AMA Hare & Hound Season Finale
Kendall Norman has enjoyed a banner year, winning both the AMA District 37 desert racing championship and AMA Racing/Kenda National Hare & Hound Championship Series before they were finished.
David Pearson, on the other hand, has experienced almost nothing but frustration with fluke problems keeping him from showing his capabilities, save for winning the second round of the Nationals.
So when they lined up with a few hundred others at the 43rd Annual Johnson Valley Championship in the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area east of Lucerne Valley, California, for the ninth and final round of the Nationals, many would’ve put money on Norman, especially when he jetted out to the early lead.
But he would not check out this time as Pearson had his number.
“David made a race out of it, for sure!” the Johnny Campbell Racing Honda ace Norman reported later. “He came in and he was inspired.”
Inspired indeed. The FMF/KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team slugger Pearson looked back on a season that seemed to have a black cloud hanging over him and said, “I’ve just had stupid problems. I’ve been where I needed to [be] to be able to win the races, but I’ve just had bike problems, and we finally got the bike problems resolved and it shows.”
Did it ever. Though Norman tried sprinting away in the early going, Pearson closed in as they sailed through the four different loops that the 100’s laid out around Bessemer Mine Road. “Here, I knew I needed to beat Kendall,” he said. Though Lucerne hasn’t been one of Pearson’s favorite places, he observed, “I felt good two weeks ago [here at the SoCal M.C. National]. I finished a strong second there. Here, I knew I needed to beat Kendall. He’s riding really good and I knew I could ride good enough to beat him.
“We went back and forth. The fourth lap, he left the pits right ahead of me. I was on a mission; I was trying to catch him and pass him. I would pass him and he would pin it and pass me back. I would pin it past him. [We] just bounced off rocks. It was pretty cool.”
In the end, 2007 series champ Pearson made the last pass and barely held off Norman to record his second season victory and secure third in the final points.
Though a bit disappointed, Norman admitted, “He rode really well, and we went back and forth quite a few times. I led most of the race, though. He was a better man today.”
Ironically, the man who often owns Lucerne--Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Destry Abbott--got his setup wrong and spent the day struggling. “I couldn’t even hit stuff--that’s how it was,” the five-time series champ lamented. “I had a great start--I was second--then that first [loop] was a lot of valleys and I just wasn’t happy with my setup I ran; it was way off. I couldn’t pin it across the valleys and they were definitely going faster than I was. In the tight stuff I was fine, actually; I felt really good in that.”
When his chain derailed after hitting a rock on the last loop, Abbott settled for third.
Pearson’s teammate David Kamo likewise rode mostly by himself most of the race to finish fourth for the day but second in the series. “I was kind of struggling today just from the wreck two weeks ago,” he confided. “I have a slight separated shoulder so that first loop pounding all the whoops, it killed me holding on because I couldn’t hold on the whole time.”
After staring third at the bomb, Norman’s teammate Quinn Cody hit a road crossing badly but saved it. After that, however, he remained a bit gun-shy for the remainder of the first loop, and he didn’t start picking it up until the second loop and really charged the third loop to finish fifth.
Among the battles farther back in the pack, the Women’s class proved entertaining. Though Joanna Kaczmarek had enough points to claim her second consecutive title, she tried to push the pace in the early going to stay with Sarah Kritsch and Shayla Fulfer. After a few near misses, though, the defending champ decided it was better to keep it on two wheels and finish rather than risk crashing, eventually earning fourth for the day.
Kritsch led most of the way with Fulfer staying within striking distance. Just when it looked like Kritsch would keep her win streak (having won both rounds entered this year) going, she got stuck on the last hill. Fulfer kept her bike chugging upward, crediting four-stroke power, and won for the fourth time in her young career. That made her the winningest rider in the class and sealed second in final points behind Kaczmarek, with Kritsch holding on for second on the day and third in points despite her abbreviated schedule.
Next year’s series will again be comprised of nine rounds in California, Idaho and Utah, and will again run from January to October (check out the 2011 schedule dates and venues here). With newly crowned WORCS champion Kurt Caselli reportedly joining the series, Abbott hoping to remain healthy all year, Pearson avoiding bike issues and other parties ready to play, Norman will have his hands full trying to keep the number one plate on his Honda.
1. David Pearson (KTM 450 XC-F)
2. Kendall Norman (Honda CRF450X)
3. Destry Abbott (Kawasaki KX450F)
4. David Kamo (KTM 450 XC-F)
5. Quinn Cody (Honda CRF450X)
6. Justin Morrow (Kawasaki KX450F)
7. Morgan Crawford (KTM 530 XC-W)
8. Ryan Kudla (Kawasaki KX450F)
9. Cameron Corfman (Beta 450 RR)
10. Brett Saunders (Kawasaki KX450F)