The chase for the championship tightened up this weekend at round five of the AMA ATV Motocross National Championship Series presented by DWT. Only four points separate the current points leader from second place, the closest margin yet this season. At almost halfway through the season, the veteran riders are beginning to mark their territory while several Rookie riders are showing flashes of brilliance.
Once again, the Can-Am duo dominated most of the day Although Wienen lined up at his home track, all holeshot advantages were pushed aside as Sunset Ridge debuted a brand new starting structure this weekend, but that’s ok since he grabbed the ATVRiders.com Fastest Qualifier Award earlier in the day.
Makson Construction/JB Racing/Maximum RPM/Hetrick Racing’s Joel Hetrick had no problem adjusting to the changes as he shot out of the hydraulic-powered gates to capture the SSi Decals Holeshot Award. It didn’t take long for Wienen to put the move on Hetrick as the duo went side-by-side over the finish line jump on lap two.
Motoworks Can-Am’s John Natalie spent the first half of moto one chasing the Honda of Hetrick, who rode a tenacious race – even pulling away from the veteran rider at times. Natalie finally made his move about halfway through the race, turning his sights to Can-Am teammate Wienen out front.
The intense racing action actually took place in the battle for fifth between Ballance Racing’s Thomas Brown, SSI Decals/Motoworks/JB Racing/Fox Shox’s Chase Snapp and Walsh Race Craft/Fox Shox/Maxxis/FMF’s Jeremy Lawson. Brown got off to a bad start but hammered his way through the pack and put the pressure on Lawson who was all over Snapp for the fifth spot.
Snapp, Lawson and Brown were in freight train formation heading into the corner – Brown railed the outside while Snapp tucked inside and Lawson followed. Brown swept around Lawson first and then went to work on Snapp, eventually slipping inside on the downhill corner.
Snapp returned the favor the next time around, making contact with Brown and finishing out the race in fifth behind Baldwin Motorsports/JB Racing/PEP’s Upperman. Brown held off Lawson for sixth and the Rookie claimed his first-ever Pro podium behind the Motoworks Can-Am duo of Wienen and Natalie.
Great ride from the Rookie “You had to be really patient out there, the track was only turning a couple fast lines and you really had to pick them right,” Wienen said. “I had to be really safe on the lines I picked and I just all of the sudden turned the light switch and hit it,” he added.
Joel Hetrick was on fire aboard his Honda machine, grabbing yet another SSi Decals Holeshot Award in moto two with fellow Honda rider Josh Upperman close behind. The Can-Am duo of Chad Wienen and John Natalie tucked in behind the Honda riders and immediately began picking away.
Wienen railed the outside line to steal second from Upperman and it wasn’t long before Natalie followed suit. The fans cheered home state rider Chad Wienen hard as he pushed his way past Hetrick for the lead and never looked back. Hetrick lost steam midway through the moto, falling victim to another Can-Am rider for the second position.
“I got a couple blisters on my hands and had real bad arm pump for a while, I couldn’t even push the gas through the turn but that eventually went away and I just cleared my head and calmed down after that,” Hetrick said.
Natalie heightened his pace near the end of the moto, turning lap times nearly two seconds faster than the leader. With two laps to go, Natalie put himself within striking distance of his teammate until his bike started smoking. Natalie lost his momentum as his bike slowly deteriorated, making it as far as the corner before the finish line before it shut off. Natalie pieced together a sixth place overall despite his moto two breakdown.
“It stinks what happened to John out there but I’ll take it,” Upperman said. “That’s all I’m asking, is to be in the top three,” he added.
Honda dominated holeshots all day After battling to the end in moto one, Chase Snapp and Thomas Brown found themselves paired up once again in moto two – this time Brown controlling the fate. Snapp, Lawson and Joe Byrd were close behind but through the rough track conditions couldn’t make the move around Brown. Upperman took home a comfortable third after Natalie dropped out and Brown finished with fourth to take the fourth overall with Snapp going 5-5 for fifth.
Wienen now holds a four-point lead over Natalie in the Championship standings heading into round six. Josh Upperman, who has been consistent all season, holds the third position over Jeremy Lawson and Rookie Chase Snapp bumps out Joe Byrd for the fifth spot.
The AMA ATV Motocross Championship Series heads to Steel City MX in Delmont, Pa., May 21 and 22, with Pro class racing starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, supported by 37 amateur classes throughout Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit www.atvmotocross.com.