NHHA National Hare and Hound Association Championship Series
Round 2: Checkers MC H&H at the Stottard Valley OHV
By Skyler Howes
Courtesy of Blais Racing Services
BARSTOW, CA, FEB. 21-22, 2015
Race Report by Skyler Howes, Sixth Overall Pro
After a great day of testing on Saturday out in the Barstow area, I was feeling totally ready for the new (to me) location. Up bright and early on race day, I geared up and headed over to check out and pre-run the bomb. Gary Sutherlin and Ivan Ramirez were already out and had some great lines going. I ran multiple lines up the bomb and decided that the far right was my best option! I was sandwiched between Gary, Ivan, and Axel Pearson, so I knew that getting the jump would be very important.
The banner dropped, and we were on our way! Ivan and myself got about the exact same jump and went down the bomb side by side. I had my Blais Racing Services KTM 300 XC pinned. As we came to the end of the bomb, I had to chop for a big g-out, so Ivan pulled through on the main trail for the holeshot. Just as we funneled in, Colton Udall had a killer start and jumped into second! He took a couple corners wide, so right away I knew I could straighten it out and put a pass on him. I was into second overall, just out of Ivan’s dust.
After a few miles, I heard a four-stroke working real hard behind me. We were into a section with a lot of big rollers, g-outs and washes, so it was pretty high risk to keep it pinned. Nick Burson was pinned – he put a pass on me just as we hit a small wash into a big roller. He hit the first wash, swapped into the roller and launched off sideways. I thought he was dead for sure going to swap out and crash. He held his bike wide open and landed – he pulled out of it! It was nuts…
This put me back to third, and with the added pressure, we actually got a lot closer to Ivan! I dropped into a wash and I could see as we crested that Nick had already put a pass on Ivan for the lead, and I was just out of their dust. I settled into a fast, comfortable pace and was able to latch on to them for the first 30 or so miles before we hit the real virgin terrain; by “virgin,” they mean it’s a brand-new trail. Well, out here in Barstow, that just means a ridiculous amount of rocks. So much rock, in fact, they couldn’t ribbon or put any stakes in, so they tied ribbon to rocks! I knew immediately it would be hard to keep pace with the four-strokes with my light two-stroke acting as a pinball through all of this. To no surprise, I lost quite a bit of time trying to fight through this stuff.
Around mile 30, I could hear another four-stroke creeping in. I was able to hold them off until we hit the one fast part of the course. There was a slightly whooped-out trail onto a road with a few road crossings in it. As we hit the fast stuff, Ricky Brabec kept it pinned and put a pass on me, putting me back to fourth. I locked right on to Ricky and actually gained back some ground in some tight stuff!
But that all went out the window when we hit that gnarly uphill. It was loose, with real big rocks in there, and it was hard for me to really get a drive up the hill without being bounced sideways, so that took a lot of time and put quite the distance between Ricky and I. Well, I was now out of his dust, and I put back on the charge into the gnarly rocks.
With a few more close calls, pinging off the rocks, Axel Pearson and Brandon Prieto closed right in behind me. Axel and I put on a great battle before he was able to make a pass stick. Brandon was there the whole time but unable to get around us. We all came into the pits all right next to each other. I got an extremely fast pit, thanks to Don [Meza] and the Blais Racing crew. My IMS dump can got me a full tank of fuel so fast, and I was out of there!
Side by side with Axel, we were pinned to try and hit the trail first. He got ahead of me. I was able to sneak in on a corner and pass him back. He passed me on a downhill. I passed him back – it was a killer battle!
Back into the crappy rocks, Axel plowed through and made another pass stick. Just as he did, I pinged off a rock; it kicked me into another rock, and I continued to pinball until I was ultimately thrown from the bike into the boulder field. Luckily I landed right on my hydration pack, so that broke my fall, but it also put a hole right in the bladder, so I lost all my water. It hurt, though, and totally took the wind out of me. Brandon came by; I gave him a thumbs-up and I sat there for a sec to gather myself back up. The bike was straight, which I was really stoked on, but the drive wasn’t there when I got back going again.
I kept on but not at that same pace, so of course I lost more time and allowed Justin Morgan to close in. Now that I look back, I’m really glad he caught me, and I actually wish he would have done so a lot sooner – ha ha! He put the fire back in me, and we had an awesome battle, swapping positions at least five times. I’d slip out on the uphills and I would charge harder on the downhills.
As we hit the mile-75 marker, I knew my window was closing and I needed to make a pass stick in order to keep my position. We hit some open trails and I was able to brake later as we came into a big roller and I put the pass back on him and ran away. I had the drive back to haul ass, so I pinned it. We crested the last hill into the finish, where I rolled in just behind Nick Burson, who’d had a few gnarly crashes as well.
What a treacherous racecourse! I was lucky enough with the wind and being high up to be able to see the terrain. Being stuck in the dust had to have been brutal and pretty scary, with the hidden stuff.
All in all, I’m happy with my result and to come away healthy with a sixth overall and first two-stroke! I’m always looking for that better result, so I’m happy to get out of the rocks in Cali and head to Idaho for round three for some change in terrain.
Thanks so much to all my sponsors: Blais Racing Services, Mom and Dad, Fasst Co., KTM, Rebellious Status Clothing, ESR Suspension, Race Tech, Dubya, DVS, AMSOIL, Alpinestars, Kenda, Pro Moto Billet, Fastway, FMF, Rekluse, RmorFx, TLD, BRP, Bullet Proof Designs, Asterisk, DirtTricks, REEL Cameras, IMS, No-Toil, Maxilube, X Brand Goggles, Tunex of Washington, A’ME Grips, Samco, Hot Rods, Vertex, BeHot, and Suzie Potts!
[For more from this event, please watch for “Race Report from NHHA Youth Series Round Two, Take Two: Brendon Crow” to be posted soon on Today’s Cycle Coverage… Editor]