With the “end of the world” prophecy coming up short and the earth still spinning on its proper axis, we have another year of racing to look forward to and I decided to start it off by teaming with David Pearson at the Best In The Desert Parker 250. The three-loop, 240 mile race has become a classic way to kick off the new year as the terrain offers a mix of smooth, fifth gear roads and technical, slow-speed rocks, challenging two seemingly opposite ends of the off road spectrum. Adding yet another variable to the race this year was the “Canadian Cold Front”, which somehow found its way down to the deserts of Arizona and would offer below freezing temperatures for all involved; time to put on the parka and go racing.
The main entries in the Open Pro class were the two Purvines Racing Beta teams, lead by Nick Burson and T.J. Hannafin, and the solo-entry of Ricky Brabec, who’s been in inspired form lately. With David and myself drawing fourth place start pick behind all three of these teams, we were going to have our work cut out for us to ring in the new year with a win.
David started for us and brought the bike in to the alternate pit, where I would hop on, tied for the lead on adjusted time, but fourth physically, meaning I would have a bit of dust to follow. I mounted the bike and took off with the goal of passing the two Beta teams before the main pit, but soon I was just focused on finding the feeling in my fingers as the morning chill had rendered them dead from the second knuckle down. The dust was incredibly thick for the first fifteen miles of my section and it seemed any time the dust wasn’t quite as billowing, the course turned into the still-rising sun, making vision even more of a challenge. I was still calm and relaxed; I knew the racecourse would soon head into a rocky section, which not only would suppress the dust, but also allow ample opportunity to gain ground on the bikes ahead.
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I could finally see Nick just ahead on the N2 Beta and pushed to get up along side on a rocky two-track trail. With the added adrenaline of the pursuit I clicked up a gear and fired my way by and into third place (physically). My thoughts instantly turned to catching Hannifan before we got back into a dustier section and within a few miles I could start to see his lingering dust. I kept my pace elevated and before long I could catch glimpses of his blue riding jacket just up the course. We turned onto a flat-out, paved road, with T.J. just a few seconds ahead, and both of us held the throttle to the stop. I tucked down low to get more aerodynamic, began reeling him in, and just before the end of the pavement I flew by, taking second. Now it was only Ricky ahead.
Ricky was riding really well and had pulled some time out, but had a lengthy pit stop, and as I handed the bike to David we were tied on adjusted time for the lead. I knew this would be a decisive lap; David and Ricky were lapping all of the UTVs and some slower Quad and Motorcycle entries and with all of that dust flying, it would be easy to catch someone in the wrong spot and lose time. David did a fantastic job; he was able to pass Ricky for the physical lead and pull thirty seconds on him, meaning it was up to me to just ride smooth and finish out the race.
The last lap went by in a flash and I had so much fun. Not only did I have all of the feeling back in my fingers, but I also had mostly clear sailing, allowing me to ride to my potential and really enjoy the course. It’s amazing how connected you can feel to a machine when everything’s clicking; even though you’re working hard, there’s an ease about your movements, you seem to see things sooner and react quicker. I do my best to savor these moments, to draw them out as long as possible, and be very aware of what it feels like so I can recreate the feeling the next time it doesn’t come so easily. I was almost disappointed when I got to the finish line as I didn’t want the flow to stop, but it also felt pretty good knowing we had crossed the finish line first, taking our first win of the new year.
David and I had a great time at this event and I’d like to thank the team: THR Motorsports, Monster Energy, Precision Concepts Kawasaki for giving us the platform to get this win. Thanks to David Pearson for being such an exceptional teammate and for all of the hard work he put in during the race, giving us the lead and passing countless Side-by-Sides. Thanks to David’s family for coming out and helping in the pits, along with my dad and Scott. Thanks to my sponsors: Fox Racing, Asterisk and Hookit.com for their continued support, helping me achieve my goals in a sport I love. And congratulations to Casey Folks and the entire Best In The Desert crew for putting on another successful race. As always, the racecourse was marked impeccably well and offered a great time for all of the entries. Coming up next on my agenda is the WORCS series opener at Canyon, AZ; I’m excited for the new format, the two-hour races and can’t wait for the first gate drop!
Thank you to all the Monster Energy, THR Motorsports, Precision Concepts Kawasaki team sponsors: FMF Racing, IMS Products, Hoosier Precision Machining, BRP, Renthal, AME, Dunlop, VP Racing Fuels, Kalgard, DT1 Filters, Hinson, Matrix Concepts, ZLT, RK/Excel, Acerbis, Works Connection, Zip-Ty Racing, SealSavers.