National Challenge series, but WERA officials say that they have had no conversations with AMA Pro Racing regarding the hosting of 2002 Pro Thunder races. There has been speculation that AHRMA would possibly host Pro Thunder rounds in 2002, but less than two weeks ago AHRMA Public Relations man Matt Benson told Roadracing World that no one at AHRMA's office had spoken to AMA Pro Racing about that situation.<BR><BR>"As far as I know, they haven't given us a confirmation on where those rounds will be," said James. "We've heard the same things that you've heard, you know, just all rumor."<BR><BR>Asked if he meant rumor as in the displaced rounds running with AHRMA, James said "Right. But AHRMA has said that's not gonna happen. I guess all we know for sure is they're saying, what, Pike's Peak, Brainerd, Laguna, Road America and Daytona. At five AMA events, then ‘an undisclosed number at undisclosed locations'. I don't think we have any further information than that unless Erik (Buell) has more information. The last time I talked to him (Buell) was right before shutdown before Christmas. So unless he's heard something this week, that's the last information we've had.<BR><BR>"So there's been no decisions made about where we're going to be putting our emphasis," stated James in regards to Buell's sponsorship plans for the Pro Thunder class. "No decisions have been made yet, but I expect that some will in the very near future. We're going into our winter dealer meeting coming up here at the end of January, and I know that they would like to have some decisions made by then so we can announce them to our dealers."<BR><BR>On January 9, Leo Venega, a Pro Thunder racer and team owner, said that he called AMA Pro Racing Director of Professional Competition Merrill Vanderslice and proposed that the two Pro Thunder and two 250cc Grand Prix heat races held on non-doubleheader weekends be replaced by single 20-minute qualifying sessions on doubleheader weekends, thus freeing up enough time to hold a Pro Thunder Final on doubleheader weekends.<BR><BR>According to Venega, Vanderslice said that the proposal was a possibility but did not say what AMA actually plans to do about the missing five rounds of Pro Thunder. <BR><BR>Venega said that the lack of any official word regarding the final 2002 AMA Pro Thunder schedule has prevented him from finalizing deals with sponsors, since he doesn't knows if his Pro Thunder team will be running a five-race season or a 10-race season.