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The Checkered Flag
March 2, 2006 Edition



Grant Picks Up First Pro Win
It will be a family affair for LaRocco in Indy

Atlanta ~ Promise and potential are two words that are thrown around too many times in the sporting world.  Oftentimes the athlete never lives up to the hype.  For the AMSOIL Supercross Team, the latest round of talent comes from a 20-year-old California kid who possesses the raw speed and control to be one of the sport’s best young riders.  After an up-and-down rookie season, the need for consistency was ingrained into Josh Grant.  After a poor start in his first race of the 2006 season in St. Louis, Grant finally showed the potential he promised coming out of the amateur ranks in Atlanta last weekend.

Grant, who had crashed twice in St. Louis and finished dead last in the Supercross Lites final, was able to hold on for a much better day of riding in Atlanta.  In his heat race, Grant had to reel in the leaders after getting buried off the start.  By the final lap, he had moved his way through the crowd and into a transfer position.  With a lap to go, he pressured the third place rider, but ran out of real estate and settled for fourth.

The “Lites” main event saw something rare in supercross racing.  Grant got a great start, sitting in third, but quickly moved into second.  The good start was wasted, however, after a rider crashed and the red flag came out.  It turned out to be a blessing in disguise for Grant who proceeded to grab the holeshot on the restart.  Another crash helped Grant and Davi Milsaps separate themselves from the field.  Milsaps took over the lead from Grant about a third of the way through the race.  Grant found the opening he needed after Milsaps went down.  There was no looking back for Grant, who was on cruise control with one lap to go.  When the checkered flag came out, he took his first career SX win in style, performing a heal-clicker over his handlebars.  The win gave Grant 25 much needed points, which moved him into fifth in the East Supercross Series points race.  Teammate Tommy Hahn, who finished fifth in St. Louis, had trouble through out the main and finished in 20th.

Supercross Main

Mike LaRocco recently turned 35-years-old and, after 18-years as a professional rider, hit the track for his 228th career AMA Supercross start in Atlanta.  LaRocco, who switched to the bigger Honda CRF 450 this year, has been working hard to regain the form and speed of his youth.  He was able to find some of that speed in his semi-final heat.  Historically a poor starter, LaRocco got out of the gate well in his qualifier and settled into third after the first turn.  He quickly got around the fallen race leader and was sitting in second when the checkered flag dropped.

When the main came around, LaRocco was hoping for another strong start.  He would not find it in Atlanta. He worked his way through the field and finished eighth.  The Rock, who at one point was sitting in fourth place in the AMA Supercross standings, now sits in eighth overall with 108 points.

LaRocco, who is originally from South Bend, Ind., will be racing this weekend in Indianapolis.  It will be extra special for the veteran rider as his eight-year-old son, Ryder, will also be racing under the RCA Dome roof.  Ryder will be racing in the KTM Junior Supercross Challenge, a three-lap race on KTM’s 50 SX Pro Senior LC mini-motorcycle.  The race features 7-8 year-olds and is held during intermission of supercross races.  LaRocco won in Indianapolis in 2004.

Eckstrom Finds Speed, Sixth Podium
Schubitzke recovers from flu, gets top five finish

Winnipeg, Manitoba ~ Team AMSOIL snocross riders D.J. Eckstrom and Carl Schubitzke competed in Winnipeg, Manitoba for the first time over the weekend as part of the World PowerSports Association’s PowerSports Tour.  Both riders found good lines as Eckstrom finished the Pro Open race in second, while Schubitzke took fifth in the Pro Stock class.

Eckstrom entered the weekend only nine points out of first in the Pro Stock class, but some tough breaks kept the perennial front-runner out of the final.  He did find the going a lot easier in the Pro Open class, winning two of his three qualifying heats.  Eckstrom, who is considered one of the most consistent riders on the circuit, almost won his second Pro Open race of the season, finishing second and ending up on the podium in the Pro Open class for the third time this year.

“The competition is really stiff,” said Eckstrom. “We’ve really had an up-and-down season. We’ve struggled to make finals, and we’re not the only ones that have had difficulties. A lot of the top guys are having trouble. It’s a long season, and we’re coming down to the last few races, so we’ll do our best and see how it comes out.”

Meanwhile Schubitzke ran a strong race in the Pro Stock class, taking fifth overall. Schubitzke was aggressive all weekend, a sign of a return to health for the recently-ailing snocross pilot.  “Showtime” failed to make the top 10 the past two weekends as he dealt with a serious bout of influenza.
Look for Team AMSOIL on the podium at the next World Power Sports Association Snowmobile Tour event at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., March 4.  The Winnipeg race will air on ESPN2 on Friday, March 3 at 2 p.m. CST.

