The plan was simple coming into the AMA EnduroCross finale in Ontario, California. For Colton Haaker, who had a 10-point lead in the championship, the goal was to simply get the job done and claim his first AMA EnduroCross Championship. For defending champion Cody Webb, it was to end his season with a strong statement.
Both riders accomplished their respective goals at the Citizens Business Bank Arena, where Cody Webb took a convincing win in the main event aboard his factory Red Bull KTM. Haaker gave a nail-biting performance in a ride riddled with bobbles and crashes, but held it together for a strong second-place finish, wrapping up his first number-one Pro plate in AMA EnduroCross.
“Today was a little bit stressful but in the end, I knew what I needed to do and get the job done,” Haaker said. “I didn’t have my best main event ever, but I still ended up second.”
Despite his mishaps in the main, which kept the crowd (and his team) on edge, Haaker was never in real danger of losing second place—evidence of how far ahead of the field Haaker and Webb have been all season.
“I had a couple gnarly crashes in between, but you know, I wanted to push,” said Haaker, who grabbed the holeshot and the early lead aboard his Rockstar Energy Husqvarna, and led the first lap ahead of Webb. “I just wanted to push. I didn’t want to settle for second and just ride around. That ended up in me crashing more, but at the end of the day, I’m all about pushing limits and doing all I can no matter what. I don’t want to ride like 50%. That’s not me.
“At the end of it, obviously I just toned it back and let him go or whatever, but at the same time, I just want to be 100% and do my best.”
Likewise, Red Bull KTM rider Cody Webb wanted to do his best, and he delivered in Ontario, taking the win, plus added championship points or topping his race and the evening Hot Laps. Although it didn’t put the title within his reach, there is a significant prestige to winning the Ontario finale in front of the Southern California-based industry crowd.
“I wanted to come out with a bang and guns blazing and I proved that tonight,” said Webb. “I proved I wasn’t a two-time champ for no reason. I really battled hard and did all I could to win the championship. I had a couple points to kinda get inside Colton, put a dirty move, but I don’t want to be rider like that. He rode solid all year. I just couldn’t ship away his lead. I gave it my all. I can’t complain about that. Little things didn’t go my way and we’ll build for 2017.”
Webb didn’t listen to the devil on his shoulder in the early laps, but a new goal entered his mind toward the end of the race as Haaker slipped further and further behind: lap the newly crowned champion.
“I was just trying so hard to do it on purpose—make a statement!” said Webb. “Let him know that I’m not going anywhere.”
The last few seasons have shown that Webb and Haaker’s rivalry is truly one for the record books. The duo is so above and beyond the field not only in EnduroCross but also in the FIM SuperEnduro World Championship, which Haaker captured earlier this year in a final-round bar-to-bar showdown that literally came down to the last turn of the last race. It’s a sting Webb has not forgotten, and he’s not happy to hand over his number-one EnduroCross plate, either.
“He took SuperEnduro from me too, so I’m pretty pissed right now,” said Webb. “But to be honest, he deserved it this year. His track record was better than mine. He was getting me on those Hot Laps. He deserved it. He was riding convincing. I was always right there but a little mistake would take me out of it. I felt like when I won the races I did so good. There was never really a true showdown between us all year. Either one guy was on his A-game or the other one was. It’s crazy to see how we’ve elevated the sport and it’s kinda scary to see what ’17 will look like.”
Their epic rivalry leaves the rest of the field to scrap over the final podium position, and the honor went to Cory Graffunder in Ontario. The SRT KTM rider qualified through the LCQ, which left him to start on the second row in the main event. But he managed to eek out a decent start, and stay ahead of Ty Tremaine and Ty Cullins to claim third. Graffunder, and several other Team SRT riders, had their work cut out for them coming straight from the Baja 1000 to Ontario for the race, but Graffunder was happy to make it worth his while with a podium finish.
Cullins rode his Beta to a career-best fourth-place finish in Ontario, and was honored to do so in front of the Beta dealer meeting, which was in attendance at the Citizen’s Business Bank Arena.
Tremaine, aboard his RPM KTM, rounded out the top five, but was also thrilled to capture third in the 2016 championship. The youngster also claimed his third-straight EnduroCross Junior Championship, the series-within-a-series for riders 21 and under.
The support classes gave the Ontario crowd some thrills, as well. The Vet EnduroCross Championship was on the line in a winner-take all event, which former champion Kurt Nicoll was intent on taking aboard his Alta electric motorcycle. But Stephen Foord wasn’t about to make it so easy for him. Foord, aboard his Beta motorcycle, passed Nicoll when he got hung up in the matrix, and took the win.
In the Amateur class, Dustin McCarthy took an exciting win aboard his Yamaha just ahead of Tyler Kinkade and Spenser Wilton. The TrialsCross class win went to Kyle Larson with Shad Peterson and Brian Martinson rounding out the podium, respectively.
In the Women’s championship, Shelby Turner of Canada clinched her first-ever number-one plate. Turner had a fantastic year, taking six wins and two second-place finishes this year. The Ontario win went to Morgan Tanke, another Beta rider to stand atop the podium at the season finale. Tanke was the only rider to wrestle wins away from Turner in 2016, taking two wins to end the season second in points. Third in the series went to Rachel Gutish, who was unable to compete at the final round after injuring her knee in the ISDE, but she still showed up to collect her series trophy. Third on the night went to Honda rider Tarah Geiger.
2016 Ontario AMA EnduroCross Series
Citizens Bank Arena
Results: October 19, 2016 (Round 8 of 8)
1. Cody Webb-KTM
2. Colton Haaker-Hus
3. Cory Graffunder-KTM
4. Ty Cullins-Bet
5. Ty Tremaine-KTM
6. Noah Kepple-KTM
7. Geoff Aaron-Gas
8. Kyle Redmond-Bet
9. Nick Thompson-KTM
10. Mike Brown-Hus
11. Max Gerston-Bet
12. Trystan Hart-Hus
13. Eric Rhoten-Yam
2016 AMA EnduroCross Championship Series Points Standings (after 8 of 8 rounds)
1. Colton Haaker-201
2. Cody Webb-192
3. Ty Tremaine-127
4. Mike Brown-126
5. Kyle Redmond-116
6. Cory Graffunder-111
7. Max Gerston-104
8. Noah Kepple-100
9. Trystan Hart-97
10. Geoff Aaron-90