Double Dose of Oliveira Hits Mesquite NGPC Opener
The Oliveira brothers could be their own powerhouse team based on the opening round of the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series with Dante beginning the defense of his Pro-class title with a win and Mateo topping Pro II where he was class runner-up last year.
Originally scheduled for a new venue in Delano, California, concerns about hospital capacity in that area dictated postponing the race just one week before and it appeared as though everyone would have to wait until next month for the season to start.
Upon learning that, however, Grassroots Promotions offered its Mesquite MX Park (technically in Little Field, Arizona) and the NGPC team readily accepted. For those who couldn’t or didn’t want to make the drive, the race would pay only NGPC points and not count for AMA District 37 Big 6 GP points.
Having been promoted to the FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team in the off-season, Dante Oliveira faced a stacked field once again but made things easier on himself by nailing the holeshot over 2017 series champ Zach Bell and they quickly established a small gap on the pack.
“I was able to get a few seconds break and kind of just relax and just rode my own race, found my lines, stayed smooth and just kept my head up and kept trying to pick away laps,” the Motorex/Dunlop/Thor 450 XC-F rider said.
For Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts Kawasaki’s Bell, however, the first few laps were the only bright spot of his day. Still recovering from shoulder surgery in the brief off-season, he fell about 20 minutes into the 90-minute, $8000 feature race. While he managed to get back to fourth in short order aboard his Maxima/Pro Circuit/Moose Racing-backed KX450, he later collided with a lapped rider, forcing him to settle for fifth.
Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Cole Martinez picked up where he left off last year, getting a good start aboard his new Monster Energy/Lava Propane/Fly Racing CRF450RX and ending up second, 41 seconds behind Oliveira.
“I caught [up to] Dante a little bit at the end there, [but] the track just got so gnarly that I was like, ‘You know, second’s as good as a first at the first round,’ and I kind of just settled in,” Martinez said.
After dabbling in the series a few times over the past couple years, Justin Hoeft notched his first podium finish with a strong third overall aboard his Jet World Powersports/JGL/Fasthouse Husqvarna FC 450.
The Pro II contest saw one of the largest fields in recent memory with Team Green/Monster Energy/Fly Racing KX250-mounted Chance Hymas leading the first 30-plus minutes.
Unfortunately for him, he eventually ran across some barbed wire that stopped his bike—but only after it had whipped his back leaving him with several sizable lacerations.
FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM’s Mateo Oliveira took over at that point and led the rest of the way aboard his AEO Powersports/DA8 Training/Klim 250 XC-F. Coming from the second row, he broke into the top five overall about 40 minutes in and reached fourth overall by the time he got the white flag. He finished six seconds behind Hoeft with Bell fifth.
Defending class champ Tallon LaFountaine of the SLR Honda squad had a respectable day with his runner-up finish, good for sixth overall on his Skechers/VP Racing Fuels/Alpinestars CRF250RX.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Austin Walton continued his comeback from last year’s injury to a promising fifth Pro and seventh overall followed by Purvines Racing’s Tyler Lynn and 3 Bros./Hatch Racing Husqvarna’s Dalton Shirey.
Two-time series champ Trevor Stewart rounded out the top 10 after a big get-off on his Team Green/Pro Circuit/Fasthouse KX450X in the fastest part of the deep sand. “It rang my bell a little bit,” he admitted. Having run third in the early laps, he took it positively when compared to his 2020 campaign when he got 16th at the opener yet rebounded to end up second in points.
For more information, visit www.ngpcseries.com