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Windham's Return

Atlanta, Ga. ~ During the first seven rounds of the AMA Supercross 250cc Series a rider from Team AMSOIL/Chaparral/Honda has made the podium six times, including the one-two finish by Kevin Windham and Mike LaRocco in the season opener. Add the two podiums by 125cc West rider Billy Laninovich, and the team has represented its sponsors well in 2005.

But the last few weeks have been rough for one of the sports superstars. A series of crashes have left Windham limping around the pits and finishing just off the scorching pace of series leaders Ricky Carmichael and Chad Reed. "K-Dub", who led the series for the first two weeks, sandwiched a third place finish in Indianapolis with a bad crash in Anaheim and an unspirited ride in San Diego. But as they say, time heals old wounds.

"I just keep working hard, you know," said Windham. "I try not to get to down on myself. I had a couple of big get-offs two weeks in a row and lost my confidence and banged myself up. But it's good to get my health back."

A healthy Windham is a dangerous thing for the rest of the field as he once again proved his ability in Atlanta this past weekend. The Mississippi native would start heat number two in third, but quickly powered his big Honda 4-stroke past Yamaha's Heath Voss for second. Now sitting behind Carmichael, Windham would push the reigning outdoor champ around the track. He would match RC's lap times of 51.8 seconds and was looking like the healthy rider from the start of the year.

Meanwhile, LaRocco also found a second place finish during the first 250cc heat race. The 34-year-old legend started in third and was one of three Hondas that led the start of the heat race. Long considered Honda's best 250cc 2-stroke rider, he quickly tracked down Andrew Short for second during lap two. LaRocco, who went into the weekend two points ahead of Windham in the overall standings, was able to hold of Reed at the finish line for second place.

The main event would turn into a broken record for Team AMSOIL. Starting strong and grabbing the holeshot was Reed, followed closely by Carmichael. Behind the frontrunners was Windham in fifth place. By the time the pack had reached turn number 5, K-Dub was sitting in third and gaining ground on the leaders. On lap seven Carmichael found himself in a familiar place. He crashed and Windham was able to make up the difference and move into second. But a few laps later, Carmichael roared his Suzuki back into the mix. Windham would have to deal with RC, who forced his way past Windham in turn seven after a series of bumping between the two top riders.

"Yeah, he came in there pretty aggressive," said Windham. "But he's trying to make a move up to the front of the pack and he rode good tonight. I'm a little disappointed he got by me there, but I just kept fighting."

The fight wasn't out of Windham, who would keep pace for the next few laps before settling into the three spot behind Carmichael and Reed. As has been the case for a number of races this year, Windham was all alone in third, finishing five seconds ahead of fourth place finisher Sebastian Tortelli. LaRocco, who started the race in seventh, worked his way to another top five finish with his fifth. Carmichael eventually caught Reed and took his sixth checkered flag of the year.

In the 125cc Eastern Regional, Team AMSOIL found a top 10 finish in the form of rookie Josh Grant. Grant finished seventh and moved into ninth overall in the Eastern standings. Teammate Joaquim Rodrigues found the riding rough and missed the main after a fifth place finish in the last chance qualifier. Rodrigues, who finished sixth in Indianapolis, dropped out of the top 10.

Team AMSOIL/Chaparral/Honda will be in St. Louis next weekend at the Dome at America's Center. The AMA Supercross Series airs every Sunday afternoon on ESPN2.

Late Season Charge

Buffalo, N.Y. ~ The World Snowmobile Association was back in the United States last weekend for a rare doubleheader in Buffalo. After a crash-heavy weekend of racing in Valcourt, Quebec that took Team AMSOIL/Scheuring Speed Sports pilot Carl Schubitzke and Team Ski-Doo and points leader Blair Morgan out for the season, the WSA was hoping for some safer riding in upstate New York.

Team AMSOIL swooped into Buffalo after spending two days at Orange County Choppers in New York. Orange County is the famous motorcycle shop that is featured on the Discovery Channel. The team made a promotional stop for the U.S. Air Force, one of Scheuring's sponsors.

