ATV Motocross

Site Lap: The Opening Round

Site Lap: The Opening Round

Friday, March 27, 2015 | 2:00 PM
Friday, March 27, 2015 | 2:00 PM

The opening round of the Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship lived up to all the hype it was meant to be. A homecoming for some while others were introduced to quite possibly the best racetrack on the circuit and everyone could feel the excitement in the air as the new season dawned. Even though moto 2 was canceled on Sunday due to weather we were still treated to the fascinating new crop of in the Pro Am class. All in all it was everything and more that it could have been and now the stage is starting to set for the run for the championship.

Chad Wienen took the first ATV Motocross win of the 2015 season
Chad Wienen took the first ATV Motocross win of the 2015 season Photo: Ken Hill

All the players are there and then some. A couple of new faces and old challengers rising to new levels have added a new twist to the championship. Chad Wienen will have his work cut out for him this season there is no doubt. To win this championship is going to take everything anyone has and in some cases it may take all some have just to fall a little short. The challenges coming from John Natalie, Joel Hetrick, Thomas Brown, Jeffery Rastrelli and Josh Upperman will be enough to keep the champ busy but what about the new comers.

Nick Gennusa has been more than a surprise making the step up to AMA Pro ATV, as has Argentina’s Vital Casenave. Vital had not only impressive first round pro finishes but looked incredible in the Pro Am moto on Sunday at Echeconnee.  Like many there will be some growing pains along the way but the seeing the glimpses of what these riders possess is rather enlightening to what the future may hold. Gennusa’s strong consistent rides thus far should be a good indicator that he is a fast learner and Nick seems to rise to the top of the class very quickly on his rise to his current status and it looks like last years off season was just part of the curve.

Natalie and Wienen had quite the battle in Echeconnee
Natalie and Wienen had quite the battle in Echeconnee Photo: Ken Hill

The new era of ATV racing as I have mentioned before may be gaining more life than what we realize. The competition on all levels in all divisions of the national ATV series is an incredible spectacle. We as an ATV Racin’ Nation know this and that is why you are even reading this right now. We love it, eat it, breath and well you get the picture. Heck you live it! And the good things happening in ATVMX and now ATVSX with the success of Daytona are not only sparking the growth of the “ATV Nation” it may be sparking a revolution.

Noted racetrack designer and builder Randy Poulter is actually one of those two wheel guys who has caught the fever. Little has been said about it but right now Randy along with Thomas Brown, Jeffery Rastrelli and several others are putting the finishing touches on newly constructed racetrack for a one time use at the internationally renowned ATV Mud Nationals going on this weekend in Texas. There are several top ATV stars invited for an exhibition race for the over 30,000 expected this weekend. Randy’s philosophy is simple. We don’t need to promote a race for the ATV community but introduce new folks to our sport that normally would not get exposure and these one off events may be a part of the ticket to success in this.

Thomas Brown spoke about this and Randy’s ideas with me earlier this week in a Quad-Radio interview. Thomas spoke about all the things that have been happening in our sport and what this season means. It is more than an era and everyone can feel it. It is becoming an ATV Revolution that no one expected but from the looks of things this is only the beginning.

Thomas Brown and Jeffrey Rastrelli had some good motos at round 1
Thomas Brown and Jeffrey Rastrelli had some good motos at round 1 Photo: Ken Hill

In recent days there has been a buzz going around about a possible other ATVSX in the near future. It appears that some folks have been busy working with the Soaring Eagle Resort and Casino for the possibility of holding in conjunction with their Edge of Summer Supercross Event another ATVSX similar to Daytona. There has been an online petition started and in less than 24 hours there were more than 1,000 supporters that signed already. If you have not you can follow the link here and sign the petition. The details that I have and have not been completely confirmed but the hope is to have ATV SX on Friday August 28. This would be the day before bikes so this could be another big step in that revolution direction. We can only hope this has some hopes and it comes to pass. We will keep you updated on this and pass along information as it develops.

The recent events in our sport are happening so fast it can make your head spin. But as big of a surprise as it is the strides made recently in our sport it’s not. There have been many years of hard work and dedication to get and keep ATV racing alive. In recent years there have been many in the community that have stepped up in so many ways. Some are recognized while others may not be but it does not mean that their contributions didn’t make an impact. Many faces and names have come and gone over the years and each ones sacrifice is the foundation of what our sport is and will be.

In The Loop With Gloop:

With the way Jeffrey Rastrelli was riding at the Daytona ATV Supercross and Echeconnee it will be exciting to see how the season pans out for the Can-Am rider. 

I talked with Jeffrey and he said,  “ With my training program this year and the latest setup on my bike I feel the strongest I ever have. We constantly have been dialing in my setup and my Can-Am is on rails. I cannot wait to head to Texas to Underground mx the track should be sick!”

