The second night of racing started with a sobering announcement that Jeremy McGrath’s crash the night before was a little more serious than previously thought. It was discovered that McGrath actually fractured his C7 vertebra in two places. There was no spinal cord injury, there is no paralysis, but McGrath is still hospitalized. Sunday he will be moved to a hospital closer to his home. His release date has not been set, but he is in good spirits – so good that he wanted to attend the opening ceremonies, but doctor’s orders kept him away. The crowd yelled out a collective, “Thank you, Showtime,” before the program got underway. Get-well wishes can be sent directly to Jeremy at Jeremy@nacnac.com.The show went on without its leader, and McGrath would have been proud of the night of racing. Josh Grant looked fast and determined again in the timed practice. Windham also looked just as he did the night before – fast and smooth. Travis, also in a repeat of the night before, alternated between fast laps and sight laps.Unfortunately, Nick Wey went down hard. He was slow to get up, shaky on his feet once he had them under him, and was holding his left arm. He left the stadium on the Asterisk medical cart.The freestylers were back again, and dazzled the crowd with amazing tricks off both their mobile ramps and the two metal ramps on the track. Travis Pastrana and Nate Adams took advantage of the track’s five-wide metal ramps and did sets of side-by-side back flips for the crowd.The racers took the track back for an eight lap heat to determine the gate pick for the moto at the end of the night. Windham and Cole Siebler were both out front in the first corner, but Windham quickly took control of the race and lead the pack around. While still bunched tight, Josh Grant collided with David Vuillemin landing through a rhythm section. Grant stayed up, but Vuillemin went down and did not finish the race. It would be the first shot fired in a new rivalry.The focus of the rest of the heat was Josh Grant’s charge from mid-pack into second. Apparently there was a mix-up in the pits and someone forgot to tell Josh Grant that he was down on power and shouldn’t be able to pass 450 riders with such ease. Grant revved, finessed, and charged his way into second, where he pulled a comfortable gap over Jason Thomas. Kevin Windham, meantime, was quietly out front doing the only thing he was able to do up to that point all weekend – win.Then the one-on-one elimination racing began. Two riders, two laps, winner advances, loser watches from the stands (until the night’s final all-rider moto).The elimination racing got interesting real fast. The second elimination race saw Chad Johnson and Jason Thomas make contact in the first corner. The very next race also saw first-corner banging with Heath Voss sliding a rear wheel into Cole Siebler. But then the fourth race of the night rolled around.
Josh Hansen was up against Eric Sorby. Sorby had the inside and a slight lead, and slowed down with Hansen to prevent Hansen’s 250F from ducking under him. Sorby took the lead, but Hansen fought hard to get around. Hansen tripled through a rhythm section that Sorby was doubling, he cut under him before the whoops, cut under him after the whoops, but was still one bike length behind as they got the white flag. Hansen almost pulled him coming out of the next corner, and finally managed to dive under. The lead only lasted for one rhythm section, because Sorby had the inside in the next corner and was close enough to take the lead back. Hansen tried aggressively for a lap to get back around, and the two came into the last corner with Sorby less than a bike length ahead. Hansen tried to duck inside again, but wound up tagging Sorby’s swingarm with his front tire, stopping his momentum. Sorby won the heat. Josh Hansen rolled across the line as the fans cheered both riders.The next match was between Josh Grant and Greg Schnell. Grant managed to get another holeshot over another 450. Grant was on the gas early in the corners, and held the lead to the end to advance to the next round.The next match was Jeff Dement and Danny Smith. It looked like Dement had the holeshot, but Smith cut under him in the first corner. The two riders stayed close, with Dement finding some inside lines that were working for him. Dement kept the pressure on, and looked like a threat at any point to put a pass on Smith, but was not able to make it happen, and Danny Smith took the win.Next Travis Pastrana lined up with Joe Oehlhof. Oehlhof shot out of the gate and got the holeshot. Travis was all business