Coincidence, irony or fate? How would you describe the almost Cinderella-like story of two locals putting it to the rest of the field at the Rattlesnake Chase, hosted by the Roadrunners Off-Road Club, round seven of the Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles (WHS) Regional Championship Series?
But that’s exactly what Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Yamaha rider Justin Morgan and his friend, Motoworld of El Cajon Yamaha rider Grant Statley, did in going 1-2. It was Morgan’s first major individual victory and Statley’s first Pro podium in what was his first Pro race!
And to top that off, third-place finisher Nick Burson locked up the 2016 Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Regional Championship. The Purvines Racing Beta racer basically only needed to finish ahead of series rival Justin Bonita on his IRC Tires Yamaha, who ended up fifth for the day with Rick’s Custom Shutters & Blinds Yamaha’s Ryan Smith splitting them in fourth.
The first couple laps around the 17-mile loop at the Superstition Off-Highway Vehicle Area west of El Centro, California, saw Morgan battle with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Jacob Argubright. In fact, even that early in the race, their duel carried them slowly away from the pack.
However, that tussle was short-lived, Argubright retiring early after his transmission failed. With Argubright out of the picture, Morgan found himself all alone out front, and he ended up taking the checkered flag first in 2 hours, 44 minutes and 42 seconds.
Asked if spending the first part of his career racing in the area helped his cause, Morgan agreed, “I’d say for sure [I have a home field advantage]! [AMA] District 38 is way different than anything; it’s a lot like northern Baja, a lot like San Felipe. It’s wide-open, and you’ve got to know how to read terrain and see those road crossings coming up or a berm track or whatever it is out here.”
And that’s precisely why a number of those who aren’t D-38 regulars find it so tough to get used to, even though the course drew good reviews from a number of first-time visitors like Women A winner Sharon Mowell.
After going back and forth with Burson for a few laps, Statley finally made a pass stick and gradually pulled away, finishing in 2:46:06 to join his friend on the podium.
“Getting a podium with him, that was really cool!” Statley said. “I’ve looked up to him ever since I can remember when I started racing.”
With the championship within reach, Burson wanted to take no chances at the Rattlesnake Chase. Basically, all he had to do was finish and stay within a few places of Bonita, who’d never raced this far south.
“I didn’t think [the pressure of the championship] would affect me too much, but it did,” Burson said. “I wanted to put in two good laps and see where I was because I just needed to be near Justin Bonita, within three or four places unless he won. It was weird. I didn’t ride hard all day. I was really surprised, actually, where I finished on the day, coming in third. I don’t feel I rode [fast enough] to [get] third place.”
And although Burson hates to settle for anything less than a win, clinching the championship with a podium placing in 2:50:12 was certainly acceptable.
Smith followed up his runner-up at the previous round with a fourth-place finish. Bonita claimed fifth. The top five were the only ones to finish inside of three hours. Sixth overall went to 250cc A winner Austin Serpa followed by FMF Pro 250 winner Dante Oliveira. That gave Maxxis/FMF/RPM Racing KTM’s Oliveira the class championship as well. Purvines Racing Beta’s Damon Bush and Open A riders James Shafer and Brad Millikan rounded out the top 10 overall.
2016 Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Regional Championship
Roadrunners Off-Road Club
El Centro, California
Results: October 2, 2016
1. Justin Morgan-Yam(first Pro/AA)
2. Grant Stately-Yam
3. Nick Burson-Bet
4. Ryan Smith-Yam
5. Justin Bonita-Yam
6. Austin Serpa-KTM (first A 250)
7. Dante Oliveira-KTM (first Pro 250)
8. Damon Bush-Bet
9. James Shafer-Yam (A Open)
10. Brad Millikan-Bet