Defending AMA Pro ATV champion Chad Wienen wins in Lizella
Riders were met with a challenging sand track at Echeconnee MX, featuring an old school layout that got rough pushed the AMA Pro ATV field to its limit. The afternoon began with Corrosion Specialties/Hetrick Racing Honda’s Joel Hetrick setting the fastest lap in practice to earn the ATVRiders.com Top Qualifier Award.
In the opening moto, Hetrick kept the momentum rolling and took advantage of his first gate pick to grab the SSi Decals Holeshot Award ahead of Baldwin Motorsports Honda’s John Natalie, who won the ATV Supercross race at Daytona to kick off the 2015 season. Wienen slotted himself into third in the early laps, passing Root River Racing’s Josh Upperman. He then set his sights on the front.
Wienen soon closed in on Natalie and a battle for second ensued. As this was taking place, Hetrick continued to build on an already comfortable lead. Natalie and
Wienen’s battle came to an end on Lap 4 when Natalie crashed after the two potentially made contact with one another in what was later considered to be just a byproduct of hard, aggressive racing up front. Hetrick continued to pull away and take the win, with Wienen second. JB Racing Can-Am’s Jeffrey Rastrelli made an impressive run to third after starting fifth. Maxxis Yamaha, powered by Moto-Xperts, rider Thomas Brown was fourth, with Yamaha rider Nicholas Gennusa rounding out the top five.
Moto 2 kicked off with more of the same from Hetrick, who swept the SSi Decals Holeshot Awards for the afternoon. He stayed out front for one lap, but Wienen got a better start and took advantage of it by pressuring Hetrick early and making the pass for the top spot. These two riders put on a captivating battle for four laps, and Hetrick often attempted different lines to get a run and pass Wienen. On Lap 5, Hetrick pushed it too far and pitched his bike over while turning under Wienen and fell to ninth.
After withstanding Hetrick’s pressure, Wienen pulled away to take a comfortable win. Brown fought his way from a fifth-place start to take second, while Rastrelli capped off the best race of his career with another third-place result. Natalie was fourth, with Can-Am rider Ronnie Higgerson fifth.
Wienen’s 2-1 results easily gave him the overall win. Brown (4-2) and Rastrelli (3-3) ended up in a tie for second, but Brown’s runner-up finish in the final moto gave him the tiebreaker to claim second overall. Rastrelli tied a career best third-place finish in third, but his 3-3 moto finishes were his best ever. Hetrick just missed out on a podium spot in fourth (1-7) while Natalie rounded out the top five (7-4).
The first overall win of the season for Wienen also moved him into the top spot in the AMA Pro ATV championship standings. He has a six point lead over Hetrick, who moved into second, and a 10-point lead over Natalie, who now sits third after entering the day as the points leader.