DULUTH, Ga. – The AMA EnduroCross Championship Series kicked off with a bang inside the Infinite Energy Arena and Colton Haaker fired the first shot in the battle for the championship.
The Husqvarna rider passed Taddy Blazusiak on lap two and slowly edged away from the field. KTM’s Cody Webb finished second and Blazusiak recovered from a mistake on lap four to take the final podium spot.
Webb, Haaker and Blazusiak each won their heat races but Haaker was later docked a position for not re-entering the track in the same place when he fell off the rock pile, which handed the win to Beta’s Max Gerston. The heat race winners earn a valuable championship point, which proved to be critical to last year’s series. When the top six riders returned for the evening Hot Laps, Haaker set the fast time to earn the other bonus point available for the evening, effectively erasing the heat race blunder.
Blazusiak jumped out of the gate first to take the $500 Nexen Tire Holeshot award. The former five time EnduroCross champion took last season off from racing in the US and is looking to re-claim his title. But Haaker had other ideas and made a pass for the lead in the firewood pit on lap two. Webb was close behind in third but took a few more laps to work his way past Blazusiak when he made a big mistake in the rock pile. The mistake allowed Gerston to take over third and he held the position until lap ten of the fifteen lap final before Blazusiak found a way past.
Haaker steadily opened up his lead, which edged out to seven seconds with one lap to go. He backed off on the final lap to win by just over three seconds to take the win and points lead in what is expected to be a tight battle between the top three.
“First place, first round so it is a good start to the season,” said Haaker. “When it comes to the main, I know how to get it done. I proved that at SuperEnduro and I want to be champion here.”
Webb rode a strong race but was never able to close the gap on Haaker and had to settle for second.
“It was a positive start to the season,” Webb said. “I gave it my all to try to reel him (Haaker) in but I had a few bad laps that allowed him to gap me but second is good and we will move forward.”
Blazusiak battled with Gerston for several laps before finally getting by for the final podium spot. “I’m pretty happy with third for the first race back. I wasn’t really happy with my flow today but I can improve from here.”
Gerston had a solid race to take forth. “I worked hard this off season and rode really hard in the main event,” Gerston said.
Husqvarna’s Mike Brown rounded out the top five. Beta’s Kyle Redmond finished sixth. Ty Tremaine finished seventh on his RPM KTM. Geoff Aaron took eighth on his Gas Gas. Cory Graffunder was ninth on his SRT KTM and Noah Kepple rounded out the top ten on his KTM.
Shelby Turner made the long trip from Canada pay off to win the Women’s main event. Rachel Gutish finished second and Morgan Tanke finished third.
EnduroCross events also include three support classes. Quinn Wentzel took the win in the amateur class over Christopher Venditti and Jojo Bowden. In the Vet class, Wayne Dickert took his first ever main event win over David Stirm and Craig Thompson. Christopher Venditti won the TrialsCross class over David Ige.