By now it's no secret that the defending Champion Josh Creamer did not have intentions to race the AMA ATV Motocross National Championship Series presented by DWT this year. A change in plans caused Creamer to race round two aboard his privateer Honda machine and he may have found out that it's harder to defend a championship than it is to win one.
The temperatures were beyond perfect at Millcreek MX Park in sunny Pell City, Ala. this weekend. With a full gate of AMA Pro riders and a well-groomed track, it couldn't have been a better day for racing.
Motoworks DWT Fox Shox Holz Racing Can-Am rider Chad Wienen ran the fastest lap time of the morning. Coming off the previous two seasons as just a top three contender, Wienen has come into 2011 fully prepared and ready to take home a championship. So far, the Illinois native has swept every moto, giving him the points lead heading into round three in a couple weeks.
Nick Denoble snagged the moto one holeshot aboard his Grand Central Stations Custom Axis Walsh Race Craft Jansen Motosports Honda ahead of a stacked field of riders. JBR American Honda Dasa Walsh Race craft rider Joe Byrd diced through the whoop-section, moving past Denoble for the early lead until lap three when Wienen powered his Can-Am machine to the front and never looked back.
Motoworks DWT Fox Shox Holz Racing Can-Am rider John Natalie settled in behind Byrd early in the moto and pushed the Honda rider for a few laps before making his move on lap six. Byrd rode with focus and composure as he kept the pressure on Natalie to make a mistake. Both veteran riders know what it takes to ride a smart race, battling smooth and clean for the second spot. Natalie handled the pressure and held off Byrd long enough to break away and settle in behind his Can-Am teammate for a podium finish in moto one.
As the moto progressed, the loamy clay acquired big breaking bumps that made for difficult corner positioning as both Denoble and Rookie Joel Hetrick found out the hard way. The rough downhill corner caught the riders and bucked them off the bike.
Baldwin Motorsports JB Racing PEP's Josh Upperman maintained a comfortable fourth throughout the moto, but he really put a charge on the Honda of Joe Byrd at the end - nearly catching Byrd before the checkers. Had there been another lap, there's no telling who would have come out on top.
Jeremy Lawson put in a solid ride aboard his Walsh Race Craft Fox Shox Maxxis FMF Suzuki, taking a fifth in moto one. Lawson turned it up midway through the moto, making a run for Upperman at the end but didn't have enough time to make it happen.
Defending Champion Josh Creamer got off to a slow start in moto one but made his way through the pack for a sixth place finish. Although Creamer is used to running ahead of the pack, the now privateer rider put in a good ride all things considered. Motoworks JB Racing Fox Shox SSI Decals Can-Am rider Chase Snapp finished an impressive seventh right behind Creamer.
Ballance Racing's Thomas Brown has had bad luck with mechanicals so far this season. Brown had a pretty hard get-off after his bike locked up in moto one, luckily he stayed clear of the bike on the way down and walked away safe.
Joe Byrd grabbed the moto two holeshot aboard his JBR American Honda with Wienen and the rest of the pack close behind. Wienen had the whoops dialed in all day and used that to his advantage as he muscled past Byrd for the lead.
“I put my head down all last year and we finally got the bike fine-tuned this year, I started out front and that's the way you have to do it,” says Wienen. “I mean this team is the total package, the bike is rollin’. It's going to be a long year and we're just going to take it race by race.”
Byrd, Upperman, Lawson, Natalie and Creamer were in freight train formation, leaving no room for mistakes. With few passing opportunities on the track, riders were taking advantage of sections like the whoops to go in for the kill. Upperman spotted that opportunity and blitzed through to take the second spot from Byrd.
As that was going on, John Natalie began his quest for the front of the pack. Natalie got past Lawson, Byrd and eventually Upperman to lock in the second spot behind Can-Am teammate Wienen. Byrd fell off pace a bit as Lawson and Creamer both got around, putting him back to sixth.
“This moto was a lot harder, it was tough to pass out there and a lot harder to get around these guys,” says Natalie. “Obviously I want to be where Chad is but I have to go back and do my homework. I had some bad luck last year but the team fixed some things and definitely made a championship bike this year.”
Chad Wienen is leading the point standings coming out of round two with teammate John Natalie just 12 points behind. Josh Upperman, Joe Byrd and Jeremy Lawson currently hold the third, fourth and fifth positions in overall points.
National Championship Series heads to Ballance MX in Oakland, Ky. April 2-3, with Pro class racing starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, supported by 37 amateur classes throughout Saturday and Sunday.
|Millcreek ATV National Results||ATV Motocross Pro Class Standings|
|1.||Chad Wienen||Can-Am||1 - 1||1.||Chad Wienen||Can-Am||80 (2 wins)|
|2.||Josh Natalie||Can-Am||2 - 2||2.||John Natalie||Can-Am||69|
|3.||Josh Upperman||Honda||4 - 3||3.||Josh Upperman||Honda||61|
|4.||Joe Byrd||Honda||3 - 6||4.||Joe Byrd||Honda||52|
|5.||Jeremy Lawson||Suzuki||5 - 4||5.||Jeremy Lawson||Suzuki||50|
|6.||Josh Creamer||Honda||6 - 5||6.||Joel Hetrick||Kawasaki||41|
|7.||Derek Swartfager||Honda||8 - 10||7.||Chase Snapp||Can-Am||39|
|8.||Chase Snapp||Can-Am||7 - 13||8.||Nick NeNoble||Honda||36|
|9.||Devin Heimes||Suzuki||10 - 11||9.||Travis Moore||Honda||31|
|10.||Joel Hetrick||Kawasaki||15 - 7||10.||Derek Swartfager||Honda||28|