As the saying goes, there's only one thing certain in racing, and that is it's never over ‘til it's over. Kurt Caselli proved that on January 23 at the opening round of the AMA Racing/Kenda National Hare & Hound Championship Series.
The lone representative for the FMF/KTM Factory Off-Road Racing Team in the series led from the start and enjoyed clear sailing for some 84 miles of the Desert Motorcycle Club's 44th Winter Classic at the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area east of Lucerne Valley, California.
Unfortunately for him, the race was 85 miles long.
With the finish in sight, his Muscle Milk/Motorex/Dunlop-backed 450 SX-F soured and quit. Former teammate David Pearson, who'd been dogging him all day on his new Purvines Racing/Berkeley Honda/O'Neal CRF450X, then found himself with the lead he'd sought and picked up the win.
"I was still trying to charge as hard as I could to the finish because I knew that always anything can happen," Pearson said. "I just saw him and he gave me a thumbs-up; he was just cruising. I guess it blew up right after that."
Monster Energy Kawasaki's Destry Abbott, Kawasaki of Simi Valley's Jacob Argubright and John Burr Kawasaki's Justin Morrow also motored past Caselli, who pushed his dead machine the final mile up a slight upgrade in loose dirt to finish fifth overall.
"We're not really sure what happened," Caselli said. "She just kind of quit on me. The bike was running perfect [until then]. It must've been a fluke or something."
Thousand Oaks Powersports KX450F-mounted Ryan Kudla, Brad Pace, Johnny Campbell Racing Honda's Colton Udall, Purvines Racing's Carl Maassberg and Red Bull/KTM's Ivan Ramirez rounded out the top 10.
As for defending series champ Kendall Norman, his first race with the number one plate ended early after he crashed a few miles after the bomb. While not thought to be seriously injured, the JCR Honda star did take a big hit and elected to call it a day. The Zip-Ty Racing Husqvarna squad all encountered problems that resulted in DNFs as well. David Kamo DNFed due to a stick through the radiator after running as high as fourth while both Nick Burson and Jamie Lanza had unspecified mechanicals.
Though some considered the course to be too difficult (riders were reportedly stuck out on the course until just after the sun went down), many of the top riders praised it. Caselli, who won this race last year as a tune-up for the WORCS opener the following week, lauded it and the club, saying, "The race was so fun! They did a really good job on the course so I was really impressed. I actually had a whole lot of fun."