Bryce Ford Earns First Career Win as ATV Nationals Return to Gatorback
ALACHUA, Fla. (March 24, 2023) – For years Gatorback Cycle Park in Alachua, Florida, was a yearly stop on the ATV National Championship Tour. However, after Doug Gust topped the podium in March of 2006, ATV racing would not return to Gatorback until this current 2023 season. After a seventeen-year hiatus, returning to the facility that is most known for hosting the famous “Mini O’s” motorcycle event each Thanksgiving brought back an array of emotions and memories for longtime members of the ATV racing community. After nearly two decades had passed, many hoped that the Gatorback ATV National weekend would be one to remember – but they could not have anticipated the historic race day that was about to unfold.
In what was forecasted to be a rainy day in North Central Florida, chilly conditions and a nearly picture-perfect course are what greeted eager racers on the third weekend of March. Gatorback would serve as the season opener for all amateur classes, but for the professionals it was Round 2 following the season opening Daytona ATV Supercross just a week and a half prior. Entering Daytona, many wondered if now fourth-year pro Bryce Ford would be able to maintain his momentum following a season-ending podium last season, helping Team USA win the Quadcross of Nations in the Czech Republic last fall, and the inaugural Huevos Pro Invitational win as well – but preserve the wind in his sails is exactly what he did at the opener. Bryce’s strong effort earned him a spot in Daytona’s victory lane as the third-place podium finisher. So, with this momentum not just maintained, but now built upon, what would that mean as for the 20-year-old’s second act of 2023?
In an interview with the Digging Deep ATVMX Podcast following his impressive podium finish at Daytona, Bryce Ford said “I really want to win one of these [pro races]”. Well, spoiler alert, he wouldn’t have to wait much longer before achieving this lifelong goal. The Gatorback track seemed to suit #4’s style almost instantly, as he looked comfy right away at Friday’s Press Day access to the racetrack. A fourth fastest qualifying time is what Bryce showed in qualifying, but (per Raisin Cain Racing) he saved his best for the motos as he would go on to log the fastest lap time of the weekend as a crazy day unfolded (1:56:196). It hadn’t been since his dominant season in the Pro-Am class that we saw THIS version of Bryce Ford!
On Saturday, March 18, 2023, professional ATV motocross would see a brand-new overall winner for the first time in nearly ten years (Thomas Brown, Loretta Lynn’s – August 10, 2013). By day’s end, it would also be the first time that a rider not named Joel Hetrick or Chad Wienen would hold the red plate signifying them as the current series points leader since John Natalie won the inaugural Daytona ATV Supercross in March of 2015. Twelve years ago, almost to the day, a very young Bryce Ford won his first youth racing overall victory at an ATV National event. On this day in 2023, he would achieve his lifelong goal of doing just that against the very best ATV racers on the planet in the AMA ATV Pro Class.
It was a day of firsts for Bryce Ford, who ripped out to a great start in Pro Moto 1 at Gatorback. Behind him, the two former champions were busy getting tangled up with one another in the first turn. With that duo spotting the field a bunch of valuable time early, it quickly became apparent that a first-time winner may be in store as the series returned to Gatorback. Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, Bryce Ford shadowed Jeffrey Rastrelli for the first eight laps of the opening moto before making his move. The #4 rider used a split lane corner to make the move on Rastrelli, who also had his sights set on a first career Pro Class win. Jeffrey didn’t go down without a fight, pressuring the youngster on the final lap, but he was too much. Bryce Ford was the first to cross the finish line, clinching the first moto victory of his professional career!
Having now achieved his first career moto win, the focus quickly shifted to the potential of adding Bryce Ford’s name to the record books if he could complete the process and achieve his first career overall victory. It would take another good start to keep out of harm’s way at the front of the pack, and that’s exactly what was executed by the Ford Brothers Racing rider. It didn’t take long for this race to look like a mirror image of the day’s opening moto, with the only exception being Joel Hetrick riding around out front – but with a seventh-place finish in the first moto, it was unlikely that the three-time series champ would add another overall victory to his resume today. Instead, the battle for the overall win would come down to two riders fighting for their first-ever event wins. Bryce Ford found himself in third place, again shadowing Jeffrey Rastrelli for most of the moto. It wasn’t necessary for Bryce to make the pass on the twelfth-year pro, but on Lap 8 he did it anyway, using the same exact corner to make the move on Rastrelli. Much like the first moto, Jeffrey would continue to pressure Bryce for the position, but in the end it was Bryce Ford clinching his first career AMA ATV Pro Class overall win with 1-2 finishes on the day! This was the first time a rider not named Joel Hetrick or Chad Wienen won an overall at an ATV National since Thomas Brown did it at Underground in April of 2019. Just like that, a lifelong goal was achieved. Bryce Ford is your new series points leader in professional ATV motocross!
Seventeen times in the last twenty-two races, eldest brother Cody Ford has finished in the top ten positions in the most prestigious ATV racing series in the world. If math isn’t your strong suit, that means more than 77% of the time Cody Ford in a top ten finisher in AMA ATV Pro Class racing – which makes for a pretty safe bet! The most recent occurrence happened on the same weekend that his younger brother was earning his first career win at the front of the pack. The ever-consistent older brother kicked off his day qualifying in twelfth position. From there, the rider known as “The Foreman” continued to improve each time out. They say that any good foreman tracks progress. Well, Cody would’ve put together a good report on himself as his 12thin qualifying was followed by an 11th in Pro Moto 1 and 9th to cap the day in Moto 2. His 11-9 finishes would earn himself a well-deserved spot in the top ten at Gatorback. With 12th place and 10th place overall finishes on the year respectfully, Cody Ford sits 9th in the series points standing heading into Texas’ Round 3.
“[We are] trying to soak it all in right now.” The Ford Brother Racing Team first posted to their official Instagram account. “5,840 days (16 years) almost to the date has brought Bryce Ford to this moment. Dedication, determination, and giving up time with family, friends, and personal life for this very moment! All worth it when you feel the #1 in your hand. Icing on the cake is the red plate. Surreal.”
As the Ford Brothers Racing Team soaks up all the blissful excitement, the location of the next stop on the ATV Motocross National Championship will only add to the thrill. The Fords are a proud family of Texans, and you best believe Bryce Ford is going to be proud to don the red #4 in his home state of Texas as the series heads to Underground MX for the site of Round 3. As we try to hold on to the excitement of Bryce Ford’s first career AMA ATV Pro Class win for just a little longer, we’ll see you in Kemp, Texas, on the weekend of April 8/9!