Monday, August 17, 2009

The Mat Who Would Be King.....

.....IS King again for the 7th time!
Mat Mladin, who has managed to dazzle, ruffle, and keep our interests alive for the better
part of the last 13 years in the AMA Superbike Series, managed a 9th/2nd place finish over
the weekend at Virginia International Raceway, and took his 7th Superbike title in the
premier class of American roadracing. Not that winning his 7th--and unfortunately what
looks to be his last as he announced his retirement a couple of weeks ago--was going to be a
stretch. Through and including the Laguna Seca round over the 4th of July w/e, Mat had won
a total of 10 races, while managing to build a lead in the series standings that he would not relinquish. The formalities were all but done by race time yesterday, as in the Sunday race he
only needed 2 points to take the title from his team mate, Tommy Hayden, no matter where
Tommy Gun finished.
After having started the year on a tear in not only claiming pole wins, Mat amassed win after
win in what seemed from the start of the season a cakewalk. However, after having to deal with
a new '09 motorcycle several race events into the season, it took some time for Mat to come to
grips with the handling and performance of the new machine. Never failing to take it to the edge,
he showed everyone why he is the all time champion by protecting his point lead while
developing the bike, and coming to grips with the nature of the new beast at hand. Not too
mention the new beasts involved with the Damaged Motorcycle Guys people who have
attempted to re-work the series ala NASCrash and their rule making/changing ways to re-
formulate the series. That's another story for another time. This is about Mat.
For the man who stepped up and has taken the U.S. series by storm since he emerged on
the FBF Ducati in 1997, yesterday was the final crown and the final exclamation point to
a very storied career. Not that a chance of another win or two might not be possible in 2
weeks at the season-ending event in New Jersey, but yesterday was the culmination of all the
dedication, effort, training and focus that Mat Mladin has shown all of us here, let alone the
world, for all of these years, and shown how/why he is now a 7-time champ after having won
his 7th crown in the last 11 seasons. I've said it from the start, the man is a machine, and he has
rolled over all of us in showing what kind of champion and competitor he is. And unfortunately,
after the end of this year, Mat Mladin will go back to being a mere mortal. He will walk away from the sport and series he has decimated virtually since the start, and we will all be
worse off without him as a result. Not seeing Mat Mladin on the grid in 2010 in the AMA
Superbike Series is going to leave a hole the size of Texas in the series and we all will suffer
as a result. However, we can say we have been treated over the last decade plus to one of the
finest performances by one of the premier athletes at his job, and boy, were WE wowwed by it!
For Mat Mladin, we all bow at your feet for what you have done and shown us, and we are all
better for what you have done and shown us over the years. You will be surely missed, and
we will appreciate even more, when you are gone, how much you have truly done for us.
Thanks for the memories, Mat, and congrats on Number 7! We never doubted it would come!
The shots above are all of Mat at Road America in 2004, in various stages of practice, qualifying,
and generally kicking everyone's a.. over the w/e while winning both races that year.
Their may be some people out there that won't miss him when he's gone, but I can tell you I WON'T be one of them.....Thanks again Mat!!

1 comment:

  1. Mr. Stuman, THANK YOU for a great tribute to Mat and commentary on the current Dysfunctional Management Group. I hope that the current and upcoming crop of racers will learn from Mat's example of standing up and being counted, whether you are one or many, of looking at the big picture, not your own selfish little snapshot. Mat is truly a racer's racer and a man's man. Ray Weber in Santa Cruz, California.


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