Here’s a look back at the 1995 Millville National when Mike Kiedrowski and Robbie Reynard kept Kawasaki’s back-to-back weekend win streak alive against the Hondas of Jeremy McGrath and Steve Lamson. However, more that just looking back at the battles for the lead, the 1995 race stands out with the story of home-state hero Donny Schmit’s coming out of retirement for that race and finishing fourth overall. Roughly six months later the two-time World Motocross Champion passed away at the young age of 29 from complications resulting from aplastic anemia.
By Kit Palmer
MILLVILLE, MN, JULY 30 – The tide has changed. Not long ago it seemed as though Team Honda riders were winning everything in sight, but last week at the Unadilla National in New York, Kawasaki riders Mike LaRocco and Ryan Hughes put an abrupt end to the Jeremy McGrath and Steve Lamson show. This week Kawasaki’s riders again came away with overall wins at Spring Creek National MX. But this time, it wasn’t LaRocco or Hughes who did the deed. Instead, it was former champ Mike Kiedrowski and Robbie Reynard giving Kawasaki its second clean sweep in as many weeks, and doing so in front of a large crowd estimated to be over 12,000.
The wins were also the second of the season for both riders: Kiedrowski’s last victory came in April at the Hangtown National in California, and Reynard’s came way back in March at the Gatorback National in Florida.
Like LaRocco’s success last week at Unadilla, Kiedrowski gathered up the overall win in the 250cc class without winning a moto, but instead using consistent 2-3 moto finishes to take home the gold on an extremely hot and humid day in Minnesota. Kiedrowski, on his Brian Lunniss-tuned KX25O, led the first three-quarters of the opening race until getting passed by arch rival and teammate LaRocco, who put in an outstanding come-from-behind ride to win the race. But in the second moto, LaRocco never even made it past the first turn. As the pack funneled through the wide-open sweeper, LaRocco was pushed out wide and his foot caught one of the sunken automobile tires that line the course. The resulting crash left the already battered LaRocco limping back to the pits with a sore knee.
Yamaha riders Jeff Emig and John Dowd found themselves leading the way, and the two riders duked it out until Dowd, who won his first-ever National here last year at Spring Creek, broke loose to score the win. However, Dowd and Emig crashed into each other early in the first moto, ending any hopes Team Yamaha had of taking the overall Instead, it was Kiedrowski, one of only a few riders to turn in two solid performances on the day, recorded the win.
McGrath ended up sewing up second overall despite crashing in the second turn and having the wind knocked out of him. After finishing third in the first moto, McGrath charged hard through the field and was rewarded with fifth in the moto and second overall. Dowd salvaged third overall with an 11-1 showing.
Surprising not only the hometown crowd but himself as well, was fourth overall finisher Donny Schmit of Ramsey, Minnesota. The two-time MX World Champion came out of retirement to compete in front of his fans at what he calls his home track. Honda of Troy loaned him a motorcycle and gave him support, and Schmit showed his appreciation by riding two strong motos, finishing fifth in the opener and fourth in the second moto.
Rounding out the overall top five was Team Noleen/Sizzler/Xtreme/ Yamaha’s Larry Ward, who had the overall win in his grasp for about a quarter of a lap late in the second, before getting passed by Kiedrowski, Schmit and McGrath.
Even though the pendulum might be on Kawasaki’s side as of late, Honda is still ruling the series -at least in the 250cc class. Despite failing to win a moto, McGrath now enjoys a cushy 33point lead over Emig, who saw his championship hopes go up in smoke following his first-moto crash with Dowd that effectively left him 21st at the finish line and one spot out of the points. Emig has a comfortable 46-point advantage on third-place Kiedrowski.
In the 125cc National, Reynard simply out-rode everyone. Period. Reynard: who’s had an up-and-down season to this point -mainly due to injuries -was unbeatable on the fast and rough Spring Creek track. The teenager scored a wire-to-wire victory over last week’s winner Hughes and Honda’s Steve Lamson, and pretty much did the same in the second moto, where he left no doubt in anyone’s mind that his spectacular first moto performance was no fluke and that he was indeed the fastest 125cc rider on the day. Lamson gated just behind Reynard in the second moto but just could not hang with the Kawasaki rider. By the halfway point, Reynard was consistently pulling two seconds a lap on Lamson. Third in the moto went to the lone factory Suzuki rider at Spring Creek -former series leader Damon Huffman, who finished fifth in the first moto. Reynard’s perfect 1-1 score gave him the overall followed by Lamson’s 3-2 and Hughes’ 2-5. Huffman and Honda of Troy’s Mike Brown rounded out the top five.
