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Sep 13, 2001

Updated Post: Oliver Says AMA Pro Racing Made Poor Decisions In Willow Situation

Copyright 2001, Roadracing World Publishing, Inc.<BR><BR>By David Swarts<BR><BR>Team Oliver Yamaha's Rich Oliver says cancelling the AMA Superbike National at Willow Springs was the wrong thing to do.<BR><BR>Coming into the penultimate round of the AMA Chevy Trucks Superbike National series there were 26 riders with mathematical chances of winning one of the six AMA class Championships. With the cancellation of the race at Willow Springs, the total number of points available drops from 76 to 38 and the number of Championship hopefuls drops from 26 to 15 including new 750cc Supersport Champion, Jimmy Moore, who was crowned by the cancellation.<BR><BR>One of the class Championships affected is MBNA 250cc Grand Prix, with pre-Willow-Cancellation-potential Champions including possible Corbin Yamaha's Jimmy Filice, Oliver and PJ1/Team Turfrey/Tech Star Industries' Michael Hannas, II. Oliver trailed Filice by 14 points coming into the Willow Springs weekend.<BR><BR>"I'm a little disappointed. I had my season pulled out from underneath me," said four-time AMA 250cc Champion Oliver in a tape-recorded September 13 telephone call to Roadracing World. "I was very impressed with the decision-making process (dealing with the Willow Springs race) at first. I think the right thing to do was to postpone the race with this national tragedy, with these animals attacking our city of New York and most of our riders are stranded and can't get to the event nor could the officials anyway. Air travel has just opened up a little bit today.<BR><BR>"But to go ahead and cancel the event, it's just completely taken away all of the peoples' opportunity to earn money, to earn Championship bonuses, and I think that's absolutely the wrong thing to do. It's too late in the season to pull 50% of the points-paying races out from underneath everyone. There's so much money in testing and time and effort put into this whole year to then just take away half of the races at the end of the year. I think it's the wrong thing to do, and I've never seen it done before.<BR><BR>"I want a fair fight for my Championship right to the finish. I'm sure that Jimmy Filice, the (250cc Grand Prix) points leader, would like to win the Championship the right way and not back into it. I don't want it to be a tarnished season. I don't want people to think, ‘What if, and what if?' I want it to be like, this is the Champion for this year in every class. The manufacturers have spent a tremendous amount of money fighting for the 600 Supersport titles or for their Superbike titles, and there's a lot bigger fish than me that have spent a lot more money than me trying to win a title, which is a very difficult thing to do in this series. It's just not the right thing to do to cancel the race.<BR><BR>"If there's no way to re-schedule it, I think if anything you pay double points at Virginia (International Raceway, September 28-30) to allow people with at least a mathematical chance at their Championship to go ahead, and if their results earn them the points, and still win the Championship. It's like Major League Baseball. They've canceled quite a few games now, and I'm sure that they will have to make those games up. Otherwise, the playoffs and the World Series would all come under suspicion as far as not being fair. I just want it to be fair.<BR><BR>"I think the fairest solution would be to make a second round happen at some location. I would even be agreeable to making Virginia a double-header for every class and do two races for every class. I think that would be even fairer than double points.<BR><BR>"It would be difficult, but it was difficult to be in the World Trade Center Tuesday. Why can't we be flexible? Why can't we buckle down? Why can't we work even harder to make this a fair series for everyone involved? Why do we just throw up our hands and give up and forget about Willow? That's not American, man! That's not the right attitude to have. The right attitude is, ‘Hey, whatever it takes, we're going to make everything work out for all of those involved, not just the people that happen to be leading the points.' There are other people that care where they finish the Championship. <BR><BR>"I think we can make adjustments to have a complete series. I don't mind having to drive across the country in a week. I've done it many, many times before. We used to have to drive from Laguna Seca to Mid-Ohio and have to be there Wednesday. It's nothing new. I don't think that's a reason why we shouldn't schedule one race right after the other. I also don't understand why we couldn't race later on in the year in November. What's the difference? It's still not anywhere near the start of the 2002 season in Daytona in March. And the weather only gets better out at Willow later in the year.<BR><BR>"I'm sure that there are more people who are upset by this decision. Sure, everyone has a vested interest in their Championships, and it would be nice to have a huge points lead and just be crowned Champion now like Jimmy Moore. I lose the opportunity to race and win at Willow Springs, to make my bonuses, to make my contingencies. I count on that money to make my house payment. For them to just rip away one tenth of my earning potential, plus it takes away all of my Championship bonuses and the money that I have assigned to those results if I win the 250 Championship, it seems like an awful rash decision to make over the course of few hours. Why don't we try to negotiate and find a date that works for everybody? Why does it have to be completely done and over with within a day or two of these world events happening? I don't think that's a decision to be made quickly or lightly.<BR><BR>"Last year was different when we lost Sears Point (to rain). We still had many rounds left after that one. This is different because this is the second-to-last round, within a few weeks of the last round. There are so many people that have worked so hard."<BR><BR>AMA Point Standings Following Pike's Peak:<BR><BR>Superbike:<BR>1. Mat Mladin, 359 points<BR>2. Eric Bostrom, 344 points<BR>3. Nicky Hayden, 303 points<BR>4. Doug Chandler, 292 points<BR><BR>600cc Supersport:<BR>1. Eric Bostrom, 261 points<BR>2. Miguel Duhamel, 230 points<BR>3. Anthony Gobert, 229 points<BR>4. Tommy Hayden, 214 points<BR>5. Josh Hayes, 191 points<BR><BR>Formula Xtreme:<BR>1. TIE Damon Buckmaster/John Hopkins, 229 points<BR>3. Grant Lopez, 200 points<BR>4. Jake Zemke, 197 points<BR>5. Josh Hayess, 191 points<BR>6. Aaron Gobert, 182 points<BR>7. TIE Mark Miller/Roger Lee Hayden, 160 points<BR><BR>750cc Superport:<BR>1. Jimmy Moore, 278 points<BR>2. Ben Spies, 225 points<BR><BR>250cc Grand Prix:<BR>1. Jimmy Filice, 284 points<BR>2. Rich Oliver, 270 points<BR>3. Michael Hannas, II, 225 points<BR><BR>Pro Thunder (before worst two finishes are dropped):<BR>1. Thomas Montano, 242 points<BR>2. Jeffrey Nash, 219 points<BR>3. David Estok, 190 points<BR>4. Mike Ciccotto, 184 points<BR><BR>Pro Thunder also has another round remaining at Road Atlanta October 28 after the round at Virginia International Raceway.<BR><BR><BR><BR>Reader comments follow:<BR><BR>From Reg Kittrelle of Thunder Press:<BR><BR>I'm sure Rich Oliver's comments are taken out of context, that he's been misquoted, that his dog ate his homework, that...At least I hope so.<BR><BR>I'm finding it difficult to generate anything resembling sympathy for his cause.<BR><BR><BR>From Gordon Lunde Sr. of the Wegman Benefit Fund:<BR><BR>I agree with Rich Oliver that little planning was done to get this round in. There has to be some way to get this important round of the series into the championship. Be it some extra travel, double points or double races at Virginia. I believe a bit more negotiation and planning could have found a solution to the problem. Why just give up so quickly?
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