New Berlin, Ny. – It was only a matter of time before this year’s determined rookies topped the podium amongst a deep field of veterans in the 2011 AMA ATV Motocross National Championship Series presented by DWT. Pro class rookie Chase Snapp took his first-ever moto win two weeks ago in Ohio, while Makson Construction JB Racing’s Joel Hetrick swept Saturday’s Unadilla event, giving the rookie a career-best overall win.
Sunny skies and warm temperatures graced the Unadilla Valley Sports Center for round nine of the eleven-stop circuit. The habitually rough Unadilla racetrack was sleek and fast, an additional variable to the already exciting championship points battle. The points margin is closer than it’s ever been this season and with only two rounds remaining on the 2011 schedule, every moto counts.
Motoworks Can-Am’s John Natalie took home the ATVRiders.com Fastest Qualifier Award, with a 1:43.668. Natalie, who is still recovering from a mid-season injury, carried on the Can-Am tradition that teammates Chad Wienen and Jeremie Warnia have dominated so far this season.
As the gates dropped on the opening AMA Pro ATV moto, Wisconsin’s Nick DeNoble grabbed the SSiDecals.com Holeshot Award aboard his Janssen Motorsports Honda, with Can-Am/Canada’s Richard Pelchat close behind. The 7-Time Canadian National Champion held off Hetrick, Josh Upperman and Natalie for the first few laps until the trio finally moved past and Pelchat dropped to seventh. Hetrick passed DeNoble for the lead around lap five and the rookie went on to claim his first-ever moto win in the AMA Pro class.
“It was definitely my weekend here at Unadilla,” said Joel Hetrick. “The track was good. I mean it was smooth, simple and real fast. I started off the first moto in third and then I caught up to [Nick] DeNoble and Josh [Upperman] so I just tried to stay on their pace for a while and then I got around them and went for it,” Hetrick added.
Baldwin Motorsports JB Racing Honda’s Josh Upperman eventually passed DeNoble in the second half of the race and locked in the second place finish in moto one. Walsh Race Craft Suzuki’s Jeremy Lawson started off at the back of the pack but steadily climbed his way to a podium position after laying some of the fastest lap times of moto one. DeNoble dropped to fourth after dicing back and forth with Lawson and Natalie in a fight for the third position – which Lawson claimed – and Natalie fell back to fifth on the last lap.
In moto two, the SSiDecals.com Holeshot Award went to moto one winner Joel Hetrick, who set an untouchable pace early on. Upperman got off to a great start behind Hetrick and latched onto the pace of the leader at first, until Natalie contested the Honda rider at the end of the race. With such a tight points margin, Natalie was more focused than ever on beating Upperman in order to maintain his points lead. Natalie made the pass on Upperman with just two laps to go, finishing second in moto two and securing his points lead with a (5-2) finish for third overall. Joel Hetrick went on to take the overall win, the first of his rookie career, with a (1-1) sweep.
“I got the holeshot and just lead the whole race. I kind of pulled a gap and held it until the end,” Hetrick said. “I’ve been working out a lot different at home and trying some different stuff. I rode a lot to get ready for this race and it seemed like it went well for us.”
Josh Upperman claimed second overall with (2-3) finishes, gaining valuable points as the 2011 season winds down. Jeremy Lawson managed to slate a fourth overall; despite a comeback effort in moto two and Canadian Richard Pelchat went (7-6) for the fifth spot.
John Natalie fought through a recovering injury to capture yet another podium for the Motoworks Can-Am team, edging Upperman out by only three points in the championship point standings. Jeremy Lawson is 28 points back from the leader in third and 20 points ahead of Can-Am’s Chad Wienen, who will not be racing the remainder of the season.
The AMA ATV Motocross Championship Series heads to RedBud MX in Buchanan, Mich., July 30 and 31, with Pro class racing starting at 1 p.m. Saturday, supported by 37 amateur classes throughout Saturday and Sunday. For more information, please visit www.atvmotocross.com.
AMA Pro ATV Results
1. Joel Hetrick (HON)
2. Josh Upperman (HON)
3. John Natalie (CAN)
4. Jeremy Lawson (SUZ)
5. Richard Pelchat (CAN)
6. Thomas Brown (YAM)
7. Greg Gee (HON)
8. Devin Heimes (SUZ)
9. Derek Swartfager (HON)
10. Nick DeNoble (HON)
AMA ATV Motocross Championship Pro Point Standings
1. John Natalie (345) 2. Josh Upperman (342) 3. Jeremy Lawson (317) 4. Chad Wienen (297) 5. Thomas Brown (261) 6. Chase Snapp (258) 7. Joel Hetrick (246) 8. Nick DeNoble (237) 9. Joe Byrd (211) 10. Travis Moore (210)
Manufacturer’s Cup Points
1. Team Can-Am (421) 2. Team Honda (380) 3. Team Suzuki (317) 4. Team Yamaha (262) 5. Team Kawasaki (62)