Rivalries in sports are pure money. They're the gold standard for drawing fans by creating drama. The 2012 AMA Arenacross series has a dandy growing with each round like a snowball rolling down mountain. As with most good rivalries they originate organically, they're not contrived, and the combatants often share the same skill sets.
With one race remaining TUF Racing is in second place overall in the AMA Arenacross Series. Photo by smugmug.com.
Jeff Gibson retaliated in Madison by taking the hole-shot and leading the main event from green to checkered flag. Photo by smugmug.com.
For TUF Racing's Jeff Gibson things heated up in Madison, Wisconsin at the Alliant Energy Center. Gibson started off great on Friday night easily winning his heat race. However, the controversy began in the dash-for-cash event as Tyler Bower intentionally knocked down Gibson on the last lap going for fourth place. Being that this race only pays the winner that came off as a total bone-head move.
"I have no problem with aggressive racing, that's what Arenacross is all about. I do have a problem when a rider is intentionally trying to hurt another rider, TUF Racing's team manager Dave Antolak told K&N. "The AMA has warned, fined and taken away points from Bowers and since then there have been no other incidents. So I would have to say the AMA did a great job in dealing with this situation. The sad part is Tyler is a very talented rider he doesn't need to resort to such behavior to win.
Gibson retaliated in the main event in the most significant possible way, he grabbed a massive hole-shot, then led every lap before taking the checkered. Saturday night started out as a carbon copy of the first night with Gibson easily winning his heat. Only then he won the dash-for-cash too. Gibson donated those winnings to a local teen center. Bowers was not allowed to participate in the dash as a punishment for his shenanigans in Friday's race. In the Saturday's main Gibson slid out halfway through the race going for third place. He got up and managed to finish fifth. Although that was a little disappointing for TUF Racing, they did make up 16 points on the leader and took over the points lead.
We spoke with Antolak again after round nine in Lexington, Kentucky at Rupp Arena. "Kentucky didn't quite go as well as we would have liked. Jeff was sick, but he still pulled the hole-shot in the main event and led for over half the race before it caught up to him and he dropped back to 3rd at the end. We also think we found a problem with Cole's (Siebler) suspension that we have already corrected and we are going into Fresno like we do every week expecting to win."
We asked Antolak how team's spirit and focus was at that point. "Not a lot changes in the TUF Racing camp whether we win or lose. We have had the same mechanics for the last 8 years in ,Andy Brannon and Tracin Seng, and it doesn't matter if their rider is in the championship hunt or not. They love to go racing and have the best bikes on the track and they work their butts off to do that."
"We have two riders in Jeff Gibson and Cole Siebler that are not only great riders, but are also great people to work with. As long as everyone is giving 100% effort the spirits are always high. This is our 16th year in the Arenacross series and we have had a lot of success, but if it was easy to win all the time it really wouldn't mean as much. Being in second just motivates us to keep trying harder.
Antolak's Round 10 Fresno, California prediction proved to be prophetic, as Jeff Gibson held off Bower to take home his third victory of the 2012 season at Fresno's Save Mart Center. With that win Gibson has now closed in on Bower's points lead going into the last race at the Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
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