Hetrick, Brown complete Pro ATV podium
After a two-round absence from the top step of the podium, Wienen Motorsports/SSi Decals/Walsh Yamaha’s Chad Wienen returned to prominence on Saturday at the fifth stop of the 2014 Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship.
The defending two-time series champion and current AMA Pro ATV Class points leader completed his most dominant effort of the season thus far with a 1-1 outing that allowed him to become the inaugural winner at Nashport, Ohio’s Briarcliff MX and the Built Ford Tough Briarcliff ATV National.
With its great soil and competitive layout, many felt as though the new track at Briarcliff would cater to great racing. Despite Wienen’s prowess, the newest stop of the championship lived up to expectations as the action for positions second through fifth was arguably the most thrilling battle the series has seen all season.
Hometown rider Josh Upperman put his Baldwin Motorsports/PEP/Upperman Racing Honda into the forefront of the action early by grabbing the SSi Decals Holeshot Award in the opening moto. However, the Ohio native’s search for victory quickly came under fire by BCS Performance Can-Am’s Ronnie Higgerson, who surged into the lead on the opening lap. Upperman slotted into second and patiently awaited his opportunity to return the favor, but Wienen beat him to the punch following a fourth-place start to not only find a way by Upperman, but Higgerson as well, passing both riders on the same lap by tripling the back section of the track to take over the lead on Lap 3.
As Wienen began to pull away, Upperman reclaimed second place from Higgerson while the other stalwarts of the AMA Pro ATV Class began to make their presence felt as well. After a solid start, Wienen Motorsports/SSi Decals/Walsh Yamaha’s Thomas Brown slotted into podium position on Lap 6, dropping Higgerson into the clutches of the heated battle between JB Racing/DWT/Mtn. Dew Live Wire Can-Am’s Joel Hetrick and Motosport.com/RRR/Ford/DWT/Walsh/Fox Honda’s John Natalie. This three-rider battle waged on through to the finish. Out front, Wienen took the moto win by nearly four seconds while Upperman fended off a late charge from Brown to finish second. Hetrick made a last lap pass to grab fourth, with Higgerson and Natalie finishing sixth and seventh.
As the gate dropped on Moto 2, it was Natalie who made his presence felt early by racing to the SSi Decals Holeshot Award. The opportunity to start of front allowed Natalie to set a strong pace early and helped him maintain the position in front of a hard-charging Wienen. Behind this duo up front, Higgerson, Hetrick, and Brown also went wheel-to-wheel as Upperman looked to rebound from a start deep inside the top 10.
Natalie kept Wienen at bay for several laps, but on Lap 4 the defending champion made his move and proceeded to put an emphatic end to his efforts on the afternoon. Natalie sat comfortably in second, but the battle for third was a captivating one. Higgerson gave way to Brown for the final spot on the podium on Lap 6, only to lose another sport to Hetrick one lap later. Upperman had fought his way into sixth and was coming on strong in the late stages of the moto. Brown and Hetrick put on a show for the fans in the closing laps, with Hetrick gaining the advantage to assume third with three laps remaining. Meanwhile, Upperman made his way past Higgerson and closed up on the battle for third, resulting in a three-rider showdown on the final lap. Wienen cruised to the win out front, crossing the line nearly seven seconds ahead of Natalie, while Hetrick held off the hard charge of Brown and Upperman for third.
Wienen’s first moto sweep of the 2014 season helped extend his lead in the AMA Pro ATV Class standings in a big way, earning 12 more points than his competitors. A three-way tie in points for second resulted in the need for the second-moto tiebreaker, which allowed Hetrick to finish in the runner up spot (4-3) thanks to his podium effort in Moto 2. Brown’s fourth-place finish in the final moto landed him third overall (3-4), while Upperman just missed out on a spot on the box at his hometown race in fourth (2-5). Natalie sat just one point back of this trio in fifth (6-2).
“I just came in here hot and wanted one more win,” says Wienen. “I put in a lot of work back home and had a great two weeks of training and practicing coming in here. I wasn’t all that happy with my performance [at the previous round], so I just put my head down. Coming to a new track meant this was a fresh start and I came here aggressive. I made moves because I was sick and tired of following people, so I just had to make it happen.”
Wienen remains the only rider in the AMA Pro ATV Class to have an overall podium result in each of the first five rounds of the season. His control of the ATVMX standings now sits at a comfortable 41 points over Hetrick and Natalie, who sit tied for second following Briarcliff. Brown maintained control of fourth (-60) while Upperman remains fifth (-66).
The Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship will take a week off before returning to action for the sixth round of the 2014 season on June 28-29. Spring Creek MX Park in Millville, Minn. will be the host site of the Mtn. Dew Spring Creek ATV National.