Saturday night marked one of the most important moments in the history of AMSOIL Arenacross, as the inaugural Race to the Championship kicked off from inside Verizon Arena. The top 10 riders in the Arenacross Class standings will do battle over the final five nights of competition and after a pair of captivating Main Events, Zach Ames grabbed the early advantage by capturing his second overall victory of the season. Steven Mages won the Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class Main Event.
In the opening Main Event of the night, Michael McDade looked as if he would bounce back from his recent misfortune to make an early move in the Race to the Championship. McDade controlled the entire 12-lap Main Event, while teammates Kelly Smith and Jeff Gibson put themselves in good position heading into the second Main Event with strong second and third-place results, respectively. Championship points leader Tyler Bowers followed in fourth, battling his way forward from a mid-pack start aboard his Kawasaki machine. Ames followed in fifth.
Thanks to the win, McDade became the rider who would select the inversion for the final Main Event of the night, which would end up reversing the gate selections for the entire 16-rider field.
As the gate dropped on the second Main Event, Willy Browning asserted himself at the front of the field. He was followed by Ames, who grabbed the best start of the top five finishers from the first Main Event, and KTM’s Michael Willard.
The rest of the riders in contention for the podium had their work cut out for them, with Gibson emerging in eighth, McDade in ninth, Bowers in 11th, and Smith in 12th. Each of these riders had difficulty working through the field during which McDade was the recipient of misfortune that dropped him to 11th.
In the end, Browning held on to become the fifth different Main Event winner this season, with Ames in second and Willard in third. Gibson clawed his way to a sixth-place result, while Bowers wasn’t far behind in eighth. Both McDade and Smith finished outside the top 10 in 11th and 14th, respectively.
As a result of his consistent 5-2 finishes, Ames captured the overall win for the second time this season, his first coming at the opening round of the championship. Ironically, in each of his triumphant efforts, Ames has claimed the overall without winning a Main Event.
Gibson’s 3-6 results landed him second overall, while Gared Steinke earned his best overall finish of the season in third after finishing seventh and fourth in the Main Events.
By virtue of his win, Ames is now in control of the Race to the Championship, surpassing his top-seeded teammate Bowers. Ames lead in the standings sits at three points over Gibson, who also moved past Bowers into second. Bowers is an additional point behind in third.
Collectively, only 18 points separate the 10 riders in the Race to the Championship, with Daniel Blair holding on to the 10th spot following a tough night.
In Saturday night’s Head-to-Head Bracket Racing, Smith out dueled Browning in the final pairing to earn the championship point. The bonus point allowed Smith to move into a tie with Browning in the standings, currently sitting sixth.
The return of the Western Regional Arenacross Lites Class Championship proved to be good night for Mages in the championship standings. The KTM rider needed to work past a speedy Johnny Moore as well as Tanner Moore in the early going, but ultimately took control of the 18-lap Main Event. Kyle White was strong in second, while an exciting battle for third ensued between Michael Lang, the points leader, and Maxx Malatia.
Malatia made a pass on Lang for the final podium position in the late stages of the race, but Lang responded just a lap later to hold onto the position and follow Mages and White across the line.
Mages moved to within three points of Lang in the championship standings thanks to the win, while Malatia moved into third, 10 points out of the lead. Coming into the evening, Tyler Villopoto was in the thick of the title hunt, sitting just two points behind Lang. However, the rookie Arenacross rider suffered from misfortune in the Main Event, ultimately recording a DNF and falling to fourth in the championship, 15 points out of the lead.