Thomas Brown and Jeffrey Rastrelli had some good motos at round 1
Thomas Brown and Jeffrey Rastrelli had some good motos at round 1 Photo: Ken Hill

With Joel Hetrick's 2nd place finish at Daytona and is exciting Moto 1 win at Echeconnee his season was starting of strong. Unfortunately he went down battling with Wienen in Moto 2 and salvaged a 7th place finish to give him a 4th overall.   

I checked in with Joel and this is what he had to say about his season so far, “Saturday at Echeconnee really opened up my eyes on what I have to do to run up front, with my moto 1 win I knew I had a chance at winning the overall. Moto 2 was awesome Chad and me were having a great battle and in the heat of the moment i ended up going down. I was so excited to make the pass that I should have let off a little and picked a different line choice. I have been sticking to a new routine made by my trainer Dom that helped me run those long mottos in the Echeconnee sand. I’m going to keep at it and push hard to podium in Texas and I would like to thank everyone who is behind me this year."

Thomas Brown and Jeffrey Rastrelli had some good motos at round 1
Thomas Brown and Jeffrey Rastrelli had some good motos at round 1 Photo: Ken Hill

Now lets catch up with Ken Hill: 

So some things kind of got answered at Echeconnee, sort of, maybe but not quite? We all knew that Daytona was not going to be the opening shot that set the stage for the 2015 season but it would give us a glimpse at who was ready to roll and who may need some more seat time or tweaks to their set up and that the official round 1 at Echeconnee would give everyone a clearer picture on just how this season might go down and I think it did just that! 

I arrived early at the event and the talk began almost as the first riders hit the parking lot. The track looked picture perfect with wide split lane turns, some elevation changes and room to run. This was my first time at this track so I was all eyes and ears and listened to those that had raced on this sandy track before. Whooped out and deep ruts kept being brought up and through the course of practice it became apparent that the old school riders knew this facility well. The crew seemed to be staying on top of things and had no trouble keeping things flowing.

John Natalie put in two solid moto's after coming off the first-ever ATVSX win in Daytona
John Natalie put in two solid moto's after coming off the first-ever ATVSX win in Daytona Photo: Ken Hill

From a media standpoint the gossip in the pits was giving enough mystery and hype to keep things right at the edge of being scripted. Who will come out a winner, who will fail and who will be the surprise is all I kept thinking about. Pro practice showed Joel Hetrick the fastest as he claimed the Fastest Qualifier award but that does not always mean a win or even a good showing so we were back to square one with regards to who would be the heavy hitters. When the gate dropped in moto one there was no guessing about who was ready to blow Echeconnee apart! The Honda of Joel Hetrick ripped off the gate and pulled hard on the field of riders as they all shuffled through the first few turns. There wasn't even any contention for the lead, Hetrick was a man on a mission and like so many motos in the past, and if he gets a good start he is almost unstoppable!  Defending champion Chad Wienen was charging hard and soon found himself in a fierce battle with John Natalie that led to contact, which sent Natalie flying! Wienen went on to score a solid second behind Hetrick who had nearly a 10 second lead.

Natalie was unsure about the contact immediately after the moto but soon relayed his displeasure with what he felt may have been intentional contact while Wienen stated it was due to incredibly close racing on a rough track. No one I spoke with could say with certainty what occurred so the love loss between these two will be at fever pitch once again as we head into the season. I am thankful Natalie was not injured and hope that these two competitors will let calmer heads prevail.

Moto two once again saw Hetrick rolling out as he grabbed the holeshot and looked to be pulling a repeat of his moto one performance. Chad Wienen had a much better start however and was not wasting anytime closing the gap and soon was shadowing Hetrick in the early laps. The fans kept bouncing from side to side of the infield to keep close attention on this action packed race! Wienen put on a charge in a section Hetrick was taking an outside line and made the pass and never looked back! Now we had a race as Hetrick was shredding every turn in an attempt to retake the lead however a mistake sent him off his quad and away from any chance at the podium going 1-7 on the day. The final battle for a podium position was between Thomas Brown and Jeffrey Rastrelli as the pair raced through the end of the moto to land on the podium. Rastrelli has been picking up speed and getting on the box early will help him carry momentum in the coming rounds.

Joel Hetrick put up a fight in Georgia
Joel Hetrick put up a fight in Georgia Photo: Ken Hill

Old school is what I kept hearing from many top riders who all seemed to approve of the Echeconnee venue.  Thomas Brown was pumped at the chance to run here as well as many others so hopefully we will return in the coming seasons as the up and coming racers will get the chance t make their own history on this track! The weather was all but perfect for Saturday but turned foul forcing a program that would only see Pro Am on Sunday where the podium would feature Vital Cazenave, Dylan Tremellen and Nick Gennusa. 

So hear we go folks, we head next to Texas where the racing will once again be anyone's game! Wienen has the red plate back, Hetrick will have another chance at showing us all just how fast he really is and some surprises could be in store as several racers showed exceptional performances here at Echeconnee! Next week I will get into them but now it is off to the GNCC at Steele Creek! Be safe and I can't wait to see everyone in Texas!