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Two high-risk moves set Yamaha-backed Chad Johnson apart from his rival Brock Sellards (Thor/Honda/TUF Racing) this past Friday and Saturday night in Denver. An aggressive pass on Friday night that sent Sellards off the track and a ‘roll-of-the-dice’ pass on three top racers Team Faith/Yamaha’s Kevin Johnson, Sellards’ teammate Jeff Northrop and Suzuki mounted Zach Ames on Saturday were the moves it took for Johnson to capture the overall Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series title.
“Chad gambled and it paid off,” said Robert Hansen, director of arenacross, Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series. “He deserves to be champion.”
With the win comes the rewards for Johnson who received the keys to a brand new Toyota Tacoma 4x4 truck and highest earnings in the purse and contingency program.
“It’s awesome,” said Johnson of the overall title. “We’ve been working at this for a long time. Me and Junior (Jackson) put a lot into this season and it’s huge to win it. This championship definitely made all the work worthwhile.”
While Johnson’s camp which included team owner/manager Junior Jackson was celebrating, Sellards, understandably, was highly upset with the way things turned out. Stemming from an incident last week at Memphis’ (Tenn.) FedEx Forum, where Sellards says that Johnson “T-boned” him and bent his brake rotor and hub in a main event, Sellards said the same thing happened on Friday night in Denver.
“He (Johnson) cleaned me out again on Friday and this time it cost me the championship,” said Sellards. “It (the pass) wasn’t super dirty, but if he didn’t take me out he would have never got past me.”
Said Hansen: “I’ve seen Buddy Antunez punt people into the next lane. That’s Toyota AMA National Arenacross. I’m sure Brock’s more mad at himself than anything.”
And added longtime Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series announcer Tim Cotter: “Chad just ran him out of the track. There was no collision or anything. But when Brock and I talked afterwards he wasn’t pleased at all “ a lot of finger pointing going on.”
With Sellards off the track and his bike stalled, Johnson was able to take second on Friday behind Kevin Johnson and carry a six-point lead into Saturday’s contest (Sellards would if 5th overall on Friday).
“I opened Friday’s main with a descent start, was in like fifth, and pulled the guys in, then got to within striking distance of Kevin and Brock,” said Johnson. “Brock left the door wide open, I came under him and rode him high into the berm. That gave me a six-point gap and coming into Saturday I knew I just had to ride good and get on the box and that would clinch it for me.”
And though his racing would shine brightly on Saturday night, things got even worse for Sellards because, in his opinion, he would end up getting teamed up on by the two Yamaha-mounted Johnsons.
“I had to win Saturday and I did,” said Sellards. “From there a little bit of ‘Yamaha rule’ came into play there. KJ (Kevin Johnson) was by far the fastest guy all weekend, but then he was on the brakes on Saturday. Chad never beats Kevin. But there was nothing I could do.” Chad Johnson would end up in thid place on Saturday, while Kevin Johnson Friday’s winner would finish in fourth.”
Though he sympathizes with Sellards’ loss, Hansen was quick to point out that he didn’t feel there was any Yamaha ‘teamwork’ going on to undermine Sellards. “In my opinion KJ didn’t want to be the deciding factor in the title chase,” said Hansen. “Yeah, they were both on Yamahas, but they’re also both completely private teams.
“The two biggest highlights of the weekend were made by Chad and he deserves to be champion.”
Hansen went on to say that having the title chase come down to the final night of the AMA Arenacross class’ 20-race season and decided by one point is a testament to how well the new scoring system works.
“Obviously the new points system works because we’ve never had a points battle like this “ ever,” said Hansen. “Chad lead early, Brock caught up, we have a difference of opinion on the racing tactics and the championship went down to the very last main event. You couldn’t ask for a better script.”
Also backing Hansen’s confidence in the system was the fact that local Denver racer Bobby Fitch (Suzuki) scored a podium finish in the AMA Arenacross Lites class on Friday, which sent the crowd into a frenzy. Fitch then followed that up with an AMA Arenacross Lites class win on Saturday, making for one heck of an opening act for Johnson and Sellards to follow.
“Bobby Fitch would have never made the podium, much less won, had it not been for the new scoring system,” said Hansen. “Had KJ, Chad, Brock, Jeff Northrop and those guys been racing the AMA Arenacross Lites class as well, we’d have never had a local racer step up and win in front of his hometown fans. And this really made for a magical ending of the Toyota AMA National Arenacross Series in Denver this weekend.”