By Dave Derringer
After two nights of racing, the 2013 Amsoil Arenacross Championship boiled down to a final-night showdown between Tyler Bowers and Jeff Gibson. Team Faith Fly Racing KTM’s Gibson ended up sweeping both main events in front of a packed house at the Denver Coliseum in Denver, Colorado, March 16, but it was Monster Energy/Amsoil/Babbitts Kawasaki’s Bowers who claimed his third straight Arenacross title with a second-place finish.
Gibson, the longtime veteran Arenacross rider from Ohio, was only five points behind Bowers going into the final night, making for an exciting finish to the series.
Gibson took the holeshot in the first main event and set sail. The 2009 Arenacross champ knew he had to win both mains and have a little luck on his side and a miscue by Bowers in order to secure his second title.
But Bowers wasn’t about to let that happen. He started in third just a few sports behind Gibson and Gibson’s teammate Kelly Smith.
Bowers and Smith have had a few run-ins throughout the year, so it was setting up to be an intense battle, but Bowers got by Smith pretty cleanly on lap four and Smith didn’t retaliate with much of a fight.
Gibson had a healthy lead and he would take it to the checkers, as Bowers closed in on the final laps. Bowers' teammate Ames would also get by Smith in the later stages of the 12-lap race, finishing in third.
“Well, I only gained one point on him here so we're back down to five,” Gibson said. “I guess it will all come down to this final race.”
With the number-16 briefcase picked by the crowd and five-time Supercross Champion Ricky Carmichael, who was on hand at the event, all the riders' gate picks would be inverted for the second main event.
Moose Racing Cycra’s Michael Willard was the early leader of the second main with local hero Travis Bannister, Mandingo Pickles' Dave Ginofi and Spinechillers KTM’s Nathan Skaggs in tow. Gibson rocketed out of his second-row gate pick and was fifth, while Bowers was near the back of the field in 14th.
Willard led for several laps, as Gibson moved his way into second quickly. Gibson would make his pass on Willard for the lead on lap eight, as Bowers was now up to seventh. Ames, who started sixth would get by Willard next and was up to second.
With the laps winding down, Bowers needed a few more spots to firmly secure the title, and he did it in the closing laps, as he dug deep and passed Mike McDade, Willy Browning and Willard for the final podium spot in what was truly a championship ride.
Gibson won his second main event of the night, but in the end, it was Bowers and his second-place overall finish on the night that would wrap up the title by a mere three points. He had a total of 10 overall wins and 20 main event victories in route to this championship.
"I knew what I had to do tonight and I had some weird issues in practice but the people behind me made it all work out,” Bowers said. “I broke my collarbone a few weeks ago and didn’t tell anyone about it and we got through that and some other things and we pulled it off. It feels real good right now.”
He then added, “My support group behind me is amazing and I have to thank them all. My mechanic Junior Jackson has been great and he‘s always there for me. He‘s been there before as a racer and I couldn’t have done it without him.”
Saturday’s overall winner Gibson was happy with his ride but as expected, was slightly disappointed with second overall in the series.
“Tonight’s results were great and haven’t done that all year so I’m super happy about that,” Gibson said, “but man I really wanted another number-one plate. I’m getting toward the end of this career and not sure if I’ll be able to fight for another title much longer.”
Third overall for the night was Ames with 3-2 finishes in the two mains. He also secured third overall in the series.
“I started off the series strong, then had some poor finishes and a few little problems in the middle of the series, then came on hard again in the end,” Ames said. “If I didn’t have that little stuff in there a few weeks back, I’d probably would have been right here in the end.”
Mosites Motorsports Mike McDade finished the series in fourth overall, while Kelly Smith finished fifth in what most likely was his final race of his career. Ohio’s Willy Browning and Advocare’s Daniel Blair finished sixth and seventh, respectively, while Nathan Skaggs, Mandingo Pickles Dave Ginolfi and California’s Gared Steinke rounded out the top 10.
Letko KTM-sponsored Tanner Moore grabbed the early lead in the Lites final and took off for a wire-to-wire win. Friday’s winner Maxx Malatia on his BWRengines.com FHK Alias-backed Honda rode to a safe and consistent second-place result behind Moore, and with that finish, Malatia would also lock up the Western Region Lites Arenacross title.
“We’re just having fun racing the Arenacross Series and I ended up winning it,” Malatia said of his first AMA title. “I have to thank all the sponsors that supported me and the team this year for their help. This is unreal.”
1. Jeff Gibson (KTM) 1-1
2. Zach Ames (Kaw) 3-2
3. Tyler Bowers (Kaw) 2-3
4. Mike McDade (Kaw) 5-6
5. Kelly Smith (KTM) 4-7
6. Willy Browning (KTM) 7-5
7. Nathan Skaggs (KTM) 6-8
8. Michael Willard (KTM) 12-4
9. Daniel (Suz) 8-10
10. Tanner Moore (KTM) 11-9
1. Tanner Moore (KTM)
2. Maxx Malatia (Hon)
3. Travis Bannister (Kaw)
4. Cody Church (Kaw)
5. Scott Zont (KTM)
ARENACROSS FINAL POINT STANDINGS:
1. Tyler Bowers (146)
2. Jeff Gibson (143)
3. Zach Ames (135)
4. Mike McDade (112)
5. Kelly Smith (108)
6. Willy Browning (98)
7. Daniel Blair (88)
8. Nathan Skaggs (85)
9. Dave Ginolfi (82)
10. Gared Steinke (69)
ARENACROSS LITES WEST FINAL POINT STANDINGS:
1. Maxx Malatia (106)
2. Kyle White (87)
3. Michael Lang (86)
4. Tanner Moore (81)
5. Tyler Villopoto (69)