Firebird Fallout: The Battle For AMA Superbike Racing’s First Chapter

The war between AMA Pro Racing and NASB resulted in racing on sub-par tracks


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The vistas provided by the surrounding mountains were only matched by the hairball aspect of hanging your camera over a straw bale may have made Firebird Raceway a photogenic venue, but in reality, the circuit was woefully inadequate to host an AMA Superbike event. Firebird, along with Gateway International Raceway, were on the 1995 AMA Superbike schedule due to fallout from a threat of the new NASB Series, which caused the AMA to scramble to find tracks to assemble a full schedule. That Adams Fellow

December 15, 1994 was a grim day at AMA Pro Racing in Westerville, Ohio. That was the day that the new rival North American Superbike Series (NASB) released its 1995 schedule, which included several of the prime AMA Superbike venues.
Early on it appeared the upstart NASB, headed by Roger Edmondson, would not only get many of the best tracks, but some of the factory teams seeing that the AMA Superbike Series schedule was suddenly almost non-existent, were considering their options.
AMA Pro rallied and hastily threw together a schedule that ultimately included some tracks that regularly hosted club events, but were questionable, in terms of safety and facilities on the pro level.

Eventually all the major teams publicly stated they would be racing in the AMA series. The AMA scheduled one event on the same weekend as NASB, putting Indianapolis Raceway Park up against NASB’s race at Mid-Ohio. Most of the tracks began to realize that the promises NASB made to them, specifically participation by the top teams and riders, was not forthcoming so they came back to the AMA.

A few of the hastily planned AMA events were taken off the calendar, but two of the tracks stayed on as a result of the AMA vs. NASB fallout. One was Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis and the other was Firebird International Raceway in Chandler, Arizona.

Both tracks were marginally capable of hosting professional events and Firebird especially presented safety issues with concrete walls in places where there should have been run-off.

Firebird was the season finale and Mike Hale scored his second (and last) AMA Superbike victory, halting his Honda teammate Miguel Duhamel’s six-race winning streak. Duhamel clinched the championship however, and they took a victory lap together.
Unfortunately, a crash into a wall at Firebird ended Fred Merkel’s racing career and the track never again returned to the schedule.


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