"We spent two days at the shop visiting with Paul Senior and Mikey," said Steve Scheuring. "We even let them take one of the sleds out and play around. They liked that a lot."

After leaving O.C.C., the team made it into Buffalo for two days of WSA Nationals. The doubleheader marks the only time this season that there would be two-full days of racing. It also meant that Team AMSOIL could make up some ground in the points races in both the Pro Stock and Pro Open. There were 170 combined points up for grabs last weekend. With D.J. Eckstrom sitting in second in Pro Open and fifth in Pro Stock heading into Buffalo, a strong effort could vault him to the top.

"It's going to be a long weekend for everyone," said Eckstrom after returning home from Valcourt. "I'll probably hit the gym this week for some extra conditioning because two full days can take a toll on your body. But I'll be ready."

On Saturday, the U.S. Air Force Eastern National featured a full day of action inside Wilson Stadium, the home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills. The Pro Stock event ran first in the afternoon. Eckstrom would find himself in the front row for the start of the main event after finishing with two thirds and a second in the qualifying heats.

Eckstrom described the track as small and tight, a lot like the course the WSA set up in Green Bay two weeks earlier. But the bad luck that followed Team AMSOIL at Lambeau Field had disappeared by Buffalo. In the final, Eckstrom got a great start and grabbed the lead, winning the race and moving up in the overall points standings.

In the Pro Open field, Eckstrom tied Robbi Malinoski for the number two qualifier. Points leader Steve Martin qualified poorly in tenth, meaning Eckstrom had gained more ground on the championship. The final didn't start until after 9 p.m. Saturday, and it was Martin who found the right line for the win. Eckstrom, meanwhile, took a step backwards. While pushing for third, he caught an edge and crashed on the ice. He would regroup for an eleventh place finish.

Sunday brought an early wake up call and another full day of racing in the U.S. Air Force Buffalo National. Eckstrom would find him self flip-flopping the previous day's results. In Pro Stock, he again found himself in the front row after a second round win and a second in the final heat race. In the main, Eckstrom would grab the holeshot with Malinoski. The Arctic Cat rider immediately fell off his sled, tying Eckstrom up and sending him to the middle of the pack. With the smaller track, passing was at a minimum all weekend long. Eckstrom finished the race in seventh. The good news is that he picked up two spots in the overall points race. T.J. Gulla is in the lead with 635 points, Malinoski is second at 417 and Eckstrom is third with 409.

The second Pro Open race of the weekend again started after the sun fell below the horizon. Eckstrom was looking to reverse the previous day's finish. Eckstrom won two of his three heat races and was the number three qualifier for the second day in a row. The main event was a lot friendlier to Team AMSOIL this time around. Eckstrom got out in front with the leaders and grabbed his second podium of the weekend with a second place finish in the final. Martin again found the faster line and won the race, keeping him in the overall lead with 439 points. But with two races to go, Eckstrom sits in striking distance with 417.

The WSA heads to the birthplace of snocross racing this weekend in Hill City, Minn. Racing begins on Saturday with the pro finals on Sunday. Speed Channel has also started airing the WSA season on Sunday afternoons. Rounds three and four will air this weekend.

Late Season Swap

Mike Schultz

Aurora, Minn. ~ Team AMSOIL/Scheuring Speed Sports pilot Carl Schubitzke suffered a broken arm at the Valcourt race two weeks ago. After meeting with his doctor, Schubitzke has been ruled out for the remainder of the season.

"He's trying to stay positive," said Scheuring. "He's worked so hard but is disappointed that it had to come to an early end like that."

For the remaining two WSA races of the season and a Canadian Snowcross Racing Association race in April, Scheuring will add Mike Schultz to the team. Schultz hails from Pillager, Minn. and has been racing snowmobiles for the past six years. He has been competing in the Rock Maple Racing circuit this season. He is a former Winter X Games finalist and won the Pro Stock race at Eagle River in 2004.

"He has been running out east and ran the nationals at Buffalo this weekend," said Scheuring. "He made the main event in both classes out there and will be a strong runner for AMSOIL/Scheuring Speed Sports."

 

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