Going into the Spring Creek National, Hughes held a slim two-point lead over Lamson, but the two riders left Minnesota locked in a tie for the series lead with 339 points each. Huffman is third with 328 and Brown is fourth with 324.
As the mercury flirted with the 100-degree mark, the huge crowd cheered as local hero
Schmit outdragged the pack to and through the long, right-hand, sweeping first turn. Down the following straightaway, Schmit led Ward, KTM’s Kevin Crine, Dowd, McGrath and Emig, but it was Emig who was beginning to make the big move. Through the next left turn before a tabletop jump, Emig dove underneath McGrath and was about to overtake Dowd when the two Yamaha riders collided in mid-air over the jump. Both riders went down in a heap.
“I cross-rutted going over the jump and got out of shape,” said Dowd. “I came over on Jeff and we hit.”
“He basically landed on top of me,” said a dejected Emig. “I knew I was going down and I tried jumping off my bike in midair. There wasn’t much I could do, and I went down pretty hard.”
Both riders were slow to their feet. Emig’s bike was nearly completely destroyed in the crash -the front fender, number-plate, front brake cable and a fork guard were all hanging off the bike. Emig would, on the next lap, stop for repairs before getting back into the race. “I had no front brake and the front end was bent,” said Emig.
Meanwhile, up front, Schmit’s moment of glory was short-lived. By the second lap, he had dropped to third behind Kiedrowski and McGrath, and in his wake chased Ward, Crine, HoT’s Todd DeHoop, LaRocco and Kawasaki rider Roy Schellenberger.
A lap later, Ward moved into third. A lap after that, LaRocco dropped Schmit one more place to fifth.
Kiedrowski and McGrath had moved out slightly ahead of Ward while engaged in a serious dice for the lead. As the sun beat down, McGrath chased Kiedrowski, matching his every move, lap after lap. At times, McGrath looked to have a pass made only to have Kiedrowski slam the door shut on him in the next turn. “I had him a couple of times,” said McGrath, “but he would always have the line.”
The duel went on and on, while LaRocco silently slipped into third ahead of Ward. By the halfway point, Kiedrowski had finally freed himself of McGrath’s grip and pulled out to a three-second lead over the series points leader. At this point, McGrath’s attention had changed to another rider, and he was no longer concerned about Kiedrowski. Instead, he was more worried about LaRocco, who was now breathing down his back. Not long after taking the halfway flags, LaRocco motored by the three-time Supercross Champion who made no attempt to answer back. “I knew that Jeff (Emig) was way back and that was my main concern,” said McGrath. “I guess I just didn’t have the drive because I didn’t need to.”
Once into second, LaRocco set out after Kiedrowski. He eventually reeled him in, passed him (three laps from the finish), pulled away and took the checkered flag with seven seconds to spare. McGrath finished a distant third ahead of Ward, Schmit, Kawasaki rider Phil Lawrence, DeHoop, Crine, Suzuki rider Cliff Palmer, and Schellenberger, all of whom crossed the finish line well spread out.
Roles were reversed in the second moto with McGrath crashing on the first lap and Emig jumping out to an early advantage.
“Through the first turn, my front end pushed out,” said McGrath. “It was muddy and slippery, and someone railed me hard and hit me in my side -I couldn’t breathe.”
McGrath re-entered the race in last place as he clutched his side with his hand. “I just knew I had to keep going because of the points,” said McGrath, who got back on the gas and quickly worked his way up through the field, where he would eventually finish fifth. “I was hanging it out – (the bike) was so side-to-side, you don’t even know,” McGrath said.
LaRocco didn’t fare as well as McGrath, who LaRocco said was the rider who pushed him out wide and into the tires. The defending champ surrendered to the pits with what his father/tuner Mike LaRocco Sr. said was a hyperextension of the knee.
Meanwhile up front, Emig set the pace for about half of the race until Dowd decided to pick up the pace even more.
He eventually passed his teammate and quickly pulled away from him, stretching out his lead to more than 11 seconds before it was all over.
