Zach Bell Blazes to 29 Palms NGPC Win

Jean Turner | April 10, 2019

Round four of the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series headed to Twentynine Palms for the 43rd Annual Hilltoppers Grand Prix, where riders geared up (quite literally) for the fast, sweeping desert venue. The Precision Concepts Racing Kawasakis seemed to find the muscle and the speed to dominate the 29 Palms NGPC, with Zach Bell and Blayne Thompson going 1-2 overall and 250cc racer Clay Hengeveld taking the Pro II win.

Zach Bell Precision Concepts Kawasaki
Precision Concepts Kawasaki racer Zach Bell stayed low and fast on his way to a dominant win at the 29 Palms NGPC. Photography by Jean Turner

The Precision Concepts Kawasaki duo headed the entire race, with Thompson grabbing the holeshot, followed closely by his teammate, Bell. But it wasn’t long before Bell took over the lead and checked out for the next hour and a half until the checkered flag. “We were all hauling butt all day long. It was a little scary going that fast, but we got the job done,” said Bell. “The track was super smooth. I really wasn’t expecting for the whole track to be grated. At first I was going to the outsides thinking that would be the faster line and I found myself later in the end, kinda cutting straight across the track and inside lines. It’s actually a lot easier on my body and on the bike.

Blayne Thompson Precision Concepts Kawasaki

Blayne Thompson finished behind his teammate for a strong 1-2 finish for Precision Concepts Kawasaki. “It was a good weekend for all of us on the team. I can’t thank these guys enough.”

For Thompson, it wasn’t quite as smooth-sailing, especially with a late-race crash, but he still managed to hold off Dalton Shirey for second.

Dalton Shirey 3Bros SRT Husqvarna
Just after finishing on the podium in the National Hare and Hound in Idaho, Dalton Shirey traveled all night to race the 29 Palms NGPC in Southern California, where he got on the podium again, taking third.

“We got off to the holeshot. That was my first one all year,” Thompson said. “We were coming out swingin’ on that one and my teammate Zach ended up getting around me, but nothing we could do about it. I made sure we stayed in that second spot and came around the last lap with Dalton right behind me because I crashed second-to-last lap but had to put the hammer down in the last lap.”

Trevor Stewart JCR Honda
JCR Honda’s Trevor Stewart holds on to the points lead and the red plate despite a fourth-place finish.

Dalton Shirey piloted his 3 Bros./SRT Husqvarna to third overall for his first podium of the season after pushing his way through from a mid-pack start. Shirey got around defending champion Trevor Stewart on the last lap to steal the final 29 Palms NGPC podium spot, his feat all the more impressive considering he’d finished on the podium the day before at the National Hare & Hound in Idaho. But JCR Honda rider Stewart still managed to take a step forward in the points by finishing in front of his nearest championship rival, Justin Seeds, who rounded out the top five aboard his Purvines Racing Yamaha.

Precision Concepts Kawasaki Clay Hengeveld
Clay Hengeveld topped the Pro II field.

Clay Hengeveld thoroughly wrung out his KX250F to claim the Pro II victory, running down 3 Bros./SRT Husqvarna’s Ciaran Naran for the class win. Naran held on for second ahead of Tyler Lynn (Purvines Racing Yamaha), but Naran will hold on to his red plate in the 250cc Pro class as he still heads the championship.

Ciaran Naran 3Bros SRT Husqvarna
Ciaran Naran finished second in Pro II, but still holds on to the championship lead and the red plate.

In the Women Pro division, Tarah Gieger had her hands full dealing with a hard-charging Lauren Woods, who made a late-race charge to nearly take the 29 Palms NGPC win. Despite a crash in which she was momentarily stuck under her JCR Honda, Gieger got up to finish only seconds ahead of Woods, and extend her lead in the Women Pro championship.

JCR Honda Tarah Gieger
JCR Honda’s Tarah Gieger (pictured) managed to hold off Lauren Woods for the Women Pro win.

“I’m glad it’s over. I’m glad I survived!” Gieger said with a laugh. “This place is super fast and riding a 250F, you kind of give up a lot out there. Pretty much the whole track you’re fighting an uphill battle against those bigger bikes. But overall the bike worked really well. The team pitted really good and I’m happy with the result.”

29 Palms NGPC Overall:

  1. Zach Bell (Kaw)
  2. Blayne Thompson (Kaw)
  3. Dalton Shirey (Hus)
  4. Trevor Stewart (Hon)
  5. Justin Seeds (Yam)
  6. Derek Kelley (Hon)
  7. Ryan Surratt (Kaw)
  8. Clay Hengeveld (Kaw) Pro II
  9. Ryan Reina (Kaw)
  10. Mason Ottersberg (Bet)

Full Results:

Jean Turner | Contributor A former staffer at Cycle News, Turner continues to contribute to the website and magazine as a columnist and someone we can count on to whip up a few thousand words on an off-road race when needed.