PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Nov. 1, 2005) - Nick Cummings, Jason Perez and Juss Laansoo have been named the 2005 AMA Rookies of the Year. Cummings earned the honor in AMA Flat Track racing, Perez in AMA Superbike and Laansoo in AMA Motocross. All three riders will be honored at the 31st annual AMA Pro Racing Awards Banquet to be held at the Paris Las Vegas, on Sunday, Nov. 20.
NICK CUMMINGS: 2005 AMA FLAT TRACK ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Nick Cummings, of Mount Morris, Mich., has been named the 2005 Ricky Graham Flat Track Rookie of the Year. Cummings, 19, battled back from injury to finish ranked 15th in the 2005 AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship.
"It's an unbelievable feeling to win Rookie of the Year," Cummings said. "That was a goal I set for myself this year. I wasn't sure if I would get it after getting hurt at Daytona and then again at Peoria."
Cummings began the 2005 season with a hard crash in the Daytona Short Track injuring his elbow. He made a strong comeback at the very next round in Joliet, Ill. in May, where he finished a season best second place.
"Fortunately we had a bit of a break after Daytona, which gave me time to heal," Cummings said. "Finishing runner-up at Joliet was definitely the highlight of the season. It was great to be able to get a podium finish after the Daytona crash. I think that gave me a lot of confidence to be able to find out that I could do well coming off an injury."
Cummings later broke his left arm in a crash at the Peoria (Ill.) TT in August.
In spite of his two injuries this season Cummings said he was proud of his first full season in the AMA Grand National Championship. He ran as high as fifth in the championship standings early in the season and scored four top-10 finishes. The young Michigan rider rode with support from Pro Honda Oils, Sunoco, Arai, K&N, PM, Pro Concepts, TCR, Dickel Racing, Jim Kelly Racing and Joe Bisha Racing.
Cummings plans to contest the Grand Nationals again in 2006 and hopes to branch out and add additional AMA road race and supermoto events to his schedule. The 2005 Ricky Graham Flat Track Rookie of the Year Award is just one of the accolades bestowed on Cummings. He was also awarded the AMA Horizon Award in 2002 as the AMA's top amateur racer.
JASON PEREZ: AMA SUPERBIKE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Jason Perez is the 2005 AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year. The 21-year-old second generation AMA road racer from Brentwood, Calif., finished ranked 27th in the AMA Superbike Championship presented by Parts Unlimited in spite of only participating in the final six rounds of the 17-race series and battling back from a serious injury to his elbow.
Perez, whose father David is a former AMA road racer, finished the season on a high note taking 11th in the season finale at Road Atlanta. It marked his best Superbike finish of the year.
"I'm excited to win AMA Superbike Rookie of the Year," said Perez, who also finished sixth in the Daytona 200 in March. "A lot of people were excited about the way we came back strong and finished the season. It was not easy coming back from such a tough injury, but it really boosted my confidence to beat guys like John Haner and Marty Craggill in the final round."
Perez has been considered one of the top up-and-coming racers on the West Coast for several years. After progressing quickly through the ranks from mini-bike racing to 125cc Grand Prix and eventual Supersport racing, Perez was offered a unique opportunity to race in the BMW Boxer Cup international series in 2003. Perez often ran near the front in the Boxer Cup. He also turned the fastest lap time in the South African round that season. With the valuable international experience in hand Perez returned to the U.S. in 2004 and contested the Pro Honda Oils Supersport Championship, scoring a pair of top-10 finishes.
Early in the year Perez suffered a broken left elbow in a practice crash and missed four AMA road racing weekends. Upon his return he entered Superbike, to get additional track time in preparation for Superstock. He scored a solid 15th-place finish in his AMA Superbike debut at Mid-Ohio, while riding with a still not totally healed left arm.
In the final rounds his arm continued to get better and with it his results became more consistent culminating with his solid Road Atlanta result. That weekend he also qualified in the second row in the Superstock race.
"Racing a Superstock bike in Superbike meant we were underpowered all year," Perez explained. "Chuck Graves has been a big supporter and we're hoping to get more sponsors to come on board so we can continue to climb the ladder next year. My dad put a lot of his own money in this year's effort and I hope it pays off."
Perez's 2005 campaign was backed by Rojo Racing, Graves Motorsports, Fastrack Riders, Yamaha, Dunlop, Shoei, Helimot Leathers, Motul, Pit Bull, C-5, GPR and Zero Gravity.
Perez joins a prestigious list of other riders to win the award such as Doug Chandler, Scott Russell, Thomas Stevens, Tommy Hayden and Jamie Hacking.
JUSS LAANSOO: AMA SUPERCROSS/MOTOCROSS ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
Juss Laansoo made his first full season racing AMA Motocross a successful one by earning the Rookie of the Year honors.
Laansoo, a native of Estonia, burst onto the scene this year with a fifth-place finish in the 250 class at Hangtown in May. His Hangtown National finish surprised a lot of people and he hoped it would be a preview of things to come, but injuries kept the 22-year-old from reaching his full potential this summer.
Laansoo virtually came out of nowhere to become the newly crowned Rookie of the Year. He raced a limited schedule in his native Estonia while serving in the army before coming to America. Laansoo had experience in the European and World Championship, Motocross of Nations and was the Estonian 125 and 500 champ in 2000.
His goal was to race in America and with help from former AMA Motocross racer Jim Holley he realized his dream by racing to a tenth overall in the 250 class at Glen Helen in 2004 in his U.S. debut.
Laansoo started his first full season in America off with a bang with his Hangtown finish, but the rest of his rookie year was plagued by injury. He cracked ribs at High Point and later developed a back problem that hampered his progress. He then suffered a broken leg at the Lakewood, Colo., round forcing him to miss the next four rounds. He attempted to comeback at Glen Helen, but a hard crash in qualifying caused him to miss the final race of the season.
"For me to come from Estonia to race in the United States was a pretty big thing," said Laansoo, who raced for the Motorsport Outlet team. "I enjoyed racing in America. I still have a lot to learn to compete against the riders over here, who are the best in the world. I'm happy for the good results I had. My top five at Hangtown was more than I could have hoped for."
Laansoo plans to continue racing motocross in America in 2006 and looks to compete in AMA Supercross as well.
Source: AMA Pro Racing