Tulsa, OK (January 10, 2021) – The 2021 Kicker AMA Arenacross Series opening weekend took place on Friday and Saturday with Rounds One and Two being held at the Mississippi Horse Park Arena in Starkville, Mississippi.
The opening rounds saw a lot of drama, a lot of action and a lot of new faces in the 250 Pro Sport and 450 Pro Sport classes. But three familiar faces dominated a lot of the weekend with privateers Kyle Bitterman and Gared Steinke getting podium finishes throughout the weekend, and Phoenix Racing Honda Team Rider Kyle Peters continued his 2020 dominance into the new year, sweeping the pro classes across the weekend.
The new year also brought new ‘Pro Only’ whoops for the pro racers. The whoops were some of the largest ever seen on an arenacross track and those presented some new challenges for the racers.
Round One of the 2021 Series took place on Friday, January 8th. The main show opened with the 250 Pro Heat Races. Peters charged out of the gate and took the holeshot, and from there the race was his to lose. He would go on to win the first heat, followed by Bitterman, on his new GasGas bike, in second and Team Babbitts Monster Energy Kawasaki Rider Isaac Teasdale in third. Teasdale finished second overall in the 2019 series and is a much anticipated return to the 2021 group.
However Teasdale recently sustained a shoulder injury in practice that required a visit to the hospital the day before Round One which noticeably impacted his racing abilities in the opening weekend of racing.
Heat two showed a very new Steinke, as his work in the offseason was proving to be successful. He won heat two of the 250 Pro class, followed by series newcomers Phoenix Racing Honda Team Rider Cullin Park (2nd) and Team Babbitts Monster Energy Kawasaki Rider Mike Alessi (3rd).
Steinke kicked off the first 450 Pro Heat with a victory, followed by Alessi in second and privateer and long time Kicker AMA Arenacross racer Zack Gurley in third. Kyle Bitterman took fourth in the heat, after crashing in the whoops section and suffering some bike damage early on in the race. Peters won heat two in a similar fashion from the 250 pro heat race, followed by Teasdale taking second and Park in third.
The first main event of the 2021 series, the 250 Pro Sport, was packed full of great riding, with the best of that being from Peters as he rode to victory without issue. Steinke opened up the race early in second followed by Bitterman in third. These two would continue to battle for second place through lap nine, when Steinke fumbled and lost a few places, and Bitterman took over second place. Bitterman would hang on and finish in second, followed by Park in third and Steinke in fourth. Much anticipated series newcomer Mike Alessi finished fifth overall.
The final class of the evening, the 450 Pro Sport main event, opened up with Peters managing to come out of the tight and crowded first corner with the lead. Bitterman and Steinke follow suit in second and third places respectively. Peters efficiency thus far has been his ability to triple-triple in the rhythm section, though when lapped racers come into play that makes it a bit more difficult. Thus far Peters has not had any issue with the lapped riders, but the season is still young. The race ends without drama, with Peters topping the podium, followed by Bitterman in second and Steinke in third.
Round Two of the 2021 Series took place on Saturday, January 9th. We opened the evening with Peters leading the pack during the first heat of the 250 Pro Sport class. During lap three Bitterman tried to pass Park on the inside of a turn, causing both riders to go down. Bitterman got back up quickly and resumed racing in the second place spot. The heat finished with Peters in first, followed by Bitterman (2nd) and Park (3rd).
The second heat of the 250 Pro Sport class brought the drama. Steinke takes the holeshot and the lead through the whoops, but on the next turn Mike Alessi dove to the inside with a lot of momentum and Steinke went down in the process. Steinke, down a lap, got into Alessi’s way after the finish line jump to complete the second lap, making it clear to Alessi he was not pleased with what happened off the start. The heat finished with Alessi taking the win, followed by Teasdale in second and Zachary Butkiewicz in third. Steinke finished in seventh leading to a trip to the last chance qualifier (that he won) before the 250 Pro Sport main event.
The 450 Pro heat one race opened with Bitterman on the ground in the first lap, and falling to seventh place. Bitterman would work throughout the heat to move back up to third place by the end. Peters finished the heat in first and Park came in second. The second heat of the 450 Pro class was a lot more tame than the second of the 250 Pro class. Steinke came out of the gate strong alongside Alessi, with Steinke falling behind Alessi into second place. The race finished the way it started with Alessi taking first, Steinke taking second and Teasdale coming in third.
The 250 Pro main event, opened up with a little shake up. Due to his heat race finish earlier in the evening, Steinke was left with second to last gate pick, which ended up with him being close to the outside gate to start the race. This gate ended up working for him as he pulled off the holeshot and started the race in first place ahead of Peters. Peters zoned in and was ultimately able to regain his top spot in the class. Peters was able to hold off Steinke to secure the win. Steinke took second place with Park taking third.
Steinke switched up his gate position for the 450 Pro main event, from the outside to the very most inside gate pick. Alessi instead decided to try his luck at one of the outside gates. Steinke saw success again off of the start, taking the holeshot yet again and taking the early lead. Peters was able to regain his first place spot a little quicker this go around and taking back the lead by the end of the second lap. Steinke and Park battled for second place for much of the race, with lapped riders allowing for Bitterman to catch up and join the battle for the podium spots. Park starts to pull ahead a bit, in lap eight, from Bitterman and Steinke to secure his second place spot in the race. What looked to be a battle for third between Bitterman and Steinke, ended up being a battle for fourth, as Alessi was able to sneak by the two riders at the end of the race and snag that third spot on the podium. Steinke ended the race in fourth and Bitterman in fifth.
And with that, the opening weekend of the 2021 Kicker AMA Arenacross Series comes to a close. The riders have the week to make any needed changes before Round Three kicks off on Friday in Lubbock, Texas. Will someone knock Peters off the top spot in rounds three or four? We will let you know!