The 2017 Southern ATV National at Alabama’s Monster Mountain proved to be everything that was anticipated and then some. The Easter weekend brought beautiful weather and near perfect track conditions that translated into our first full weekend of racing. The weekend also introduced some eye opening moments that helped set the stage further for a season of what is likely to be some of the greatest national championships. The season has only begun and already the drama builds to epic proportions.
To know where to begin to highlight last weekends race is so hard so I figure a nutshell approach will be best and just see where we go from there. I know the AMA Pro ATV racing is of hot discussion as we witnessed feats of passion and desire translated into an incredible show of sportsmanship.
I suppose one of the big topics may be Nick Gennusa and Jeffery Rastrelli. Rastrelli as of recent has gotten some well-deserved attention and is becoming more and more of a threat to contend for wins on a regular basis. Gennusa had posted one of the fastest lap times of the qualifying sessions and when the it was all said and done only fractions of a second separated the top qualifiers and the stage was set from that point on. Joel Hetrick squeaked out the ATVRiders.com Fastest Qualifier Award but everyone was talking about the no. 15.
In the motos fans got to see full-scale battles waged across the field. Joel Hetrick and Chad Wienen set a pace out front that was hard to match. Thomas Brown matched the duo up front for a while but settled into a third place rhythm, which is where he has been consistently so far this season. Gennusa didn’t get a great start and battled for a couple of laps with Rastrelli who eventually found fourth while Gennusa settled for seventh behind Josh Upperman who had his own troubles in the early part of the moto. Ronnie Higgerson rode a solid race in moto one with a fifth place finish and backed it up in moto two with a fourth.
Moto two saw a few great things. Cole Sepesi grabbed his first SSi Decals Holeshot Award as an AMA Pro ATV rookie. This gave him a good look at what he has to do to run the necessary speeds to be competitive up front. Gennusa’s second place finish is moto two was off the hook but was unfortunately overshadowed by the phenomenal ride by Joel Hetrick but let me tell you that Gennusa’s ride was a turning point in his career and very well may introduced a possible new player and definite obstacle on the road to anyone’s championship.
If you are keeping count, Chad Wienen took his third win straight on the season and is beginning to get a manageable points lead that if he can remain consistent will present the field of competitors with a big obstacle to overcome. To say round four is important for Joel Hetrick is quite obvious. The good news for Hetrick is that the championship is headed to his home track at High Point in Mt. Morris, PA. The good news for Wienen is that it is a new design and the playing field is even. Actually that’s the good news for everyone and whom will hold get the first ever win on the newly designed course?
As far as the amateur and youth side of things there were numerous things to consider talking about. The youth class racing with Trevor Thatcher and Max Lindquist was off the charts as we have only seen the beginning of this heated battle to come. Thatcher had a hard get off while he and Lindquist battled. It was rather scary for a few moments but it was apparent his next scheduled moto he was eager to get back to the track. I spoke with Thatcher after and he laughed and smiled and said, “at least I didn’t stall it like in Texas!” Thatcher also said he was very satisfied with his progress since Texas and seems excited to face the competition.
The next big talks of the weekend were former youth standouts Branden O’Neil in the B class and Payton Zimmerman into the A and Pro Sport classes. Neither rider had made an appearance in 2017 competition at either the AMA Amateur’s Major ATVSX at Daytona or ATVMX national competition. So when these two came off the gate at the Southern ATV National, Monster Mountain MX came to life.
O’Neil was actually cleared to begin “riding” the previous Tuesday and called his team owner John Ford and asked him to have a bike ready in Alabama. O’Neil had recently won a national Snowcross championship but also was injured in the late rounds of competition that has kept him from being able to ride and prepare for the season. However you could not have guessed that the way he rode this weekend. Even with a brace that had his knee locked at 9 degrees he rode with a fever that will over rise as the season progresses.
It shouldn’t go without mention though the rides that Eli Lingle brought the table this weekend again as well. Lingle has been a fierce youth competitor in the past as well and is showing his own promise of greatness on the horizon. It will be a good championship in the B classes with the mix of him, Brogan Guyer and O’neil. And to say these are the only ones in the mix is an understatement. So best I can say is don’t miss a gate drop.
As far as Payton Zimmerman’s burst onto the scene in the fashion he did was nothing short of spectacular. In the A and Pro Sport classes the field was already stacked with competition. Riders like Noah and Haedyn Mickelson, Troy Hill, Cody Ford and Allen Myers had been a lot of the focus. There are others as well like David Solecki who has shown great promise. Others that should be mentioned may be Brandon Hoag, Paden Lingle, Drake Koeling and Sebastian Molina as they are reaching new levels this season as well.
Zimmerman’s success though was obviously something that may have surprised even him when it was all done. Zimmerman seemed to struggle the last couple of seasons and faced challenges on and off the track. This may have actually has been the fuel that put him in the position he found himself this weekend.
As mentioned previously we had not yet seen what Zimmerman was bringing to the table out of the youth division straight to the A and Pro Sport level. If you were wondering what it might be then you may have gotten your answer this past weekend. In the 450 A class he had taken an early lead and amassed a 4.5 second lead over Noah Mickelson before a miscue in the rough sandy section leading into the final turns to the finish took him out and back to 16th. He then took 15th in moto two.
