Round 2 of the Kenda/SRT National Hare & Hound series was a special treat for us, a trip to Alamagordo, New Mexico. Maybe it was the long drive, or the world’s largest chili pepper, or heck it even might have been the world’s largest pistachio, but let me tell you New Mexico was a had a really rural feel. After coming off a matching career best finish with a 9th overall at round 1 of the 10-race series , I knew I needed to keep my consistency up if I wanted to meet my “realistic goal” at the end of the year. It’s a long year, but I truly believe when it comes down to it the first five races is when it counts the most.
I made the trek up to Tucson, Arizona (the halfway mark) on the Wednesday before the National Hare & Hound to spend some time with my family and little brother that live there. It was really nice to spend some time with my little brother, who I don’t get too see that often. He’s taking on a huge responsibility, attending the University of Arizona, and it has been quite the change not having him around the house. Friday came rather quickly. On this trip I was taking my other grandmother with me. Living so far away, she hardly gets to see me let alone racing a dirtbike!
I think it’s safe to say for ALL racers (riders included) that when you don’t ride your bike for an extended period of time, you get antsy. I hadn’t touched a bike in four days, but it felt like four years. When people say it’s an addiction, they’re not lying! I was chomping at the bit to ride my dirt bike, and the 12-hour drive had me literally going bonkers. The second we found a place to ride, I had the bikes unloaded, gear on, and was on the bike in under 10 minutes. Before my pal Jake Argubright could even get out the words, “Let’s take it easy,” I was gone exploring the dunes!
Instantly I felt comfortable with the area that we were going to be racing in as it reminded of San Felipe in Baja California, Mexico. If you could imagine little sand huts that you could double and get into a rhythm like supercross jumps, that is exactly what we encountered! The bike felt good, and I felt confident, so we raced across the street to go watch my little man, Jett Lessing, race. After his race was over, the battle of a lifetime with Jett being the eventual winner, we booked it back to the hotel so I could get some dinner and rest.
The 6 a.m. alarm came rather quickly Sunday morning, I didn’t sleep well, as I kept awake most of the night, visualizing the terrain. I never do this; I never struggle to get to sleep, and it was odd for me to be restless the whole night. When we arrived to the race site, I noticed cool weather, hazy with a glimpse of dust from the wind that was slowly picking up. Quickly I was getting everything organized; gas, goggles, hydration, and whatever else crossed my mind. You don’t realize when you’re by yourself, Dad, or Brassch, isn’t there, but you’re always second guessing the fuel or what needs to be gone over on the bike. Fortunately I had my Nana there to make sure I was in the right mind. As 9 a.m. came, I gathered what was left and raced over to the line. Instantly when I arrived, I noticed my bike was not warm enough. Before I could gather my thoughts I saw Jacob Minchia coming over to start the event. Before I knew it the banner was up, and in the blinking of an eye it was down. I sat there and slowly watched everyone take off one by one. Glancing over to my left I saw both Ricky Brabec and Jake just trickling down as their electric starts were both trying to fire their motors. As the dust settled I finally got going towards the end of the pack, instantly finding out that I had my work cut out for me.
The first 20 miles was nothing short of a sprint, jumping through these giantic dunes, that virtually were not doubles but, damn, did we make them doubles! I was jumping (safely) everything I could to make up for the crappy start. Slowly, I was passing guys—not as fast as I should be, but nothing that was going to land me on my head. As the first loop neared the end, I could see Nick Stover and Ryan Smith directly in front of me. I knew if I kept my composure I could pass them and be dust free. But then while pulling into my pit I noticed NOBODY was there to give me fuel! My poor Nana was in distress, luckily Michael from Husqvarana came running out, toped me off and I was on my way.
The second loop would be raced two times, making the total distance of 110 miles. Leaving the pits, Stover and I were side by side, amd when I say we went full moto, we went FULL MOTO. It was a sprint I tell you. We were weaving through these dunes like we were Bubba and Carmichael in that epic battle they had at Red Budd that one year. I mean we were literally blitzing through these whoops, making doubles we shouldn’t have, blowing out sand berms, I couldn’t help but laugh inside my helmet. We were pushing it. The whole second loop, I would gap Stover on these Baja-like roads, and then he would be right back on my butt in the tight sand washes. Back on the Baja road, there he was again. I couldn’t get rid of him! We were wide open as we came back to infield before the pits, and THERE HE WAS AGAIN.
We were battling in a desert race like they’d just dropped the gate at a motocross track, and we came into the scoring chicane like we were first and second. He went wide, and I pulled up to make the corner. Holding my line I gave it a little more gas and BAM! I took him out, both of us lying on the ground laughing our asses off. But there was still one more loop!
Leaving the pits I could sense I had gapped Stover because he doesn’t have a dry-break cap on his fuel tank, and it takes longer to fill up for him. I put down my head and charged, and once we got to the pole line I could see the next guys dust straight ahead! It was GO time, and I put in a charge that I displayed from early in the race to late in the race. Entering the first windy wash, I quickly observed the main line was now tamped down. Not thinking, I gave it all I had to reach the guy ahead of me. As his dust got thicker and thicker I pushed harder and harder. Eventually it bit me in the ass: In the next left hander before we left the wash I rode the front wheel and tucked the front pretty hard. The crash broke my light, my helmet and the hand guard.
By the time I got going again I could see Stover coming. Gathering my thoughts, and trying to stay content, I held him off for the next 15 miles of constant pressure. But just when you think it’s going to be a slight breeze into the finish, here came Ryan Smith on a freaking TEAR. The next five miles was now again a SPRINT. Dicing through the dunes, making sketchy passes on lapped riders, and eventually reaching the finish, I held it together for a ninth overall, matching my finish at the opening round. When it’s all said and done, I knew getting a top-10 finish was the goal.
I won’t lie. I struggled, but my main focus during the week isn’t fully and solely spent on my dirtbike. I mean some of us have to make an honest living at some point, right? I make these far drives at gas guzzling locations to race a 100-mile race only to just turn around and be at work the next day 800 miles away. We are going to keep digging, and I want to keep the consistency together.
I want to thank my Nana for all that she did for me this last week. She took care of me and made sure I was ready to go. I threw her in the middle of a desert with my hydration and goggles, and she did a fine job. She was my co-driver for half the way, and she made sure I wasn’t nodding off on the way home. Hell, she even let me karaoke most the way! I thank her so much. Also a huge shout out to Jermey Shultz for hooking me up with a place to stay for two nights, He knows the struggle and I can’t thank him enough.