ATV Motocross

Tuesday Feature: Year in Review

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 | 12:00 AM

2008 Season in Review

by

Andy  Bowyer

 

 

The 2008 ITP Tires/Moose Racing AMA/ATVA National Championship Presented by Parts Unlimited will go down as one of the most competitive and memorable series in the history of ATV racing. The 11 rounds of competition featured seven different moto winners, and four overall event champions. That is parity on a scale that is unmatched in AMA ATV Pro history. That said, diversity may well be the keyword when describing the 2008 season. Different bike brands enjoyed wins, and the riders saw all manor of different racing and weather conditions.

 

Kawasaki's Josh Creamer was a podium threat every round

The season kicked off in Southern California. The Glen Helen National ran under dry conditions with defending series champion Joe Byrd suffering a poor outing as he was coming to terms with the set up on his American Honda/Joe Byrd Motocross Schools backed CRF450R. Meanwhile, eventual series champion, Team MSR/Suzuki/Yoshimura/Pro Taper rider Dustin Wimmer won both motos going away. Glen Helen set the tone for what the ATV Motocross Series was going to be like. There were more factory haulers in the pits, and the entire scene at the races emitted a professional vibe never experienced in ATV racing.

 

The podium was wild all year

 

The series then made its way to the East Coast for the first time for Round 2 at Millcreek, where Wimmer grew his moto win streak to four-in-a-row. Joining Wimmer on the podium was Byrd and Suzuki teammate Doug Gust, who was just beginning to hit his stride. Although, folks were beginning to fear Wimmer may be in a league of his own”┬Ž

 

Round three at Ballance MX marked the beginning of a swirl of unpredictable racing that would stretch all the way to the final lap of the series. Wimmer stretched his moto win streak to five by walking away with the opening moto, then the rain began to fall for moto two and just like that, it was anyone’s race. Can-Am’s John Natalie, Jr. rose to the occasion, winning the second moto, and handing Can-Am its first victory in professional ATV racing. But it was the veteran Gust, putting in consistent 2-2 moto finishes to win the overall. Gust’s quote after the race would proof prophetic: "It's going to be a great year."

 

Gust’s backed up his words as Round 4 produced the third different win as many rounds. This time it was defending AMA Pro Champion Byrd, finally getting up to full song and producing a dominating 1-1 performance for his first win of 2008. Wimmer would race to a 2-2 score, while Jason Dunkleberger put in one of the strongest privateer performances of the year and round out the podium.

 

Veteran Doug Gust won two rounds

     Then came perhaps the most grueling round of the series at The Concept Haulers ATV Showdown at Sunset Ridge. Torrential rains pounded the Illinois facility, forcing the promoters to go with a single 15-minute moto. When the soggy checkered flag waved, it was Wimmer earning his third win of the season with Natalie putting in another strong mud riding effort for his second podium finish of the year, while Pat Brown made his first appearance in the top three. Natalie’s effort was even more impressive considering he was basically riding with one eye after suffering a serious eye infection.

 

Round 6, the ATV Stampede at High Point Raceway, marked a pivotal round in the series. With the announcement that the WSPA series was shutting down, the ATVPG promoters  formulated a plan to create a “┬ôseries within a series.” Something to reward the riders would may wish to compete for an actual series championship, even though the ITP Tires/Moose Racing AMA/ATVA National Championship Presented by Parts Unlimited had already began. Thus, came the advent of the $5,000 ITP Tiress Grand Slam Championship Presented by QUAD Magazine. The special championship would comprise four rounds (High Point, Muddy Creek, Red Bud, and Loretta Lynn) and would offer separate awards for championships in all of the classifications. Not that the series needed any more juice, but Round 6 produced a lightning bolt that sent shockwaves throughout the participants!

 

John Natalie Jr. fought bad luck and adversity all year, but had some great rides

Byrd was the big winner on the weekend winning the overall, and the opening round of the ITP grand Slam. Meanwhile, Wimmer suffered a mechanical failure and the championship was very much up in the air. The event was another testament to the steadfast parity in the Pro Class with Josh Creamer earning the Ti Lube Quick qualifier and a different rider winning each moto. Now, with the Grand Slam Series in full effect, the series seemed to be more alive with energy than ever experienced.