Super Team To Invade Snocross, Lambeau
New driver Douglas introduced in Green Bay

Green Bay, Wis., ~ Team AMSOIL worlds will collide at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wis., March 4 as the AMSOIL Super Team will be on hand while Team AMSOIL/Scheuring Speed Sports snocross riders D.J. Eckstrom and Carl Schubitzke fight for a spot on the podium.

AMSOIL Super Team members Dan Vanden Heuvel, Mike Oberg and newcomer Scott Douglas will be signing autographs and spending the day with fans and snocross racers at the WPSA event appropriately named the Lambeau Leap.

“This is a great opportunity for snocross racing fans to discover another sport,” said AMSOIL Racing Coordinator Jeremy Meyer. “There are more similarities in the WPSA Snocross Tour and CORR than people realize; high speeds, big air and tight corners make for an exciting competition no matter what the vehicle is.”

Wanderscheid Wins Again
World champ gets two podiums

Wausau, Wis., ~ World Champion P.J. Wanderscheid is getting to know the Wausau, Wis. area well this winter.  The Sauk Centre, Minn. rider returned to the 1/3 mile track for the second time this year, looking to repeat his podium performances from the January races held in the northern Wisconsin town. Track organizers did change things up on the field for last weekend’s event.  The track went from a flatter surface to a high-banked oval.

Saturday brought out the 600cc class. In the final, Wanderscheid lined up with some of the sport’s best, and a great start propelled the Arctic Cat to a big lead.  The 21-year-old ran the entire final out in front to take home the win in the Pro Open final.

More changes had to be made to the track on Sunday.  With the asphalt surface showing through the ice the width of the track was cut in half, making passing an unrealistic option.  Again the holeshot was important.  Wanderscheid brook loose on the start of the Pro 440 final and dropped into the first corner in third.  After a large crash during the first lap, the riders lined up again for a restart.  Wanderscheid again moved into the first corner in third, and with the tighter track conditions, ended the race in the spot.

"Saturday the track was in good shape and the 600 was dialed-in for the short track,” said Wanderscheid. ”On Sunday we tried to put together the best set-up for the diminishing track conditions. We are happy to take home a first and third. We’ll be doing some testing this week to help us get dialed in for our second trip to Beausejour, Manitoba.”

Beausejour, Manitoba is the last race of the season and the final leg of the Woody’s Triple Crown.  Wanderscheid has a good chance to capture both the points championships and the Triple Crown.

Jason Smith Dominates Ice Ovals

Evans Mills, N.Y., ~ Team AMSOIL oval ice racer Jason Smith has been tearing up the track everywhere he goes. Last weekend Smith turned heads in Valcourt, Quebec, Canada’s answer to the Eagle River (Wis.) World Championships, by winning the Semi-Pro final and several heat races in the Semi-Pro and Pro classes. This weekend Smith won every race in Semi-Pro he entered, and finished with two runner-up’s in the Pro class.

After winning the first round of Pro races on Saturday, Smith destroyed a clutch while leading the second race. After some last-minute repairs, Smith finished second in the final. After winning every one of his Semi-Pro races on Sunday, he won both rounds of pro qualifying and finished second in the final.

Look for Smith in Roberval, Quebec March 10 and 11 at the final ice oval event of the season. Smith is locked into first in Semi-Pro points and hopes to secure second-place in the Pro class points race.

Co-op Sponsorships

If you are an AMSOIL Dealer looking to sponsor a local racer through the AMSOIL Co-op Race Program, please fill out the G-2074 and send it the AMSOIL Racing Department.  Teams who were sponsored last year will need to fill out the form once again.  Also, please remember to send in your race results, as they will be included in the Checkered Flag.

More From Team AMSOIL

  • Team AMSOIL snocross rider Kristen Liermoe had a weekend of “almosts” last weekend.  The young rider finished her three heats at the Wisconsin regional in second place.  She was able to grab the holeshot in the final, but at the halfway point, she came up short on a jump, causing her to lose her momentum.  She was never able to regain the lead and settled for a second place finish.
  • Johnny Munoz has completed the first two rounds of the Houston MX Dealers Series.  The first round was in Conroe, Texas at Three Palms Extreme Sports Park.  Munoz, who entered the weekend banged up from a bad practice crash, finished the day eighth overall.  The second round was in Splendora, Texas at San Jacinto Cycle Park.  The race turned into a muddy adventure.  Keeping his bike on two wheels, Munoz finished the day fifth overall.
  • Team T Racing was at it again last weekend.  Josiah Tognazzini took 8th overall and is currently holding down the fifth spot in the points chase with only two races left.  He is currently only seven points out of first and three from second.