Kendall Norman Wins First Hare & Hound Race of Season

Jan. 28, 2013 By Mark Kariya
Riding a comparatively plain-Jane CRF450X with plenty of time on it, Kendall Norman nonetheless pushed it to winning speed--just like old times. At this point, he lacks the backing to do the rest of the series so it might be a while before we see him again.

The rumors spread most of the weekend: “Kendall Norman’s here and he’s gonna race!”

It’s been a while since the 2010 series champ has raced regularly; in fact, he rarely raced at all last year, his last race of note being a solo run to fourth in Class 22 at the Baja 500 last year.

So it was fairly easy to dismiss Norman as a less of a threat for the win at the Desert Motorcycle Club’s 46th Annual Winter Classic, the opening round of the AMA Racing/FMF/GPR National Hare & Hound Championship Series at the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area near Lucerne Valley, California, than, say, two-time and defending series champ Kurt Caselli.
Kurt Caselli’s quest for a third consecutive championship got off to a rocky start when he DNFed after leading early.

The FMF/KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team star, of course, was fresh off a stunning debut at the Dakar Rally with two stage triumphs to his credit. But he wasn’t the only threat to win--almost every one of last year’s top 20 in points turned up, seemingly half of them on new bikes or teams. The biggest numbers-wise had to be Purvines Racing Beta with last year’s third- and fourth-place in points, Nick Burson and Justin Morrow. Joining them in the saturation theory were Utah’s T.J. Hannfin and Shawn Strong, plus several others in age-group or displacement categories. There was also the newly formed Western Designs Racing TM squad, with Tuffy Pearson its best shot at a top 10 finish aboard his new 300 MX two-stroke. Speaking of two-strokes, Skyler Howes had traded in his trusty YZ250 during the off-season to assume the controls of a Blais Racing Services KTM 300 XC.
Though without a ride for the year, David Kamo borrowed his old JCR Honda race bike from last year and rode to an inspired runner-up finish.

And there were others.
When the banner dropped to send the first wave in a field of more than 400 racers on their way, Caselli took his customary place near the front of the pack, but Howes put the extra top speed in his new ride to good use and, surprising himself, passed Caselli to lead for several significant miles of the early going.
Meanwhile, Norman patiently waited after getting off to about a fifth-place start and closing on the leaders, aided by the fact that the desert was almost devoid of dust following welcome rains on Friday.
“Kind of gauging myself off the guys [in front of me] and pacing [myself], I had one of the Pearsons (Tuffy) make a good pass on me on the TM--it was awesome!” Norman exclaimed. “We were going back and forth, and once I kind of started finding my rhythm, I started pushing forward. Once I found my rhythm, it was like my old self.”
Jacob Argubright got another of his excellent starts and ran second for many miles until he lost his brake pedal, settling for a close third overall.

And when Caselli dropped out with an unspecified bike problem, it cleared the way for Norman’s conquest, his first since he last raced a National at the end of 2011 (coincidentally, he won three out of those last four rounds).
Skyler Howes warmed up for the National by winning the “slow race” on Saturday night. He was anything but slow during the race, grabbing the early lead before making some mistakes that slowed him to seventh at the finish.

Kamo also enjoyed a banner day on his borrowed Johnny Campbell Racing Honda, though it was the one he’d finally gotten sorted at the end of last year. It showed. He hounded Jacob Argubright and finally made the pass to claim runner-up with Off-Road Support Kawasaki’s Argubright a close third.
Burson and Hannafin did Purvines Racing proud with fourth and fifth on bikes that are still very new and in the process of getting dialed in. Ross Neely, Howes, Morrow, Pearson and 250cc A winner Nic Garvin rounded out the top 10 overall.

1. Kendall Norman (Honda CRF450X)
2. David Kamo (Honda CRF450X)
3. Jacob Argubright (Kawasaski KX450F)
4. Nick Burson (Beta 498 RR)
5. T.J. Hannafin (Beta 498 RR)
6. Ross Neely (Yamaha WR450F)
7. Skyler Howes (KTM 300 XC)
8. Justin Morrow (Beta 498 RR)
9. Tuffy Pearson (TM 300 MX)
10. Nic Garvin (KTM 250 XC)

The new AMA Youth National Hare & Hound Series kicked off with a well-received day featuring three different races for the various ages and sizes. Newsletter
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