Monster Energy Kawasaki's Justin Soule Takes Second on Kawasaki Dominated EnduroCross Podium2012-05-08 02:06
Kawasaki riders dominated the opening round of the 2012 AMA EnduroCross season at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nev., taking the top two spots. Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Justin Soulé put together a solid ride aboard his KX™250F to claim the runner-up spot behind fellow Kawasaki rider Colton Haaker. Taylor Robert looked more confident than ever as he scouted the fastest lines over some of the most difficult obstacles and finished the night in fifth place. Fan-favorite Destry Abbott put together some of the most exciting racing of the night to get to the main event and wrapped up the evening in 11th place. Although Bobby Garrison wasn’t able to make the main, he learned a lot in the first EnduroCross event he’s raced in years.
Race to Finish, Finish to Win
Already a veteran of the sport, Soulé knows what it takes to earn an EnduroCross championship. You have to be fast, consistent and you must finish every race. He came to the opening round more prepared than ever. In the heat race Soulé got a good start, pulled out front quickly and rode smooth all the way to the checkers. When the gate dropped for the main event, he came around the first turn in second and began pacing fellow Kawasaki rider Haaker. Soulé rode a flawless main while waiting for an opportunity to make a pass, but the opportunity never came. He finished in second place, just behind Haaker, to give Kawasaki the top two spots on the podium.
“I really wanted to win this one, but I had to play it smart,” said Soulé. “You can’t win the championship in the first race, but you can lose it. The night started out great, I felt solid in practice and took the win in my heat race. In the main event I got a good start right behind Colton (Haaker) and we started pulling away from the pack. Colton was riding really solid. I settled in behind him and was staying close so I could strike like a snake as soon as he made a mistake, but it didn’t happen. I kept looking for a place to pass, but didn’t want to force the issue and potentially cause an accident that could cost me the season. I’m happy to finish on the podium, but I really wanted the win. The team has been working so hard and the KX250F is better than ever; we are looking to dominate this season.”
Scouting It Out
Last year, Robert struggled in the first few rounds of his rookie EnduroCross season, but by the final round of the season he finished on the podium and earned the AMA EnduroCross Junior Pro Championship. He came to the Orleans Arena for the 2012 season opener fully prepared and confident he had the skills to put his KX250F back on the box. During practice Robert was looking smoother than ever. He was able to find the fastest lines around the most difficult obstacles, making them look easy. In his heat race he got a good start and battled around the track to secure second and transfer to the main. In the main he didn’t get the start he was looking for and had to work his way through the pack to finish fifth.
“I felt so much more confident coming into this season,” said Robert. “I have been training hard and know exactly where my skills are on the Kawasaki. This year the track in the Orleans Arena was much more tight and technical than last year. The corners were really slippery and the log matrix turned out to be the most challenging obstacle for most of the other riders. During practice I found the fastest way around the matrix was over it, so I just triple-tripled the log sections. Also, I was the only rider jumping over the log into the water hazard. I feel so much better out there this year and it really all boils down to hard work. We built an EnduroCross training course near my house and I’ve been putting in tons of hours out there. Even though I didn’t get on the podium tonight I really feel that my hard work is paying off.”
Never Give Up
Abbott is one of the most recognized names in off-road racing and he always seems to get the loudest cheers at every event he attends. Although he is not in the championship hunt this season, he still gave it everything he had in Las Vegas. After getting forced into the semi with a third-place finish in the heat race, Abbott was determined to make the main. In the semi, he ripped the holeshot on his KX250F and started to pull away from the pack. He had built almost a half lap lead over the field, but crashed in the log matrix allowing another rider by. Undeterred, Abbott picked his bike off the ground and started charging. He caught the leader on the final lap and at the last possible moment Abbott put together an amazing pass in the log matrix to secure the win and transfer to the main. As soon as he crossed the finish the crowd exploded in a roar of thunderous cheering. Although the crash in the semi had injured his shoulder, Abbott fought through the pain to finish 11th in the main event.
