Team Suzuki Off-Road's Rodney Smith picked up where he left off last year by winning the combined opening rounds of the Grand National Cross Country and AMA National Hare Scrambles Series in Gilmer, Texas, yesterday. Smith, aboard the FMF/Suzuki RM250, won a close race that saw the top three riders finish four second of one another. Smith's teammate Mike Kiedrowski took second, while defending champ Barry Hawk finished right behind him in third.
Steve Hatch put his Throttlehead.com/Kawasaki Team Green KX250 into fourth and was in the running for the win until three miles from the end when he ran off the track and had a run-in with a lapped rider.
Rounding out the top five overall was Red Bull KTM's Ryan Hughes who pretty much rode the whole race without a front fender after crashing briefly on the first lap
At least five different riders at one time led the race, but the majority of the swapping took place among Hatch, Kiedrowski and Hatch. After a bad start, Yamaha YZ250-mounted Hawk (1) caught up to the three leaders, setting the stage for a dramatic four-rider, last-lap showdown that Smith won.
Sixth overall went to Yamaha rider Robbie Jenks, followed by Kawasaki Team Green's Chuck Woodford and GNCC legend Scott Summers (pictured, 16, with Chuck Woodford, 12), who rode a Honda CRF450R. Summers ran most of the race without a front brake that was damaged on the first lap, and he nearly got yanked off his bike when a vine wrapped around his neck at speed.
New Team Suzuki member Fred Andrews collided with a lapped rider, who reportedly took a footpeg in the back. Andrews stayed with the injured rider until help arrived. Andrews still finished ninth.
O/A: 1. Rodney Smith (Suz); 2. Mike Kiedrowski (Suz); 3. Barry Hawk Jr. (Yam); 4. Steve Hatch (Kaw); 5. Ryan Hughes (KTM); 6. Robbie Jenks (Yam); 7. Chuck Woodford (Kaw); 8. Scott Summers (Hon); 9. Fred Andrews (Suz); 10. Russell Pearson (Yam); 11. Brian Garrahan (KTM); 12. Doug Blackwell (Suz); 13. Cole Calkins (Kaw); 14. Randy Hawkins (Yam); 15. Doby Leonard (KTM); 16. David Pearson (111); 17. Nathan Kanney (Yam); 18. Jim Senecal (KTM); 19. Andy Shea (Kaw); 20. Josh Weisenfels (Yam).