2006 AMA Pro Racing Rookies of the Year Announced

From an AMA Pro Racing press release

Sam Halbert, Roger Lee Hayden and Ryan Villopoto have been named the 2006 AMA Rookies of the Year. Halbert earned the honor in AMA Flat Track racing, Hayden in AMA Superbike and Villopoto in AMA Supercross/Motocross. All three riders will be honored at the 32nd annual AMA Pro Racing Awards Banquet on Sunday evening, Nov. 19 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

SAM HALBERT, 2006 RICKY GRAHAM AMA FLAT TRACK ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: Halbert, the White's Harley-Davidson rider from Graham, Wash., had a solid performance in his first full season of pro racing. Halbert scored points in eight rounds of the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship, both Grand National Twins and Singles Championships.

One of the young up-and-coming riders of the series, Halbert is showing great promise at an early age. He just turned 19 the week before he was named Rookie of the Year.

"It feels good to know that my name will go down in the history books as this year's Rookie of the Year," Halbert said. "Things started off great for me at Daytona then we had some problems and I learned a lot from that. It's been fun racing in the series with my brother. My family has been behind us all the way and I want to thank them and everyone else that helped me win this award."

Halbert started the season with a bang scoring a surprising second-place finish at the Daytona Beach season opener in March. He went on to score four top-10 finishes and completed the season ranked 11th in the AMA GNC Singles Championship. He was 20th in GNC Twins.

Halbert follows in the footsteps of some of the greatest riders in AMA Grand National racing history who were named Rookie of the Year. Riders such as Jay Springsteen, Scott Parker, Bubba Shobert, Doug Chandler, Chris Carr and Nicky Hayden are past recipients of the honor.

Halbert becomes the first rider from the state of Washington to win the award.

ROGER LEE HAYDEN, 2006 AMA SUPERBIKE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR:Kawasaki's Roger Lee Hayden earned the 2006 AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year Award. Hayden won the award in spite of missing much of the Superbike campaign due to injury.

Hayden scored five top-10 finishes in the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited on the factory Kawasaki ZX-10RR with a season best sixth place coming late in the year at Road Atlanta.

"I wish I would have had more time on the Superbike this year, but we made some good progress towards the end of the season," said Hayden, whose brother Tommy was the AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year in 1997. "Now that we've got a full year of development on the bike hopefully I can come back strong next year and get some better results."

Hayden was part of Kawasaki's return to AMA Superbike racing in 2006. He finished the year ranked 17th in the final standings.

He and Tommy are the first brother combination to be named Rookie of the Year. The Haydens hail from Owensboro, Ky.

Roger Lee is the youngest of the three racing Hayden brothers. Tommy also competes in AMA Superbike, while middle brother Nicky is a former AMA Superbike Champion and is now a leading rider in the MotoGP World Championship.

Roger Lee has been an AMA pro rider since 1999. He's long been a standout in Supersport racing.

RYAN VILLOPOTO, 2006 AMA SUPERCROSS/MOTOCROSS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR: The AMA Supercross/Motocross Rookie of the Year also rides for Kawasaki. Ryan Villopoto won the AMA Supercross/Motocross Rookie of the Year on the strength of winning the 2006 AMA Toyota Motocross Lites Championship. He also finished third in the Amp'd Mobile AMA Supercross Lites West Series. In addition, Villopoto was part of the winning Team USA Motocross of Nations squad.

Villopoto captured his Motocross Lites Championship with a convincing 1-1 victory in the final round of the AMA Toyota Motocross Championship Presented by FMF Sunday at Glen Helen Raceway Park near San Bernardino, Calif., in September. That victory was the sixth of the year for the 18-year-old from Poulsbo, Wash., who rides for the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki team.

Villopoto also won a round of the AMA Supercross Lites West Series at Texas Stadium in April.

"I'll never forget this season," Villopoto said. "It started out with some ups and downs, but ending the year winning a motocross championship and then the Motocross of Nations with Ivan [Tedesco] and James [Stewart] was better than I could have hoped for."

Earning the Rookie of the Year Award is just the latest accolade for Villopoto. He was also the AMA Horizon Award winner in 2005, presented annually by AMA Sports to the individuals who have been selected as the most outstanding rider in AMA amateur competition.

Villopoto is planning on racing in the Lites division in both Supercross and Motocross in 2007. He hopes to add a Supercross title to his name and plans on defending his motocross championship.

Villopoto puts his name alongside a prestigious list of those who've won the Supercross/Motocross Rookie of the Year Award including riders such as James Stewart, Ricky Carmichael, Travis Pastrana and Kevin Windham.

Sam Halbert
Roger Lee Hayden
Ryan Villapoto