While not back to 100 percent physically, Chaparral Motorsports/Precision Concepts Kawasaki’s Zach Bell managed to win the Prairie Dogs Motorcycle Club’s Prairie Dogs Grand Prix at Glen Helen Raceway Park, round three of the FMF AMA National Grand Prix Championship (NGPC) Series.
Photos by Mark Kariya
That put a stop to the win streak defending series champ Dante Oliveira had amassed, though the FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team rider maintains the championship lead with 85 points thanks to his 1-1-2 scores through the first three rounds. Bell sits second at 73, unofficially, after his 4-2-1 finishes.
Third on the day went to Team Green/Fasthouse rider Trevor Stewart.
However, things could have been very different had Bell not caught a lucky break and a helping hand from Pro Women’s winner Brandy Richards.
With just a couple laps to go in the 90-minute, $8000 feature race, Bell enjoyed a fairly comfortable lead over Oliveira. However, a lapped rider got out of shape in a narrow section and inadvertently sent Bell to the deck where he ended up pinned beneath his Team Green/Hoosier Tires/Moose Racing-backed KX450. To make matters worse, hot oil leaking out of the engine made things very uncomfortable for the 2017 series champ.
It was easy for him to imagine having the win slip from his grasp.
But who should show up but Brandy Richards? Seeing Bell’s predicament, Richards, who had an even bigger lead on her competition, quickly stopped her Elite Off-road/FMF/Fly Racing KTM 250 XC-F and freed him.
“Huge thank-you to her. I probably wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for her, so thank you,” he said. “It hurt—I was burning.”
Richards explained further: “He lapped me and then a little bit later on we were going through a rock sand wash. I came up on him and he was completely pinned under his bike. I didn’t even think twice about it; I stopped and picked it up off him. He said he was getting burned by the oil. I’m glad I stopped for him and picked him up and helped him out.
“I was shocked. When I came up and saw Bell, I was like, ‘No way!’
Prior to that, Bell had the race under control after some early arm-pump issues subsided. “Once I finally loosened up and got to know the track, I really put in the fast laps [until running into the lapper just before the white flag came out].
“It is what it is; I still won so it makes it that much better,” Bell said. “I was still able to win with a fall and I’m getting stronger each weekend so that’s huge.”
Though Oliveira hoped to make it three in a row aboard his Red Bull/Motorex/Thor 450 XC-F, he was unable to match Bell’s pace throughout, though he said he was fairly pleased with his riding. “I felt on point the whole race, never bobbled or anything,” he said, adding that he may have lost the race in the first turn when he got into Talladega too hot and drifted to the outside which let Bell and Stewart sneak past.
He passed Stewart but, “we got to the second half of the track where it’s a lot more high-speed and Zach walked away from me. I’m not too stoked on it, but my riding was good otherwise, so I can’t complain about that. Obviously, I have a couple things to work on.”
Third marked the first podium for 2018 and ‘19 series champ Stewart as he continues to dial in his Pro Circuit/Dunlop/Bell Helmets KX450. After nailing an impressive holeshot in Saturday’s AA/Expert race, he nearly repeated that on Sunday and tucked in behind Bell in the early going before finishing third.
“I feel like this was the start of my year almost,” he said, citing the late switch to the Kawasaki which left him with practically no time to test and arrive at a good setup for him. “Honestly, at the end of last year I didn’t know what my plans were or what I was going to be doing so to say that I’m here on a podium, it makes me happy.”
Slam Life Racing (SLR) Honda’s Cole Martinez rode in fourth place virtually all afternoon and he remains third in points at 59, unofficially. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Austin Walton likewise ran fifth followed by SLR Honda’s Tallon LaFountaine, the Pro II winner for the second round in a row as the defending class champ extends his points lead. Colton Aeck finished second Pro II and seventh overall with his 3 Bros./Kilmartin Racing KTM 250 XC-F. Purvines Racing Yamaha’s Tyler Lynn came in eighth with Pro II riders Mateo Oliveira rebounding from an early crash for ninth overall on his FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM ahead of Purvines Racing Yamaha’s Mason Ottersberg.
The Prairie Dogs GP attracted more than 2200 entries, unofficially making it the biggest event in series history.
- Zach Bell (Kaw)
- Dante Oliveira (KTM)
- Trevor Stewart (Kaw)
- Cole Martinez (Hon)
- Austin Walton (Hus)
- Tallon LaFountaine (Hon) Pro 2
- Colton Aeck (KTM) Pro 2
- Tyler Lynn (Yam)
- Mateo Oliveira (KTM) Pro 2
- Mason Ottersberg (Yam) Pro 2