Justin Bonita blasts by reigning series champion Cory Graffunder for Shasta West Hare Scrambles Series win.
Story and Photos By Mark Kariya
Justin Bonita had the speed and the stamina to hand reigning Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Regional Champion a defeat at the Redding Dirt Ridersâ€™ Shasta Dam Grand Prix in Shasta Lake, California, yesterday.
Though Graffunder tried his best to shake the persistent Bonita, the part-time racer appeared comfortable with any pace the SRT KTM rider tried until Graffunder made a rare mistake on the last lap, which Bonita quickly took advantage of to take over the lead and ride on to victory. In doing so, Bonita became the fourth different winner through four rounds of the Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Regional Championship Series. Graffunder held on to take second, and Kevin Rookstool rode a lonely race to finish third.
“Itâ€™s been a while; it feels good to be back up here [at the top of the podium],” the Pit Pro Cycles YZ250-mounted Bonita said. Indeed, his last victory of the series came in 2014.
“I felt like I had great speed today,” Bonita continued. “He [Graffunder] had great speed like always, too, but I just had a little bit more, maybe. I knew eventually I could make a move or he would make a mistake, and it happened. I got lucky and made the move and finished strong. The whole race was greatâ€”we were going back and forth. Heâ€™s a clean rider [and] we had a clean race.”
Graffunder explained his last-lap fiasco.
“I came around a corner too fast or whatever and kind of high-sided and went off the trackâ€”nothing major; just a little tip-overâ€”but when I picked the bike up and tried to go, he [Bonita] had gone by me, but my bike wouldnâ€™t move!” he said. “I looked down and thereâ€™s this big stick in my front wheel, like in the brakes, so I had to throw the bike back down on its side, had to break the stick and pull it out of the front wheel. So, by the time I got going again, he was out of sight.”â€ť
Still, Graffunder was pleased to unofficially move up to third in points with 71, his DNF while leading round one forcing him to play catch-up and fight even harder for every point this year. Bonita is now second at 77 again, unofficially.
Purvines Racing Betaâ€™s Nick Burson still leads the points chase at 81, unofficially, having finished sixth after having a relatively slow first lap due to vision issues.
“I shouldâ€™ve taken [my goggles] off, but I never want to,” he said. “I finally took them off near the end and I could see! It was night-and-day difference. I was struggling the whole first loop I think because I couldnâ€™t see.”
Bursonâ€™s race still went better than Maxxis/FMF/RPM Racing KTMâ€™s Travis Coy whose bike had a clutch problem when the green flag waved. As his competitors put miles on him, his pit crew hastily made the necessary repair before sending him on his way and he spent all day fighting through traffic. He got up to 89th overall by the end of the first lap and was 24th overall, 14th Pro, at the finish to salvage seven points, unofficially dropping from second to fourth in points at 60. Rookstoolâ€™s third on the day unofficially keeps him fifth, though heâ€™s now only a point behind Coy.
AMA District 37 regulars made a good showing in the muddy Chappie Shasta Off-Highway Vehicle Area trails with Jason Hurst fourth on his Roseville Yamaha YZ250X followed by Chaz Halbertâ€™s NorCal Motorsports 350 SX-F. Burson, Joey Fiasconaro and Justin Sanders were the next to finish followed by FMF Pro 250 winner (for the third time) Dante Oliveira and J.T. Baker, who was just one second behind after more than three hours of racing.
2016 Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Regional Championship Series
Redding Dirt Ridersâ€™ Shasta Dam Grand Prix
Shasta Lake, California
Results: April 11, 2016 (Round 4 of 10)
1. Justin Bonita-Yam
2. Cory Graffunder-KTM
3. Kevin Rookstool-Suz
4. Jason Hurst-Yam
5. Chaz Halbert-KTM
6. Nick Burson-Bet
7. Joey Fiasconaro-KTM
8. Justin Sanders-Yam
9. Dante Oliveira-KTM (first Pro 250)
10. JT Baker-Hus