Zach Is Back! Bell Wins Glen Helen NGPC
Photos by Mark Kariya
Putting injury and bike issues behind him, Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts Kawasaki’s Zach Bell put in a classic Bell performance at the Prospectors Motorcycle Club Grand Prix, round seven of the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series.
Leading basically from start to finish in the weekend’s 90-minute feature race, the 2017 series champ was untouchable and put an end to Dante Oliveira’s win streak at three straight, the FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM rider forced to settle for second, 40 seconds behind Bell who notched his third series victory of the season. Two-time and defending series champ Trevor Stewart claimed his fifth-straight podium performance with his third place.
While Bell is out of the championship due to his injury-induced absence, the points chase saw a change at the top. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Austin Walton was unable to advance beyond fourth place and thus ceded the top spot in points to Oliveira, 154-152, with Stewart a solid third at 140, all unofficially.
“It’s only been a little over a month since the surgery [on my broken collarbone] so I’m way ahead of schedule, but I really worked hard for this. I’m glad to be back,” Bell said. “I’ve been really patient, just trying to take my time coming back. I put everything together [today]—just got the holeshot and rode like I normally [do].
“Dante and all these guys have been going super-fast because they’ve been racing ever since the seasons started back up. Not being in that race pace every weekend and taking the time off with the broken collarbone, it was hard to get back up to pace.”
But Bell obviously had the pace and more on this day as he appeared to effortlessly keep Oliveira and his AEO Powersports/Motorex/Klim 450 XC-F at bay.
“It wasn’t my best race today, but there were no falls or anything like that so nothing to complain about,” Oliveira said. “There were a bunch of passing opportunities [that the course presented], but I don’t know—Zach just took off and I couldn’t chase him down. I wasn’t able to push harder so I sort of just settled for second once we got halfway through. We’re going to try to figure out a few things and come back swinging for the next couple rounds.”
Having assumed the points lead will temper his approach, though: “Definitely you’ve got to think of the championship. We’ve got the points lead now so we’re definitely going to be smooth for the next one, but I like winning and you can’t let Zach take off on us so I’m going to do everything I can to keep him in my sight.”
For Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Trevor Stewart on his CRF450RX, third place extended his podium streak to five in a row, but he was somewhat frustrated at not being closer to Bell—and being without an event win so far this season didn’t sit well with the two-time and current series champ either as he came in 10 seconds behind Oliveira.
“It’s not where we want to be—you always want to win—but at the same time, a race like this is very crucial for points,” he said. “Finishing in front of Walton today was just as crucial, but I wanted to get Dante [and those extra couple points].
“I got off to a pretty good start. I just lacked that real fast speed at the beginning—just didn’t feel very comfortable.”
After being the points leader for a few rounds, Walton saw that slip from his grasp, the Rockstar Energy Husqvarna rider 53 seconds behind Stewart for fourth. SLR Honda’s Cole Martinez claimed fifth followed by 3 Bros./SRT Husqvarna’s new AMA Hare & Hound champ Dalton Shirey, Purvines Racing Yamaha-mounted Justin Seeds, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Giacomo Redondi, Garrett Off-road Racing Husqvarna’s Ryan Surratt and The Racer’s Edge Husqvarna rider Colton Aeck, the Pro II winner. (In fact, Pro II riders took 10th through 16th overall with the top three—Aeck, Purvines Racing’s Tyler Lynn and FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM’s Mateo Olivera separated by seven seconds total.)
For motocrosser Aeck, his first big off-road race triumph signaled a positive trend as he learns the intricacies of this form of racing. Third in his NGPC debut at the previous round, his hands this time made it through unscathed for the most part and he commented, “About halfway at all the [off-road] races, my hands really started to get torn up, but I think we’re over the hump with that. To be honest with you, I thought I could be a contender for winning; it’s just a matter of putting it all together, and there’s definitely a learning curve to the off-road thing.”
Apparently, Aeck’s learned quickly.
The penultimate NGPC round will return to Twentynine Palms and take place on Thanksgiving weekend.
- Zach Bell (Kaw)
- Dante Oliveira (KTM)
- Trevor Stewart (Hon)
- Austin Walton (Hus)
- Cole Martinez (Hon)
- Dalton Shirey (Hus)
- Justin Seeds (Yam)
- Giacomo Redondi (Hus)
- Ryan Surratt (Hus)
- Colton Aeck (Hus)