Thomas Triumphant at OMA Moose Run XC

Jason Thomas wins the 42nd Parts Unlimited Moose Run XC; Mike Witkowski and Mark Heresco respectively secure the OMA Nationals Pro 1 and Pro 2 titles.

Jason Thomas closed his Pro racing career with a win at the 42nd OMA Nationals Parts Unlimited Moose Run, while Mike Witkowski (Pro 1) and Mark Heresco (Pro 2) were able to cap off their OMA Nationals season with championships in their respective classes to cap off the OMA Nationals 2017 racing season on November 5.

Moose Run
Jason Thomas was able to cap off the 2017 OMA Nationals season with the overall win at the 42nd Parts Unlimited Moose Run XC. PHOTO BY JOHN GASSO.

Gloomy skies lingered at the Bike Barn in Fenton, Illinois, for the start of the 42nd installment of the OMA Nationals Moose Run.

The Moose Run is a unique race on the OMA Nationals calendar, with a challenging 50-mile loop of trails designed to test the mettle of all who are willing to participate. With two loops of the trail system for the Pro classes, this race becomes a four-hour test of endurance and skill, and rain on Friday and Saturday could compounded the challenge.

The riders lined up for a nearly one-half mile start across a fresh picked corn field, littered with slick corn husks and corn stalk stubble that would make traversing the field their first challenge. A shotgun blast signaled the start, and it was Thomas aboard his Powell Motorsports Maxxis G2 Husqvarna 350 beating the G2 Fly Racing FMF Yamaha YZ250 of local Pro Cody Barnes to the FMF holeshot line.

Moose Run
Cody Barnes rode the wheels off his Yamaha 250 and wound up third overall. PHOTO BY JOHN GASSO.

Nearly four hours later, Thomas rolled through the scoring tent to win the event, followed by the RPM Racing KTM of Witkowski. Barnes was next, collecting third place on the day. Next in, Pro 2 class champion Mark Heresco and his SRT KTM captured first place in Pro 2, followed by the Beta of Logan Lowrey, with Shane Klimek on his classic Suzuki RM250 taking home third place in the class.

This year we saw the return of multi-time OMA Nationals Champion Jimmy Jarrett to the event that he has also won a few times. Jarrett said he was just here to “have fun,” but early in the race it looked like Jarrett and his JJR Superior Construction Moose Racing KTM might have a shot at winning another Moose Run title.

“Nick [Fahringer], Jason [Thomas] and myself got away from everybody,” recalled Jarrett, “and then we got to a section where someone had taken down all the arrows and we couldn’t figure out where we were. We were riding around in circles, and that’s when everyone caught us. We found the trail and got going again and got a little gap. It was Jason, myself, and Mikey [Witkowski] that got away. Everything was going good. All I wanted to do was podium, but as the day went on I thought, maybe I had a chance to win it. I was kind of excited about that. About halfway through the second lap my rear mousse came apart, the beads came off the tire, and that was it.”

Jarrett was left to ride back to the barn on the roadway, his race done in by a component failure. However, he said “I had a blast. The track was a hundred times better than I thought it was going to be. It was almost perfect. Gusse made it tough. There were sections that were hard, and fast sections like always.”

Moose Run
Multi-time OMA Nationals champion Jimmy Jarrett had a good day at the Moose Run and was in contention for the win before a bike failure ended his day early. PHOTO BY JOHN GASSO.

After a long day of riding, Thomas finally took the checkers for his first Moose Run victory. His time for two laps of the gnarly trail system was three hours and 54 minutes.

“I got a good start and pretty much lead all day. We went back and forth a couple of times,” recalled Thomas. “I just rode comfortable and had fun, and I was able to come away with the win, so it’s good. This was just one that never seemed to click for me, and today it clicked. It was fun riding. It was still difficult, and it was still a true woods extreme race. I’m happy to go away with a win, finally.”

Thomas also advised that “the trail was primo. It wasn’t slick. The slickest part was the stuff they rode yesterday. Everything else was just really good dirt.”

Thomas said he was happy to be able to check this one off at the end of his professional racing career.

Moose Run
Mike Witkowski splashed his way to second place in the Moose Run and netted the 2017 OMA Nationals Pro 1 Championship. PHOTO BY JOHN GASSO.

Meanwhile, Witkowski was making his moves in the pack. Taking advantage of some down arrows that sent the early leader pack in a circle, the RPM Racing FMF KTM rider was able to reconnect and ultimately take second place, which also cemented his OMA Nationals season championship.

“It was definitely good,” said Witkowski. “In the first field section I got smoked. Most of the guys are on 450’s and stuff, so it was tough in the fields for me (with a 250). I basically went through all my roll-offs in the first lap. I just tried to play it smart. It was fun.”

Barnes was also aboard a 250, but the eighteen-year-old from Sterling, Illinois, was also able to make his YZ250 work.

“It was a good day,” he recalled. “We got off to a pretty good start – second behind Jason [Thomas]. I passed him for just a little, and then he passed me back. I was able to ride up front for the first lap. We all had some trouble. There was a section where some arrows got knocked down. We all kind of grouped up together and found our way through all of that. I ended up making a small mistake, and I wasn’t able to catch back up to them.”

Moose Run
Mark Heresco captured the 2017 OMA Nationals Pro 2 title.

Mark Heresco won the Pro 2 class and took fourth place overall aboard his SRT Offroad KTM, taking the series championship home to Pennsylvania as well.

“Everything went well, as planned,” Heresco said. “The bike ran well, and nothing fell off. I didn’t make any silly mistakes. I went out there and did what I needed to do. I am very happy.”

2017 OMA Nationals
42nd Parts Unlimited Moose Run XC
Bike Barn
Fenton, Illinois
Results: November 5, 2017 (Round 7 of 7)

1. Jason Thomas-Hus
2. Mike Witkowski-KTM
3. Cody Barnes-Yam
4. Mark Heresco-KTM
5. Logan Lowrey-Bet