All alone in third ran Kiedrowski, while Ward held down fourth for much of the race. At one point, though, Ward actually caught up to and passed Kiedrowski for third when the Kawasaki rider fell in a corner and – at that point – was in a position to score the overall win – had he stayed there. But, less than a lap later, Ward bobbled in a tough whoop section, and Kiedrowski passed him right back and quickly got away from him. Shortly thereafter, Schmit moved in and passed the Yamaha rider for fourth, as did McGrath late in the race for fifth. But before passing Ward, McGrath crashed again. “I fell over,”said McGrath, “and I had to catch him again. I was getting pretty tired – my heart felt like it was coming out of my chest it was pounding so hard.”
At the checkers, the riders were again well spread out with Dowd leading the way ver Emig, Kiedriwski, Schmit, McGrath, Kyle Lewis , Tony Amaradio, Lawrence and Palmer.
“The key is getting the starts,” said overall winner Kiedrowski. “Just look at what happened to Jeremy today. He’s been getting the starts all year and I haven’t. I have to change all that.”
Robbie Reynard was in a league of his own in both 125cc motos. In the first moto, he shot out of the gate and had the lead all to himself coming out of the first turn, and he had already developed a modest lead over Kawasaki rider Michael Brandes entering the second lap. Brandes ran with the leaders for much of the race before crashing and dropping to the middle of the pack. Moving into second by the third lap was Mike Brown, and he held on to that spot for three laps before Lamson got the best of him through the whoop section. By this time, Reynard had already built up an-eight-second cushion and Lamson had no chance of catching the high-flying Kawasaki rider. Instead, he had a fast-closing Hughes tot worry about. But there was nothing Lamson could do about it.
Hughes’ come-through-the-pack momentum had carried him right up to the Honda rider’s heels, and it was apparent that Lamson would be his next victim. Sure enough, through the whoops, Hughes blasted by the Honda rider and roosted away from him.
Once into second, Hughes found a 15-second gap between himself and Reynard, and with just three laps remaining, Hughes realized he had to be content with second place and backed off his charge.
Lamson took the checkered flag all by himself in third, while Brown took a lonely fourth not too far ahead of Huffman, who started the moto about 10th and took the checkered flag over a minute behind the winner, Reynard.
Honda of Troy’s Mike Craig, who nearly passed out after the finish in sixth, comfortably ahead of Team SplitFire’s David Pingree. Suzuki rider Scott Sheak took the checkers next, followed by Honda rider Buddy Antunez, who came out on top of a late-race duel with fellow Honda rider Chad Pederson. Antunez started the moto about 20th.
For Reynard, the second moto was a near mirror image of the first. The only difference was that Craig beat him to the first turn, and that was the only time anyone would lead Reynard all day. By the time they reached the second turn, Reynard had already taken over the top spot, while Lamson blew into second. Once again, Hughes got off to a mid-pack start.
Reynard and Lamson quickly detached themselves from the rest of the field as they diced for the lead. For a while, Reynard had his hands full with the steady Lamson on his tail, but the Kawasaki rider kept his cool, and just like he had done in the first moto, eventually began pulling away from Lamson. By the half-way point, Reynard had stretched out his lead to six seconds, then eight seconds, then 10, then 12, 14, 17, 18, and finally 22 seconds at the checkered flag.
“I tried to be smooth, pull away and not make any mistakes,” said a finally healthy Reynard who seemed barely affected by the hot and humid conditions. “I’ve been training in conditions like this at home – even worse. I must admit that I did get tired those last few laps. I was ready to fall over. But the main things is that I’m getting to ride more these days. With the injuries, it seems I was riding only on the weekends and was getting a little rusty.”
Lamson who settled for second, said, “Robbie rode real good today. Real good.”
Huffman took the checkered flag in a distant third after starting the moto in fifth, while Brown matched his first-moto performance with another fourth. After his second bad start, Hughes clawed and scratched his way into fifth and was beginning to close ground on Brown before losing the front end and smacking the ground. This ended all hopes he had of catching Brown. Hughes still had plenty of time to get up, dust himself off and get back going before Craig came around in sixth.
Honda rider Brian Deegan had one of his best rides of the year by finishing a respectable seventh just ahead of Antunez, Yamaha rider Cory Keeney and Pederson.
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