NAMPA, Idaho — official series release — Arenacross photo —
The penultimate round of the Race to the Championship kicked off with the first of two nights of action inside Ford Idaho Center on Friday as AMSOIL Arenacross inches even close to crowning a 2016 champion.
Coming into the evening the Team Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki duo of Chris Blose and Gavin Faith shared control of the point lead, but when the dust settled, Faith grabbed his second consecutive overall win and sole possession of the Race to the Championship lead.
In the Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class, Rockstar Energy Drink Husqvarna Factory Racing, presented by FMC and OTSFF rider Kyle Bitterman became the fifth consecutive first-time winner in the division.
Before the Main Events in the Arenacross Class got underway, it was Blose who gained the early edge by winning the RMATV/MC Head 2 Head Challenge over Atlas Racing KTM’s Steven Mages, awarding Blose an additional championship bonus point.
TZR/Woodstock KTM’s Travis Sewell put himself out front to start the first 15-lap Arenacross Class Main Event, bringing Faith and Blose along with him. The top three riders settled into a consistent pace that kept them each about a second apart from one another throughout the entirety of the race. No positions changed hands at the front of the field and Sewell rode flawlessly to lead every lap and take his first Main Event win in the Race to the Championship. Faith was able to hold off his teammate to finish second, while Blose finished third. Rockstar Energy Drink Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Kyle Regal posted his best finish of the Race to the Championship in fourth, with TiLUBE/TUF Racing Honda’s Ben Lamay in fifth.
Mages emerged with the lead to start the second feature, with Blose following in second and Sewell in third. Faith slotted himself in fourth, ahead of Regal and his Team Babbitt’s teammate Jacob Hayes. Mages looked comfortable pacing the field and was able to open a slight margin over Blose while Faith began a gradual march to the front, passing Sewell for third on lap one. The championship co-leaders continued to inch closer and closer together over the ensuing laps until a battle erupted on lap nine, with Faith making the pass, only to have Blose fight back in a side-by-side battle that brought the crowd to its feet. Faith held off the counter attack to assert himself in second and then attempted to track down Mages over the final handful of laps.
Mages went on to lead every lap and take his first event win of the season, with a hard-charging Faith following in second. Blose finished third, with Hayes and Regal rounding out the top five following a final lap crash by Sewell that dropped him from fourth to ninth.
Faith’s back-to-back runner-up finishes gave him a narrow one-point lead over Blose’s pair of thirds when the final results were tallied, marking his second straight overall win without needing to win a feature. Mages’ win in the second main vaulted him to third (6-1), while Regal secured his best result of the Race to the Championship in fourth (4-5). Sewell’s ability to salvage a top-10 finish in the second race helped him round out the top five (1-9).
Faith’s triumph by a single point also moves him to just one marker ahead of Blose in the Race to the Championship standings. While Faith will once again be the only rider with the red number plate for the first time since the opening night of the Race to the Championship, the one-point gap between he and Blose continues what has become a historically competitive battle for the Ricky Carmichael Cup.
The 15-lap Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class Main Event saw TZR/Woodstock KTM’s Scott Zont grab the early lead ahead of MX Athletics/Racetech KTM’s Carlen Gardner and JMC Motorsports/K1 Speed Husqvarna’s Chris Howell. Bitterman started in fourth, while championship leader and TZR/Woodstock KTM rider Cody VanBuskirk started seventh.
After pressuring Zont for several laps, Gardner, who won his first career Main Event last weekend, made the pass for the lead on lap four and started his chase for back-to-back victories. One lap later, Bitterman, who passed Howell for third on lap two, made the pass on Zont for second, bringing Howell along with him in third. After methodically closing the deficit to Gardner for the lead, Bitterman made the pass for the top spot on Lap 9 and quickly opened some breathing room. He carried it through to the finish to take his first career win, nearly three seconds ahead of Gardner. Howell followed in third, with Project Filter/FLY Racing/WPS KTM’s Cole Siebler in fourth and Team DirtBike Mike/KTM Sports Center of Little Rock KTM rider Ben Nelko in fifth. VanBuskirk rode to a sixth-place finish.
Despite posting his worst finish of the Western Regional Championship, VanBuskirk still holds a 10-point lead over Nelko in the standings.
CREDIT: AMSOIL Arenacross