Last year, Kurt Caselli appeared to have the win in the bag, but a fluke mechanical problem forced him to push his expired bike about a mile up a grade in sandy soil for a well-deserved fifth-place finish at the opening round of the AMA Racing/Kenda National Hare & Hound Championship Series.

This year, the 2011 series champ enjoyed smooth sailing from start to finish at the Desert Motorcycle Club's 45th Winter Classic at the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area east of Lucerne Valley, California, on January 22. In fact, he insists it didn't even enter his mind. "Last year was kind of a fluke thing," he said. "Even after that race we had it all figured out so it wasn't even an issue [anymore]."

He continued, "I got a good jump and was able to get out front and ride my own race."

Monster Energy Kawasaki's Destry Abbott may not be focusing on a single series this year, but he's far from retired, as he proved by running second. But when his rear brake faded, he couldn't hold off last year's Winter Classic winner David Pearson or David Kamo.

THR Motorsports Kawasaki racer Pearson said, "Getting second overall at the first round behind Caselli [means you're] pretty consistent and you've got to be consistent all year to have a chance at winning the championship."

Kamo made his National hare & hound debut for Johnny Campbell Racing Honda a good one in third, his best finish since 2010. Abbott held on for fourth followed by Purvines Racing Kawasaki's Justin Morrow, Gary Sutherlin, Ricky Russell, 250cc winner Skyler Howes, Max Eddy, Jr., and Axel Pearson.

The race was marred by a fatality suffered by So Cal Motorcycle Club's Lance Black who crashed early on the second loop of the two-loop, 80-mile course. He is survived by his wife and two children. In addition, several others were injured including Jacob Argubright (suspected broken collarbone) and women's champion Shayla Fulfer (released from the hospital after checking for internal injuries).


By Mark Kariya

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