Zimmerman stated after his first problem in the 450 a class that people were going to say, “he’s fast but can’t finish a moto!” And was obviously a little worried. However he knew redemption could be had in the Pro Sport class and was even a little surprised at how things came together. In moto one he shadowed David Solecki for the win remaining less than a second behind until the final lap when he passed for the win. He then followed it up in moto two by leading the entire moto and was obviously excited and happy about his achievements. He said on the podium, “Rodney, I’m just so excited to do this and I really just don’t know what to say.” The he let out a “WOOOOOO!!!!!!” that pretty much said it all. As well his performance spoke a lot and if he can continue this success then things just got really interesting for this division in Wiseco ATV Motocross National Championship racing.
That’s it for me for now. Let’s check in with Gloop’s Loop and with Ken “up too early” Hill. Till next time, God Bless Your Heart and All Your Vital Organs.
In The Loop with Gloop:
Important ATVMX Indiana Hotel Information
If you need a hotel room for the ATVMX National at Ironman Raceway in Crawfordsville, Indiana. CALL NOW! The ATVMX race is set to take place on the weekend of May 12-14. This also happens to be the weekend of Purdue, IU, Illinois University and Wabash College Graduation. We are sorry for the inconvenience that this may cause anyone.
Keeping up with Ken Hill:
So Monster Mountain is old news and in the history books. How can it be old news, it just happened! Well in today’s fast paced world things happen quickly and for me at least, this season seems to be on rails doing Mach two! Ok, maybe far from old news but wow what another race! This was my first visit to this track and I was pretty stoked to get to shoot it and being able to have elevation really helps as well as having perfect conditions for most of the day to take pictures. All I needed was some serious action and I would be set and sure enough, serious action is what I got and it wasn’t just in the pro class! Seeing the images my friend David Smith captured last year here at Monster Mountain had me pumped to get some of my own and I wanted multiple riders flying high over the jumps and battling in the turns. At so many races, after the first few laps the riders are spread out and it’s a one and done type of image as each racer zips past me but not here at this round. I was able to capture a ton of images that show many of you battling out in turns and in the air so I left the track pretty confident and satisfied.
Now, the track itself was huge! It may be the same length as others with lap time’s close however once you got out there and walked around, it indeed is a monster of a track! I was slowly making my way through that Atlanta traffic when live feed popped up Friday afternoon as the pros were allowed to go test out the pro only section which just added to my misery as I watched them just killing it. There were a few spots out there that really showed how big and how fast you all go and the video clips already posted from RacerTV are awesome, so be sure to check them out and share them around the world wide web. I was surprised at how sandy the track was and I knew it was going to get rough and boy did it ever! The track crew seemed to be on top of it and delays while track prep was handled seemed short although there was more dust than I expected but it was better than rain!
The pro race was solid I thought, with moto one being basically the Joel Hetrick show as he got out front and did what he does best with Chad Wienen in pursuit with second. Thomas Brown rolled through the Alabama track like he owned it with third, which is pretty much becoming an expected group to find the top three spots in any given moto. The battle to watch was behind the leaders as Ronnie Higgerson and Jeffrey Rastrelli, Nick Gennusa and Josh Upperman were locked in a battle for position as lap after lap was scored. It made for some great racing to watch, especially seeing Rastrelli as he was riding hard and you could see the effort he was putting in as he pushed his way to fourth. Moto two started off with a bang as the racers fired off the gate and erupted a roost and dust storm that partially hid a spectacular crash that had Dylan Tremellen flying through the air as he competed with his quad to see who could fly higher! Cody Janssen was also part of the excitement, which left both riders a bit dazed, and at the very back of the pack marking a long moto for these highly competitive riders. As I was shooting I noticed Hetrick was missing and found out later that he had put it in the dirt in a section I couldn’t see. Hetrick’s get off opened the door for Chad Wienen who spent the rest of the moto taking victory lap after victory lap with no-one able to apply pressure allowing the Yamaha mounted champion to stroll to the podium as he claimed another win. Hetrick kept his head about him and once remounted, was charging hard to make up lost ground finishing fifth which was good enough to get him second overall keeping the points battle intact and close. Nick Gennusa had proven he was fast here at Monster Mountain by securing the fastest lap time during the first pro qualifier and would leave Alabama with his best pro finish in his young career by finishing 2nd in moto two followed by Rastrelli in third giving him a podium finish.
So there were more of the same and some changes as we saw some new names running towards the front this round. The who’s who of ATVMX is getting a bit bigger as riders start finding speed and start climbing into the top spots of the results page so that is a positive as the talent pool deepens. We head to High Point for the next round and this is classic. Hetrick country so I fully expect another thriller for the top spot. Hetrick is in a rut so to speak and needs to have a few rounds without any added issues to tighten things up and without dealing with the mental side of mistakes. He is fast, I’d say the fastest there ever was but having moto’s where a mistake takes you off your game is something he needs to overcome. At the speeds these guys are running it happens for sure, and once he gets past this stage I would say he might indeed be untouchable! Now that doesn’t mean Chad is slipping, no sir, not a bit! Wienen is a veteran of many battles where smart riding keeps him where he needs to be at the end of the season and I do not expect to see any changes in his proven success as he remains the rider to beat round after round. One thing I see though is Hetrick’s control over himself after suffering an issue. If Chad is teaching him anything, it is how to overcome issues and not take it out mentally on yourself. Joel is a dangerous man on the track when it comes to making fast riders look slow, and when he combines his speed with a cool and calculating mindset, look out! The truth is he is almost already there so the excitement level is still high, as we all have no clue what will happen each moto!
That is all from me this week, next week we will look into the amateur side of things as there was some serious racing going on all through the ranks! As always, God bless and be safe in what you do!