“My KX250F is awesome,” said Abbott. “I just picked it up two weeks ago and was really impressed by how much torque is has. Because the track in Vegas was so technical I started in second gear every race then shifted to first around the first corner and stayed there the entire race. In my first heat I was riding too tight and was about to finish in the qualifying spot, but threw it away right before the finish in the log matrix. It was awesome to hear the crowd cheering me on as I was fighting back in the semi. By the time the main event came around I was sitting on the gate really feeling my shoulder. I really gave it my all in the main, but was running out of adrenaline and had a tough time holding on. Even though I am disappointed with my main event result the love I got from the crowd in the semi really made my night. I always try to make it exciting out there for the fans.”
Working Out the Bugs
A regular on the World Off Road Championship Series (WORCS) circuit, Garrison has only competed in a few of EnduroCross events over the years. In the first full EnduroCross season of his career, he hopes to make a name for himself in the series, but knew there would be challenges to overcome. During practice Garrison was feeling confident he had the track figured out. However, when the racing began other racers became more of a hindrance than he had originally anticipated. Although he was unable to transfer to the main event, he learned a lot from the experience and will be working hard to improve before the next round.
“It was pretty technical out there,” said Garrison. “I have done a handful of EnduroCross races in the past, but nothing at this level. I definitely found a few things I need to work on for the next round. Staying out of trouble is key, I didn’t anticipate how much more difficult other racers down on the track would make the racing. I kept running into other racers who were hung up on obstacles and the track was so tight it was hard to get around them. I felt good on 80 percent of the course, but kept making small mistakes that cost me. I learned a lot from this race because now I know exactly what I need to work on so I will be a lot more prepared for next round in Sacramento.”
When racers arrived for track walk on Friday morning they were surprised to see the track design was much more technical than the previous season. The track was tighter with less straightaways and more obstacles. With a water hazard, rock piles, a large hill and several logs placed throughout the course, no one anticipated how difficult the unassuming log matrix right before the finish line would become for most racers.
“The most difficult obstacle was the log matrix,” said Garrison. “The spacing was really tight and if you didn’t just nail it perfect then it was really easy to mess up. It made it even harder after they watered the track, it was so slick your rear tire would just sit there and spin. You had to carry a lot of speed into it or you were getting hung up for sure.”
Every year the EnduroCross event promoters try to add new elements and make the event more exciting for spectators. To kick off the 2012 season in a new fashion, they employed a large 4-wheel drive vehicle to transport the riders into the center of the arena during opening ceremonies.
“Overall we are pretty happy with the results,” said Team Manager Jason Smigel. “It was great to see Kawasaki out there with the win and taking the top two podium spots. It’s nice to see our guys out there in control and applying the skills they have been honing on the test track. We prepared as much as possible coming into this event, but this is EnduroCross, you just pull the pin and wait for something to happen. This is the strongest we have started the series in years so were expecting good things moving forward.”
In five weeks the Monster Energy Kawasaki EnduroCross team heads to Power Balance Pavilion in Sacramento, Calif., for Round 2 of the 2012 AMA EnduroCross series. While Round 1 of the season is officially in the books, you can catch it on television next month. It is scheduled to air on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday, June 23, at 4:30 p.m. EST.
AMA EnduroCross Series – Round 1
Orleans Arena – Las Vegas, Nev.
May 4, 2012
Pro Class Result
1. COLTON HAAKER, KAWASAKI
2. JUSTIN SOULÉ, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
3. Taddy Blasusiak, KTM
4. Cody Webb, Beta
5. TAYLOR ROBERT, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
6. Mike Brown, KTM
7. Cory Graffunder, Husqvarna
8. Kyle Redmond, Husqvarna
9. Kevin Rookstool, Honda
10. Bobby Procjnau, KTM
11. DESTRY ABBOTT, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI
Pro Class Points Standings
1. COLTON HAAKER, KAWASAKI, 30
2. JUSTIN SOULÉ, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 25
3. Taddy Blasusiak, KTM, 21
4. Cody Webb, Beta, 18
5. TAYLOR ROBERT, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 16
6. Mike Brown, KTM, 15
7. Cory Graffunder, Husqvarna, 14
8. Kyle Redmond, Husqvarna, 13
9. Kevin Rookstool, Honda, 12
10. Bobby Procjnau, KTM, 11
11. DESTRY ABBOTT, MONSTER ENERGY KAWASAKI, 10
Click here to visit our forums to discuss this story