Weather-wise, Sunday at Steel City turned out to be a near perfect day, especially when compared to the previous two. On Friday, Mother Nature had opened up and poured some heavy rainfall onto the Steel City circuit, leaving a serious challenge for the track crew to overcome. By mid-morning on Saturday the rain had subsided, but the damage was done. Track crews had worked overnight to keep the mud as packed down as possible, but AMA’s Duke Finch decided to cancel Saturday’s normally scheduled practice and qualifying rounds in order to preserve the track for Sunday’s National.
Fortunately, the threat of more adverse weather held off and over 19,800 Steel City fans saw some amazing race action in Delmont, PA. Temps got into the 80s and humidity was high, but that didn’t stop Ricky Carmichael and James Stewart from racking up another set of 1-1 moto wins in their respective classes. Although Ricky didn’t cruise to victory quite as easily as Bubba did, he rode like a true champ and took home his 4th consecutive 250cc national title, and record 10th AMA title.
Before the start of the first moto, Grant Langston was holding onto a narrowing 10-point point lead over Red Bull KTM teammate Ryan Hughes. And the not-to-be-forgotten (how could he be) James Stewart had closed to 45 points behind Langston. With Bubba all but guaranteed to take the final two national overalls, Langston and Hughes knew that there was no room for error.
When the gate dropped in moto one, it was Yamaha of Troy’s Craig Anderson who snatched the holeshot and rode a near perfect first lap despite having the blazing #259 on his tail. With a few turns left in lap one, however, Bubba put a pass on Ando and never looked back. With Stewart pulling away at an incredible rate, the other fellas in the class were left to battle for the now-prestigious second spot. The running order of the top five at the end of lap one was Stewart, Anderson, Hughes, Byrne, and Rodriguez. The big news at that point was that points leader Langston was buried in 17th place beginning lap number two, and clearly had his work cut out for him. After working his way up to 11th place about 6 laps in, Langston ran into Troy Adams in a rut and went down. After falling back to 14th position, Grant put on a late charge but ended the moto in a disappointing eighth place, losing valuable points to Ryno.
The lead group of Stewart, Anderson, Hughes, and Byrne stayed in that exact same order for the entire moto. Bubba’s impressive ride left him finishing over 45 seconds ahead of second place Anderson. Craig, who put in an impressive ride, never let Hughes and Byrne get close enough to threaten his second place position. Behind them was some impressive riding from Team Chaparral/Factory Connection Honda’s Ryan Mills. Mills moved from 11th place on lap one, all the way to an inspiring fifth place by the end of the moto.
Other notables were young Suzuki standout Broc Hepler, who finished a very impressive sixth place, and Team Green’s Richie Owens, who finished the moto in ninth. Due to the injuries to the rest of the Pro Circuit Kawasaki squad, Owens was given an opportunity to ride Eric Sorby’s race bike for the remainder of the season, and is putting it to great use. Nice ride Richie!
At the start of the second moto, it was Bubba who grabbed the holeshot this time, and I bet you can’t guess what happened next? Aww damn… you’re right! Bubba checked out again and made it look easy. Behind him was Craig Anderson, with Ryan Mills and Broc Sellards in tow. Series championship contenders Langston and Hughes sat in seventh and eighth respectively at the end of lap one.
Mills and Sellards each put a pass on Anderson on lap three and moved into second and third. Mills was impressive once again, and held on to second plaace for almost five laps before eventually falling back to finish the moto in eighth.
Hughes grabbed onto Langston’s coattails and the KTM-mounted duo moved their way through the field and eventually into second and third. Hughes, although fairly close, was never able to close the gap on Langston, and on the final lap, went down on an uphill double allowing Sellards by for third. Hughes was able to remount and finished the moto in fourth place, but gave back two of the points he had gained on Langston in moto one.
At the end of the day, Bubba had taken his 14th consecutive moto win on the season, and continued to inch closer to series points leaders Langston and Hughes. Despite the impressive string of moto wins since his return from injury, with only one race left, it would take a miracle for Bubba to win his second consecutive 125cc National title. The championship looks to come down to Langston and Hughes, who are now only separated by seven points.
- James Stewart; 1-1
- Ryan Hughes; 3-4
- Craig Anderson; 2-5
- Grant Langston; 8-2
- Michael Byrne; 4-6
- Ryan Mills; 5-8
- Brian Gray; 7-7
- Kelly Smith; 10-9
- Richie Owens; 9-11
- Brock Sellards; 19-3
In moto one, Ricky got the jump off the line and grabbed the holeshot with Ferry, Roncada, and Windham close behind. By lap three RC began to stretch his lead by a few seconds on Ferry, and Windham got by Roncada for third. It wasn’t long before K-Dub moved right in behind Ferry, and for a couple laps, the Steel City crowd saw a tough battle as the two four-stroke pilots bumped numerous times as they made their way around the track. Windham eventually got the upper hand and started to gap Ferry.
Meanwhile, RC had pulled a pretty nice lead and looked extremely solid as he railed his CR250 around the rutted-out Steel City track. K-Dub, in second, put his head down and in impressive fashion had reeled in RC within a couple laps. It was on! RC and Windham swapped the lead back and forth for the next couple of laps before Ricky finally got the upper hand and began to slowly inch away in lapped traffic. Ferry remained in third for the entire moto but was not able to match the pace of the two Honda-mounted riders, and slipped back and out of sight. The moto ended in that order, with Reed and LaRocco rounding out the top five.
At the drop of the gate in moto two, Windham put his big thumper into the lead early with RC and Ferry in tow. RC made a mistake early and momentarily went down. K-Dub capitalized and pulled out a seven-second lead. RC got up quickly and was able to hold onto second place ahead of Ferry, and began to mount a hard charge of his own. With about eight minutes left in the moto, the never-say-die Carmichael caught K-Dub and the two began to do battle. Once again, RC was too much and began to inch away, putting lappers between himself and K-Dub. With his sights set on his fourth consecutive 250cc national title, RC rode away with the win and another chapter in the history books. Windham rode smart and collected another second overall with a distant Tim Ferry in third.
- Ricky Carmichael; 1-1
- Kevin Windham; 2-2
- Tim Ferry; 3-3
- Chad Reed; 4-7
- Mike LaRocco; 5-6
- Ezra Lusk; 9-4
- David Vuillemin; 7-5
- Ernesto Fonseca; 6-8
- Larry Ward; 11-10
- Jason Thomas; 10-11
That’s it for now, but be sure to check in for more coverage in our ‘Monday Kickstart’ feature. Ciao!