over the massive steel ramps, and stuck to Oehlhof’s rear wheel all around the track. On the second (and last) lap, Pastrana squared off the corner before the whoops and made the pass. He cut over to protect the line, but not enough, and Oehlhof was close enough to take Travis high in the next corner. Travis didn’t back off, and the two went through the next doubles side by side, with Oehlhof managing to control the next corner. Travis had two corners left to make a pass. He tried to work some magic in the last corner, but he could not make the pass. Pastrana was out.David Vuillemin styled through his race with Jiri Dostal. Vuillemin was obviously feeling good by the way he was throwing his new Honda around in the air, and clearly feeling playful as he gooned the finish line jump with an awkward body position accentuated by a panic rev. Vuillemin was on his game.The riders advancing to the second round were Kevin Windham, Jason Thomas, Heath Voss, Eric Sorby, Josh Grant, Danny Smith, Joe Oehlhof, and David Vuillemin.The first two races of the second round were not too eventful, but the third race was interesting. What should have been a match up between Josh Grant and Danny Smith somehow became a Grant/Vuillemin race – all the more interesting because of the earlier contact between the two. Grant got a great jump off the line, but Vuillemin had the inside. He took Grant high – too high – Grant nearly fell, but managed to keep it on two wheels. Grant waited until the whoops, where he charged and tried to go under Vuillemin in the next corner. Grant grabbed a little too much throttle, and the back end came around. He didn’t go down, but he lost his chance for the pass. Grant kept at it, made a very aggressive block pass, and went on for the win. After the checkered, Vuillemin tried to bump into Grant’s swingarm to tell him he didn’t appreciate the treatment, but Vuillemin tipped and dropped his bike. Strangely, Grant rode away, then turned back around and spun the bike down to the ground. Grant then threw his arms up to the crowd. The new rivalry between these two continued, with Grant again getting the better of Vuillemin.
The next round saw Windham matched up with Heath Voss. Windham took the holeshot, but Voss stayed right on him. Voss looked extremely fast and motivated, but Windham had an ace up his sleeve in the form of a triple before the finish only he and Pastrana were doing. It made all the difference, and Windham held on for the win.Josh Grant and Danny Smith were up next. Smith got the holeshot, with Grant passing him two straights later in a rhythm section and holding on until the end.The final two-man elimination race came down, just like the night before, to Windham and Grant. Windham took the holeshot and the two raced side by side off the ramp. The two riders had different rhythms through the two big table tops, and Windham gained a tiny bit of breathing room. Grant was squeezing that 250F for all it was worth, but Windham slowly crept away from him and took the elimination round win.The freestylers came back, and where Pastrana had participated before, it was announced he had jammed his hand in his last race and would be done for the evening.Then the final race of the night and of the weekend came up. The race would be scored together with the final race of Friday night to crown an overall winner. Kyle Lewis grabbed the holeshot just inches ahead of Windham. Windham used his position to slip immediately into the lead. He was followed by Lewis, Sorby, Vuillemin, and Dement.Josh Grant was mid pack, but started making things happen fast. He passed his way from eighth to sixth by diving under two riders in one corner. Grant was on the move, and looked determined to catch Windham. Meanwhile, Vuillemin made his way into second by the third lap, and seemed to be matching Windham’s pace.Grant worked his way up to third, but his charge was done. Windham and Vuillemin both stayed about three seconds apart as they slowly put distance on Grant. Vuillemin would get the last laugh in his battles with Grant by holding second place until the finish.Windham took the moto and the weekend. Grant took second overall with 2-3 scores for the weekend, and David Vuillemin got third overall with 4-2 scores. Rounding out the top five were Heath Voss (5-4) and Jason Thomas (7-5).The weekend was an exciting one. Jeremy McGrath’s dream was realized in the Home Depot center, and it really came to life during some of the tense elimination races. Jeremy didn’t get to see much of it, so maybe he’ll have to throw the whole party again next year.