TRANSWORLD SLAM FEST | VINCE FRIESE WILD-CARD WIN
Photos: Ryne Swanberg
The annual SLAM Festival is an event that completely stands on it's own, as the anticipation leading up to the weekend is like no other. Not to mention that the racing action is as exciting and intense as it can get. And with the Hell On Wheels race just a few hours prior to the SLAM, even more enthusiasm was built up in the grandstands.
The SLAM race is simple and short, but if you're involved in a heated battle with another rider those two laps can seem like a lifetime. Eight riders qualify into the event and the winner from each two-man bracket race advances from the heats to the semis. Once the two fastest riders move on to the three lap final, a third "wild-card" rider is thrown into the mix to make for even more bar-banging action.
Once the late afternoon rolled around, it was time to check out the talent on Milestone's SX track, as the riders began their timed qualifying. TLD/Lucas Oil/Red Bull/KTM's Shane McElrath seemed to be having bike problems throughout the entire timed qualifier, however, he and his mechanic were able to get the bike running right, so McElrath went out for one timed lap and qualified into the first set of bracket races. He wasn't the only rider to have bike problems, though, as Nick Schmidt's holeshot device wreaked havoc on his fork guard. Every time the holeshot device was engaged, it would rip the fork guard right off the bike. However, they were able to make it work by the time the racing started
HEAT 1: Jeff Alessi vs. Vince Friese
The first gate drop of the day saw Motoconcepts/SmartTop teammates Jeff Alessi and Vince Friese. Friese had the first gate pick and he opted for the inside spot, which set him up for a holeshot and an uncontested race against Alessi who was unable to match the speed of his teammate.
HEAT 2: Mike Alessi vs. Brandon Scharer
When the chips fell for the second heat, it was Mike Alessi and Brandon Scharer who were set to race. The privateer effort of Scharer was already at a disadvantage even before lining up to the gate, as his RMZ250 was clearly under powered against Alessi's CRF450R. The gate dropped and the Motoconcepts rider was the first to turn one with Scharer in tow. Alessi laid down some impressive speed, but the privateer was able to match him, however, it wasn't enough to reel Alessi back in for a pass, so Scharer was eliminated and Alessi advanced.
HEAT 3: Shane McElrath vs. Kyle Partridge
The two lined up on either side of the dog house with Partridge screaming aloud to amp himself up, but it was McElrath's inside gate advantage which helped him to grab the holeshot against Partridge's bigger 450. The two rubbed elbows immediately after the gate drop and at one point it looked like the two were going to hit the deck. That wasn't the case, though, as McElrath rocketed out front with Partridge right behind. The TLD rider stretched out a bit of a lead on lap one, but Partridge was able to make an aggressive pass for the lead. Just a few corners after, though, McElrath reeled in the privateer and made a pass for the lead and win.
HEAT 4: Zac Commans vs. Nick Schmidt
Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Zac Commans was another rider to line up on a 250 against a more powerful 450, but he was able to get the inside gate advantage. However, Schmidt had a plan of his own for the start and immediately after the gate dropped, the "Milestone Assassin" put the power to the ground and blocked Commans' line down the start straight. Commans was able to squeak by, though, and led for the next two corners. Schmidt was able to get right up next to the Pro Circuit rider in the whoops and an incredible battle began to ensue. The two nearly collided mid-air over a triple and put multiple block passes on each other easily making this the most intense battle in recent years. When the checkered flag came out, though, it was Commans with the race win and advancement into the semis.
SEMI 1: Mike Alessi vs. Vince Friese
As the teammates lined up to the gate, it was clear that this race had the potential for some slams. Alessi rocketed to the first turn with Friese hot on his tail, but things began to tighten up, as Alessi made a slight bobble halfway through the first lap allowing for his teammate to close in. The two riders entered the corner just before the finish line with Friese having the inside advantage on Alessi. Friese came in with a ton of speed and both riders went down! Both remounted after a few frantic moments and it was Alessi who crossed the finish line first. Alessi was clearly unhappy, as he shook his head numerous times and threw his hands in the air over the finish line.
SEMI 2: Shane McElrath vs. Zac Commans
Both 250 riders rocketed to the first turn with Commans leading the way. That only lasted about half of the first lap, though, as the KTM rider was able make the pass on Commans for the lead and ultimately the win. Commons wasn't able to catch McElrath, but he sure kept him honest for the remainder of the two lap semi.
FINAL: Mike Alessi vs. Shane McElrath vs. Vince Friese (Wild Card)
The final looked to already be exciting with Alessi and McElrath lining up, but once the news that Friese was named the wild card, nobody could wait to hear those bikes flying down the start straight. With Friese lined up all to himself on the outside of the dog-house and the two best qualifiers on the inside, it looked to be nothing short of a nail-biting race. It was Alessi to turn one first with McElrath hot on his tail and Friese in a close third. The three riders got through the first section clean, but McElrath made a mistake, which allowed for Friese to move into second. It looked like Alessi had the race win, but early in the second lap, the number 800 made a huge mistake, which put him on the ground, stuck under his bike allowing for Friese to move into the lead. The number 45 was able to hold off McElrath for the remaining laps ultimately taking the checkered flag and the 2015 TWMX SLAM Fest title.
- Vince Friese (Hon)
- Shane McElrath (KTM)
- Mike Alessi (Hon)