2020 29 Palms NGPC Results: Two weeks after visiting a brand-new venue, the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series returned to one of the classic venues on the tour, but the top three ended being exactly the same.
After going 1-2-3 in Idaho, the series had to switch sites due to COVID mandates. Instead of the usual race in Ridgecrest, round five ended up at the 29 Palms Motorsport Complex traditionally used by the Hilltoppers Motorcycle Club. But with the relatively late change, a number of clubs pitched in to make sure this round ran smoothly.
It couldn’t have gone much smoother for FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM’s Dante Oliveira who made it two in a row by eking out a narrow victory over Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Trevor Stewart—the two-time and defending series champ—and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Austin Walton—the current points leader—at round five of the series.
In doing so, Oliveira put himself into serious reckoning for the championship. The 30 points he earned vaulted him to second in points at 99, while Walton continues to lead with 109. Meanwhile, Stewart and SLR Honda teammate Cole Martinez are tied for third at 98 points, unofficially—good for Stewart but bad for Martinez who was second in points coming into the weekend, only to run out of fuel before pitting.
“I struggle sometimes on the start, just not mentally there ready to go,” Oliveira admitted.
But he didn’t have that problem at 29 Palms and nailed the start aboard his AEO Powersports/Motion Pro/Klim-sponsored 450 XC-F. He stayed out front for the majority of the 90-minute feature race, surrendering the lead briefly when he pitted for fuel just under an hour in.
Twentynine Palms is known as one of the fastest courses and doesn’t offer much in the way of technical challenges. This led to possibly the tightest racing in recent memory with first through fifth separated by 22 seconds at first, that margin shrinking to 13 seconds as they started thinking about pit stops.
Martinez was a close second to Oliveira and even led just before the one-hour mark followed by Stewart, 3 Bros./SRT Husqvarna’s Dalton Shirey and Walton.
Unfortunately for Martinez, he didn’t get quite the mileage out of a tank as teammate Stewart and his Monster Energy/Skechers/Fly Racing CRF450RX stopped not long after taking the lead.
“It was a gritty race for all parties included—it really was,” Stewart said.
Walton added, “We were all pushing hard. There were some aspects out there with the dust and trying to find where the track was [while] going as fast as we could. There were a couple times where I wasn’t able to push as fast as I would like to or knew I could [because of the dust].”
After Martinez dropped from the lead pack, Stewart led briefly though he couldn’t hold off Oliveira.
“At that point, I knew what I had to do and that was settle in. If he was going to make a mistake, then I was going to capitalize,” Stewart said.
The last 30 minutes saw Oliveira stretch his lead over Stewart now second, winning by 17 seconds. Walton held third ahead of Shirey, Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Preston Campbell and Purvines Racing Yamaha rider Justin Seeds, though Seeds would drop Campbell to sixth with two laps to go.
In Pro II, Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts Kawasaki’s JP Alvarez dominated aboard his Pro Circuit/Maxxis/Moose Racing KX250. After starting on the second row, it took him only a lap to jump up to eighth overall.
Behind him, Purvines Racing’s Mason Ottersberg dug himself out of a hole with his mediocre start and had to push the final 30 minutes to claim second in class and ninth overall aboard his FMF/Dunlop/O’Neal Racing YZ250FX. Class points leader Tallon LaFountaine of the SLR Honda squad ended up third in class and ninth overall while Garrett Off-road Racing Husqvarna’s Ryan Surratt rounded out the top 10 overall.
FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship
29 Palms Motorsport Complex
29 Palms, California
RESULTS (October 3-4, 2020)
PRO OVERALL (Top 10)
||(Kaw) Pro II
||(Yam) Pro II
||(Hon) Pro II