 

Joe Byrd was the ITP Grand Slam Champion

Round 7 at Unadilla was another lesson in diversity as the racers were greeted with one dry moto and yet another rainy one. The event was also a breakout performance from factory Can-Am with a DS450 winning each moto. Jeremy Lawson rode away with the opening moto, then the heavens opened up for moto 2. And, like the three previous muddy races, it was Natalie showing his best form, and winning again when the going got rough. Now nearly fully recovered from his eye infection, the win was especially sweet for the notoriously tough Natalie, who was helping to bring a lot of attention to the newly formed Can-Am team.

 

Muddy Creek Raceway in Blountville, Tenn. would host Round 8, which was also doubled as Round 2 of the ITP Grand Slam Series. Sam Gammon and his Victory Sports crew were blessed with gorgeous weather and went on to put on an amazing event. While Wimmer would win again, there was some controversy between he and Byrd, which would add some spice to the series as it entered into its waning moments. The big surprise on the weekend was the podium appearance of Harold Goodman on his American Honda/Houser Racing Honda.

 

Next on the schedule was the inaugural visit to Jeff Cernic’s Pleasure Valley Raceway in Pennsylvania. The weekend saw another wild chain of events unfold with one dry moto and another mud race for moto two. Again, a different rider won each moto, with Gust earning his second overall of the season. It was a popular win for the veteran, but the championship was beginning to slip away from everyone as Wimmer left Pennsylvania with a 79-point advantage.

 

Jeremy Lawson was fast all season

Red Bud hosted Round 9 and witnessed Wimmer clinch his first professional championship. The Pennsylvania rider rode masterfully all season and was more than deserving of owning the 2009 AMA Pro No. 1 plate. It was also fitting that Byrd won again. Byrd would be handing over the championship, but served notice that he would be back with a vengeance in 2009. Wimmer summed it up by saying, "The whole team came together this year. It was my first year with Glenn Schlude and we hit it off well and meshed together perfectly all season long. All of the tracks were great and I had a lot of fun. I'm going to take the knowledge I've earned this year and appy it to next season. It's all about consistency. That's what helped me win it this year and that is what it will take next year. You have to try to be on that podium at every round."

 

           The season finale arrived at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. The ATV Dirt Days was a grand buffet of on and off the track action that began with the inaugural Kids Karnival that featured the Kids Choice awards, and a wonderful evening with ATV Rider and National Recording Artist Krista Marie inside AMSOIL Arena. From there it only got better as all of the series champions were crowned with Thomas Brown winning the second highest prize in ATV racing, the coveted AMA No. 1 plate in the Pro Am Production class. Brown will be going pro in 2009 and will be make the racing even more competitive. Another interesting note was the overall win by Chad Wienen. How strong will an injury free Wienen be in 2009? We’re guessing, very strong!

 

In closing, everyone involved with the ITP Tires/Moose Racing AMA/ATVA National Championship Presented by Parts Unlimited should stand up and give themselves a pat on the back. It was great to have the Monster Energy Kawasaki team compete all season long. Their three-pronged-attack of Josh Creamer, Keith Little, and Russell Shumacher greatly added to the prestige and competitiveness of the series. And how about the Can-Am boys? The newest factory team in ATV competition proved its worth by winning in its first season. Riders John Natalie, Jr. and Jeremy Lawson and their DS450s were a force to be reckoned with each round and everyone can count on  the Cam-Am crew to be even stronger next season. And how much can be said about the Team Rockstar/ MSR/Suzuki/Yoshimura/Pro Taper Suzuki crew. Each rider earned overall victories, with Wimmer taking the championship. The Suzuki guys also wrappd up the manufacturer award. The Golden West Cycle/factory Yamaha riders were heard loud and clear as well. Pat Brown made it to the podium and his understudy, Thomas Brown won the Pro Am Production class. The Rath Racing/Polaris squad was out there fighting every round and will be back better than ever for next season.

 

Chad Wienen won Loretta Lynn's for the second consecutive year

With the Pro Invitational approaching, you can count on privateers like Rocco Arno, Jr., Jason Dunkleberger, and Harold Goodman to be looking to go out with a bang in hopes of attracting some factory attention. With factory KTM entering the fray, there will be some more factory rides opening up in the near future. What a year folks. On behalf of the ATVPG, The AMA, and Racer Productions, congratulations for an unforgettable 2008 and here is to a bigger, faster, and stronger 2009 season.

 

See you at the races.

 

 

 

 

2008 AMA Pro National Champion, Dustin Wimmer