GEICO AMA EnduroCross Series Finale in Vegas
Red Bull KTM’s Taddy Blazusiak set the tone for the night early when he set the fastest qualifying lap in the Pioneer Hot Laps session at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. After winning four of the five previous rounds in the GEICO AMA EnduroCross, Presented by E3 Spark Plugs, the defending series champion needed to do little more than qualify for main event at the series finale in order to claim a second straight number one plate, but he saw the Vegas race as both a great way to finish out his American racing season and build momentum for the upcoming FIM World Indoor Enduro Championship.
So, he came out swinging and didn’t let up until the last lap of the last race, which he won with seeming ease after Aaron beat him out for the $750 Girardi Wealth Management Holeshot Award. But that was the only time you could accurately portray Blazusiak anything but a winner.
Flawless bike handling permitted him to float over gnarly obstacles that ate up others every lap and even caused him to bobble a time or two. However, he recovered faster from those miscues than anyone else and sailed to the win on his Acerbis/Metzler/Fox-backed 250 XC, saying, “I am very excited about this championship. It means a lot to me to take home this title.”
Round five winner Aaron would hold on to second easily enough on his two-wheel-drive Christini KTM, finishing in that spot for the fourth time this season, while Gas Gas-mounted Cody Webb claimed third for his first-ever EX podium. Coincidentally, all three podium finishers have trials backgrounds, underscoring how valuable those skills are for success in the extreme enduro game whether indoors or out.
Earlier in the evening, several support classes ran, again providing common ground for competitors from a variety of the sport’s genres. You had guys like former flat track champion Joe Kopp trying his hand in it and running well in the Vet 35+ division that Zip-Ty Racing Husqvarna boss Ty Davis claimed over Todd Sciacqua and Kurt Nicol. There was freestyle motocross jumper Drake McElroy deciding to give it a go on his 1994 Honda CR125R in the Open Amateur class that Luke Reynolds topped over Mark McGregor and Ryan Sandoval. For trials specialists who preferred to ride their regular lightweight machines, former AMA/NATC Nationals Observed Trials Champion Patrick Smage ran away from Bryan Roper and Shad Petersen. And in the Baja Designs Night Race, run as a sort of consolation event for those not qualifying for the Pro main, desert racer Jacob Argubright won the $500 bonus after taking his Kawasaki of Simi Valley KX250F around the Big O’s course with only the Baja Designs headlight on his bike to guide him. (A crew of three from Baja Designs had 10 minutes to bolt their battery-powered lights to each of the 10 bikes that qualified for that one.)
“It’s really not like desert/off-road,” Argubright admitted. “You’ve got to be able to sprint real quick and get over all the obstacles and just battle it out for five minutes.”
More people fail to qualify for the Pro main than get into it over the course of a season, which can be frustrating for guys who are used to being up front in their own disciplines.
“It’s more of a challenge, but I still haven’t made a main [this year] so it’s a little frustrating at times,” Argubright conceded. “It’s fun just to be able to be out there. Just riding with Taddy Blazusiak is still cool.”
A three-time AMA National Enduro Champion, Russell Bobbitt of the FMF/KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team is no stranger to tight, technical trails, but even he found his first EnduroCross ride a lot different than most anything Mother Nature provides. “Those obstacles are definitely no joke!” he said. “The rock sections are pretty gnarly. It’s a good challenge. It’s a matter of putting in a consistent lap--after lap after lap!”
Unlike Blazusiak, though, Bobbitt probably reflects the sentiments of most who merely dabble in EnduroCross: “It’s a whole other element to have all those eyes on you because it’s not like we’re used to doing supercross or anything [in an arena full of spectators].”
Yet, asked if what discipline he’d choose if he had to pick one or the other, Bobbitt replied, “If I had to pick one or the other, I’d still pick the enduros. I’ve always had a passion and enjoyment for doing enduros and racing off-road. You get to ride more and it’s just enjoyable to me. It’s what I grew up with my dad doing and it’s good trail riding; it’s not just beating yourself up and taking risks a whole bunch!”
But look for Blazusiak to continue chasing EnduroCross championship number three next year when the series visits two different cities in its six-round tour which runs from August to November. It includes Everett, Washington, on August 13; Indianapolis on August 26 (the only Friday date); Ontario, California, on September 17 (new); Denver on October 1; Boise on October 22 (new) and the traditional finale in Vegas on November 19.
EXPERT PRO FEATURE
1. Taddy Blazusiak (KTM 250 XC)
2. Geoff Aaron (Christini KTM 250 XC)
3. Cody Webb (Gas Gas EC 250)
4. Mike Brown (KTM 250 SX-F)
5. Colton Haaker (Kawasaki KX250F)
6. Cory Graffunder (Husqvarna TC 250)
7. Justin Soulé (Kawasaki KX250F)
8. Kyle Redmond (Kawasaki KX250F)
9. Jamie Lanza (Kawasaki KX250F)
10. Kevin Rookstool (KTM 250 XC)
11. Destry Abbott (Kawasaki KX250F)
EXPERT PRO FINAL POINTS STANDINGS
1. Taddy Blazusiak (166 points/5 wins)
2. Geoff Aaron (140/1)
3. Justin Soulé (110)
4. Cory Graffunder (95)
5. Kyle Redmond (94)
6. Gary Sutherlin (91)
7. Colton Haaker (81)
8. Kevin Rookstool (80)
9. Cody Webb (75)
10. Mike Brown (72)