Another piece of history was made at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. as Chad Wienen clinched his first-ever AMA Pro ATV championship, also giving Factory Yamaha its first-ever title in the Pro ATVMX division. Saturday’s finale of the 2012 AMA ATV Motocross National Championship Series boasted some of the most exciting race-battles of the year, but it was the 2012 champion Wienen that grabbed the spotlight.
Wienen opened the 2012 season with a big win for his all-new Wienen Motorsports/SSi Decals/Walsh Race Craft/Yamaha team, ultimately winning six of ten rounds in the series. Perhaps the biggest feat of all for the 27-year-old was bouncing back from a serious back injury that kept him out of the final four races of 2011.
“This last year to date I was out with a serious injury and I made up my mind that I was going to come back and give everything to win a championship in 2012,” Wienen said. “It’s been a long time coming. Everybody has to pay their dues-some more than others-and I’m just fortunate to have this opportunity to come back and do this.”
Joel Hetrick began the Loretta Lynn’s finale with the ATVRiders.com Fastest Qualifier Award, topping Wienen’s fastest time by less than one second. When the gate dropped for Moto 1, the SSiDecals Holeshot Award went to none other than Baldwin Motorsports/PEP/Maxxis’ Josh Upperman. Upperman took the early lead but Motoworks/Can-Am’s Joel Hetrick immediately latched onto Upperman with his sights set solely on the Moto 1 victory. Hetrick eventually made his way past Upperman for the lead and by the halfway mark, the young gun had pulled nearly ten seconds on the rest of the field.
“The track was my kind of condition today and I really think getting the fastest qualifier award helped me out in Moto 1 for sure,” Hetrick said.
But the excitement came inside the battle for second through sixth place in Moto 1. Wienen kept a reserved pace in the beginning of the race, eventually applying pressure on Upperman for second. It wasn’t long before TBROWN Yamaha/Moto-X-Perts’ Thomas Brown put himself into the mix, making it a three-way-battle for second and third place. Defending champ John Natalie got a mid-pack start and finally joined the front-runners, applying pressure on Brown for fourth. Former ATVMX champ and Can-Am/BCS rider Josh Creamer also put himself into the mix early on but eventually dropped outside the top five.
Natalie put his Motoworks/Can-Am machine around Brown for fourth place just before the 2-lap card came out and the two continued to dice back and forth until the checkers. Hetrick bested the field in Moto 1, as Upperman, Wienen, Natalie and Brown rounded out the top five.
In Moto 2, it was Creamer who grabbed the SSiDecals Holeshot Award with former ATVMX champ Joe Byrd, Natalie and Brown close in tow. Natalie and Creamer battled back and forth before the 2011 champ took over the lead early on. Natalie began to pull a gap on the second place of Creamer as the race wore on.
Meanwhile, things heated up for the third place spot as Brown, Byrd, Hetrick, Wienen and even rookie Jeffrey Rastrelli engaged in battle for a majority of Moto 2. Brown eventually pulled away from the pack, where Hetrick and Wienen were banging bars while attempting to get around Byrd, who eventually pulled off the track just after Hetrick and Wienen passed him for a top five spot. Soon after, Wienen was past Hetrick and applying pressure on Brown for third and the Yamaha duo pushed until the checkers-Brown coming out on top for third. His 5-3 moto scores weren’t enough to secure a top five overall, however.
Natalie went on to win Moto 2 and the overall for the day with 4-1 scores, but it wasn’t enough to keep Wienen from taking the 2012 championship title. With 3-4 finishes, Wienen took a consistent approach to finish third overall.
“Obviously another championship would have been nice, but I’m really happy with today’s win,” Natalie said. “I’m just lucky to be able to leave here healthy and enjoy time with my wife and daughter.”
Hetrick went 1-5 for second overall, while Creamer and Upperman swapped 2-6 finishes to round out the top five.
AMA Pro class rookie Jeffrey Rastrelli (SUZ) finished a season-best seventh overall in the season finale, while Ohio’s Adam Clark (HON) came in eighth. Florida’s Mark Madl (HON) took home ninth overall, just ahead of Iowa’s Jesse Barnes (YAM) rounding out the top ten.
In addition to their first-ever AMA Pro ATV Motocross National Championship, Yamaha sealed the 2012 Manufacturers Cup, edging out Can-Am in the final round.
The 2012 AMA ATV Motocross Championship continues Sunday, August 12 with the final day of Pro Am and Amateur racing at the Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tenn. For more information, please visit www.atvmotocross.com.
AMA Pro ATV Results
1. John Natalie, Can-Am, (4-1)
2. Joel Hetrick, Can-Am, (1-5)
3. Chad Wienen, Yamaha, (3-4)
4. Josh Creamer, Can-Am, (6-2)
5. Josh Upperman, Honda, (2-6)
6. Thomas Brown, Yamaha, (5-3)
7. Jeffrey Rastrelli, Suzuki, (10-7)
8. Adam Clark, Honda, (9-8)
9. Mark Madl, Honda, (7-12)
10. Jesse Barnes, Yamaha, (12-9)
AMA ATV Motocross Championship Pro Point Standings
1. Chad Wienen, Yamaha – 459
2. John Natalie, Can-Am- 428
3. Joel Hetrick, Can-Am – 382
4. Josh Upperman, Honda – 363
5. Thomas Brown, Yamaha – 350
6. Derek Swartfager, Honda – 245
7. Adam Clark, Honda – 238
8. Mark Madl, Honda – 228
9. Jeff Rastrelli, Suzuki – 221
10. Jesse Barnes, Yamaha – 198
Manufacturers Cup Standings
1. Team Yamaha – 471
2. Team Can-Am – 463
3. Team Honda – 406
4. Team Suzuki – 360