The season finale of the 2012 AMA ATV Motocross National Championship Series at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. is one Chad Wienen won’t soon forget. A year ago he was recovering from a broken back, but now he’s capped off an amazing recovery and comeback with his first ever national championship. If there’s been a better ATV story in recent years, we sure haven’t heard it.
Wienen opened the 2012 season with a big win for his all-new Wienen Motorsports/SSi Decals/Walsh Race Craft/Yamaha team, ultimately winning six of ten rounds in the series. He also gave Factory Yamaha its first ever AMA ATV Pro Motocross national championship.
"This last year to date I was out with a serious injury and I made up my mind that I was going to come back and give everything to win a championship in 2012," says Wienen. "It's been a long time coming. Everybody has to pay their dues – some more than others – and I'm just fortunate to have this opportunity to come back and do this."
When the gate dropped for Moto 1, the SSiDecals Holeshot Award went to none other than Baldwin Motorsports/PEP/Maxxis' Josh Upperman. Upperman took the early lead, but Motoworks/Can-Am's Joel Hetrick immediately latched onto Upperman with his sights set solely on the Moto 1 victory. Hetrick eventually made his way past Upperman for the lead and by the halfway mark, the young gun had pulled nearly ten seconds on the rest of the field.
But the excitement came inside the battle for second through sixth place in Moto 1. Wienen kept a reserved pace in the beginning of the race, eventually applying pressure on Upperman for second. It wasn't long before TBROWN Yamaha/Moto-X-Perts' Thomas Brown put himself into the mix, making it a three-way-battle for second and third place. Defending champ John Natalie got a mid-pack start and finally joined the front-runners, applying pressure on Brown for fourth. Former ATVMX champ and Can-Am/BCS rider Josh Creamer also put himself into the mix early on but eventually dropped outside the top five.
Natalie put his Motoworks/Can-Am machine around Brown for fourth place just before the two-lap card came out and the two continued to dice back and forth until the checkers. Hetrick bested the field in Moto 1, as Upperman, Wienen, Natalie and Brown rounded out the top five.
In Moto 2, it was Creamer who grabbed the SSiDecals Holeshot Award with former ATVMX champ Joe Byrd, Natalie and Brown close in tow. Natalie and Creamer battled back and forth before the 2011 champ took over the lead early on. Natalie began to pull a gap on the second place of Creamer as the race wore on.
Meanwhile, things heated up for the third place spot as Brown, Byrd, Hetrick, Wienen and even rookie Jeffrey Rastrelli engaged in battle for a majority of Moto 2. Brown eventually pulled away from the pack, where Hetrick and Wienen were banging bars while attempting to get around Byrd, who eventually pulled off the track just after Hetrick and Wienen passed him for a top-five spot. Soon after, Wienen was past Hetrick and applying pressure on Brown for third and the Yamaha duo pushed until the checkers with Brown coming out on top for third. His 5-3 moto scores weren't enough to secure a top-five overall, however.
Natalie went on to win Moto 2 and the overall for the day with 4-1 scores, but it wasn't enough to keep Wienen from taking the 2012 championship title. With 3-4 finishes, Wienen took a consistent approach to finish third overall.
"Obviously another championship would have been nice, but I'm really happy with today's win," says Natalie. "I'm just lucky to be able to leave here healthy and enjoy time with my wife and daughter."
Hetrick went 1-5 for second overall, while Creamer and Upperman swapped 2-6 finishes to round out the top five.
AMA Pro class rookie Jeffrey Rastrelli (Suzuki) finished a season-best seventh overall in the season finale, while Ohio's Adam Clark (Honda) came in eighth. Florida's Mark Madl (Honda) took home ninth overall, just ahead of Iowa's Jesse Barnes (Yamaha) rounding out the top 10.
In addition to its first-ever AMA Pro ATV Motocross National Championship, Yamaha sealed the 2012 Manufacturers Cup, edging out Can-Am in the final round.
|Loretta Lynn National||2012 ATV Motocross Pro Class Standings|
|1.||John Natalie||Can-Am||4 - 1||1.||Chad Wienen||Yamaha||459 (6 wins)|
|2.||Joel Hetrick||Can-Am||1 - 5||2.||John Natalie||Can-Am||428 (3 wins)|
|3.||Chad Wienen||Can-Am||3 - 4||3.||Joel Hetrick||Can-Am||382 (1 win)|
|4.||Josh Creamer||Can-Am||6 - 2||4.||Josh Upperman||Honda||363|
|5.||Josh Upperman/TD>||Honda||2 - 6||5.||Thomas Brown||Yamaha||350|
|6.||Thomas Brown||Yamaha||5 - 3||6.||Derek Swartfager||Honda||245|
|7.||Jeff Rastrelli||Suzuki||10 - 7||7.||Adam Clark||Honda||238|
|8.||Adam Clark||Honda||9 - 8||8.||Mark Madl||Honda||228|
|9.||Mark Madl||Honda||7 - 12||9.||Jeff Rastrelli||Suzuki||221|
|10.||Jesse Barnes||Yamaha||12 - 9||10.||Jesse Barnes||Yamaha||198|