Natalie joins pair on ATV motocross podium
The 2014 Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship, sanctioned by AMA (ATVMX), returned to action after a six-week break at High Point Raceway in Mt. Morris, Pa. for the Maxxis ATV Stampede – the third round of the series.
Pennsylvania native Joel Hetrick (JB Racing/DWT/Mtn. Dew Live Wire Can-Am) relied on his win in the second moto to earn his first overall victory via tiebreaker over defending two-time series champion Chad Wienen.
High Point hosted a boisterous crowd on Saturday afternoon as the field entered the day looking to end Wienen’s hot streak, with the Wienen Motorsports/SSi Decals/Walsh Yamaha rider capturing the win at the opening two rounds and establishing a six-point lead in the AMA Pro ATV Class championship standings.
As the gate dropped on Moto 1, Wienen raced to his first SSi Decals Holeshot of the season with Motosport.com/RRR/Ford/DWT/Walsh/Fox Honda’s John Natalie, BCS Performance Can-Am’s Josh Creamer, Hetrick, and RootRiver Motorsports/Motowoz Suspension/ITP/JB Racing Honda’s Sean Taylor rounding out the top five. In the ensuing laps, Wienen and Natalie established a hotly contested battle for the lead while Creamer and Hetrick went wheel-to-wheel for third.
As the moto reached the three-lap mark, Wienen slowly began to establish a gap on Natalie for second as Hetrick made his move on Creamer for third and set his sights Natalie for the runner-up spot. It wasn’t long before Hetrick was smothering Natalie for the position, bringing the High Point crowd to its feet as the two Pennsylvania natives engaged in a thrilling battle.
Eventually Natalie gave way to Hetrick’s pressure on Lap 5, but by the time the Can-Am rider secured second place Wienen had already taken advantage of the battle to open a comfortable margin out front and maintained it to the finish. The defending champion’s quest for a 3-0 start to the season began with a win in the opening moto, while Hetrick followed in second with more to give. Natalie rounded out the podium in third with Creamer and Baldwin Motorsports/PEP/Upperman Racing Honda’s Josh Upperman completing the top
A familiar face asserted himself out front to start the second and final moto of the afternoon, as Natalie captured his fourth SSi Decals Holeshot of the season. Wienen followed closely in second with Hetrick moving into third, setting the stage for what would be a memorable battle for the win between this trio. As Natalie looked to run away up front, Hetrick was on a mission and made an early pass on Wienen for second on Lap 2, to the delight of the fans. The very next lap, Hetrick continued his surge to the front to pass Natalie for the lead and instantly began to pull away. Behind him Natalie and Wienen gave it their all in a fight for second with both riders using every inch of the High Point track to find an edge.
As Hetrick went on to complete his best outing of the 2014 season thus far, the pair of past champions continued their dogfight with critical championship points at stake. After a lengthy battle that spanned six laps on the grueling High Point layout, Wienen finally grabbed the upper hand on Lap 8 to secure second and follow Hetrick across the line to establish a tie for the overall win. Natalie brought home an impressive third-place finish while Creamer followed in fourth and Wienen Motorsports/SSi Decals/Walsh Yamaha’s Thomas Brown finished fifth.
Despite their identical moto scores, Hetrick’s win in the final moto put the tiebreaker into his favor (2-1) and resulted in his first win of the 2014 season. He admitted following the race that an issue with his bike over the final two laps caused his pace to drop off and allowed Wienen to close the deficit, but he soldiered home to the finish.
“Setting the fastest time in qualifying helped me get a good start in the first moto. I made some quick passes and moved up to second,” says Hetrick. “I got another good start in the second moto and came out third, made some quick passes to get into first, and then John (Natalie) held up Chad (Wienen) for a little bit and I got a big lead. I had a bike issue the last two laps, but I pushed through it to get the moto win and the overall. First of the year and I’m pumped.”
Wienen saw his winning streak come to an end, but he lost no points in the championship battle in finishing second (1-2). Natalie’s consistent 3-3 finishes landed him third overall, making he and Wienen the only two riders to finish on the overall podium at each round this season. Creamer finished fourth thanks to 4-4 moto results while Brown completed the top five (6-5).
Wienen’s persistence against Natalie in the final moto allowed him to gain seven points in the AMA Pro ATV standings, extending his advantage to 13 points over Natalie. Hetrick maintained his hold on third but is now just five points behind Natalie for second and 18 behind Wienen for first. Creamer moved up three positions into fourth (-46) with Brown gaining one spot for fifth (-50).
The Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship will observe the Memorial Day holiday next weekend before returning to action for the fourth round of the 2014 season on May 31 – June 1. Sunset Ridge MX in Walnut, Illinois, will be the host site of the AMSOIL ATV Showdown.