Carolina Nationals race report
With the insane moto count last year at Rock Hill, it really made you wonder what kind
of turnout this year’s National would bring. I had a feeling it would be a big event when
getting a camping spot was exactly like trying to buy concert tickets online, all the spots sold
out in a matter of minutes.
Having a Worlds Qualifier at Rock Hill always draws a huge crowd, but add a recent track rebuild to that and you know there will be a big turnout. Finally, this year
the lineup changed for the weekend. Friday would be the only day to practice, and the only
racing on Friday would be the Pro Level Moto’s and the Work Qualifier Challenge Classes, and
all of that still had the event running into the night. Saturday’s Moto count of 412 was just shy
of last year’s record breaking 432, and Sunday’s count of over 370 beat last year’s Sunday total
of 363 and had the event ending at right about 7PM which is late for a Sunday race. Even with
all those riders the spacious Rock Hill complex still never felt crowded, this place was made for
enormous events like this.
I know that it probably gets said every year but the weather really changes how this
event runs, and you could get everything from 80 degrees and sunny to 40 degrees and rainy,
and we got exactly that. Probably the biggest hurdle that affected every rider was the wind, it
was just brutally strong Saturday and Sunday, strong enough to blow over the finish line camera
on a giant tripod. This hurt the riders as they had a head wind at times and slowed them down
considerably, however the Pros seemed to have it the worst. The berm jump over turn two
turned into a very slow to pedal over obstacle for almost every class as someone in the lead
always seemed to case one of the previous jumps and the pack would check up and almost
stop. This stop and go traffic would change up the finish order some as whomever could get
back to speed first would usually take the top spots. I think this definitely changed the order as
Joris Daudet never finished above third place all weekend in the Mains.
Women Pro rider Laura Smulders just killed it all weekend and came home with three
wins. The Men’s Pro racing wasn’t so simple with Izaac Kennedy, who didn’t have one win last
year almost took three, but fell short coming in Second Day One and Two but winning on Day
Three. Day One Niek Kimmann won, and on Day Two Joshua Mclean won.
The best Pro and all-around racing of weekend had to be the Vet Pro Class, there was
some incredible to watch racing going on between Barry Nobels and Jonathan Suarez starting
on Friday night. Friday nights Vet Pro racing started off with Suarez getting out of the gate and
into turn one first, Nobels was stuck in traffic heading into the inside of the turn. By the time
the two entered turn two they were side-by-side and Nobels was able to swoop under Suarez
and pass him through the turn. On the last straight, half way toward the finish Nobels had a
slight lead, but they were so close to each other that Suarez bobbled a little and collapsed into
the face of a roller throwing him off the track into the mud from the earlier rain. Suarez stood
up and raised his bike over his head to cheers from the stands, meanwhile Nobels walked out to
check on him, and like the Pros they are they both they hugged and walked off the track leaving
the rivalry for tomorrows race.
Starting off Saturday’s Vet Pro racing Nobels took the early lead, and Suarez used that
opportunity to cut under him in turn one and give Nobels a slight bump off the track, you could hear Nobels let out a little laugh as it happened. Although he put in the work Suarez wasn’t able
to pull off the win on Saturday, Jeff Upshaw took it, however I am sure he was happy with the
little redemption in turn one.
The Expert Girls/Women classes had some heavy hitters coming out and they dominated the older Expert Women’s classes all weekend, by winning both days, starting with
14 Girls Alexis Alden, she had such a lead both days that it looked like she was racing the wrong
class. 15 – 16 Expert Girls Ava Corley, 17 – 20 Expert Women Breanna Winter, 21 – 30 Expert
Women Korie Gilbert, 31 – 40 Expert Women Amanda Carr and 41 + Expert Women Neven
Steinmetz all pulled off the double wins.
The older Expert Boy’s/Men classes were similarly dominated starting at 16 Expert with Cedric Cade, 17-20 Expert Drew Polk, 21-25 Expert Tristan Judd, 26-35 Expert Nicolas Palacios, 41-45 Expert Bryan Elisabeth, 48 – 50 Expert Jason Silva and 51 & over Expert Jeremy Thompson all winning both days.
Another incredible weekend at Rock Hill - and another great sunset, just as we've all come to expect!