Axel Pearson Wins Panaca West Hare Scrambles 2016

Pearson leads Purvines Racing 1-2 at Round 5 of the 2016 West Hare Scrambles Championship Series in Panaca, NV.

Axel Pearson romped almost unchallenged to his first win of the season and the second of his career in his hometown of Panaca, Nevada, at the Silver State Trailblazers’ Sawmill Run, Presented by Purvines Racing, round five of the Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Regional Championship Series.

That’s “almost” because he didn’t lead the entire race. In fact, Pearson and Purvines Racing Beta teammate Nick Burson were probably close to last when their 480 RRs proved reluctant to start when the green flag waved.

Instead, another Pearson grabbed the glory, Axel’s brother Tuffy rocketing away from the first turn with a clear lead and leaving the rest of the pack in a cloud of thick, white dust as he blasted into the a ditch and up the first silty hill.

Tuffy is no stranger to racing, of course, but it’s been a couple years since he’s lined up at an event of this caliber. He took a break from riding and racing at the first part of 2013 in order to go on a two-year mission for his church and returned from that a couple months ago.

Aboard the same TM EN 300 he’d last raced in 2013, Tuffy led the entire 15-mile first lap, eliciting cheers from the locals spectating along the course.

But Tuffy knew there was no way he’d be able to stay in front. For one thing, he only had a small tank on his bike so he’d have to pit each lap for fuel. Two laps would be pushing it.

Tuffy Pearson, Panaca WHS 2016
Pearson pulls the holeshot—Tuffy Pearson, that is. Off of two wheels for the past two years while on his church mission, Tuffy showed he’s lost almost none of the speed he’d developed prior to that responsibility, though his hands aren’t up to the abuse yet. He eventually finished ninth.Photo by Mark Kariya

A bigger factor was his lack of seat time over the past few years and it eventually showed.

“I need to ride more and get some saddle time,” he agreed after finishing ninth. “It was a fun race being able to lead the first lap and have Axel really close. It was fun and I was riding good. The second lap I rode a little worse—started getting a little more tired—but I got into a good groove and kind of rode a pace. Once my hands blistered, I just completely went into survival mode and tried to not make any mistakes. I lost positions, but I just wanted to finish at that point.”

Unbelievably, Axel managed to banzai his way through the dust and past everyone but Tuffy as they completed the first lap, Axel about 12 seconds behind his brother.

However, with Tuffy needing a splash of gas and Axel able to go two laps before pitting, the Beta rider sped past the pit and into first place to stay despite later momentarily stopping for downed rider and then worrying about a hole that developed in his exhaust, reducing power somewhat.

“I grew up here so I’ve ridden all these trails,” Axel said, “and I honestly haven’t had the best of luck here, really, so it’s good to get out front early for once! I know I’m pretty fast here; I know if I can get out front, my speed’s right there with anybody, so it’s good to get out front and ride my own race for once. It’s taken a few years, but I’m finally able to make it happen.”

After his poor start, crashing in the dust and watching SRT KTM’s Cory Graffunder run over his bike when it suddenly appeared in that dust, Burson also managed to slice through the pack and into third by the end of the first lap, though he didn’t know if he’d be able to get any more spots.

“The Pearson boys were gone [at that point]; there was not even dust in sight,” Burson said. “I put my head down and caught the dust and wasn’t too far behind them, I think. I caught Tuffy and passed him, [but] Axel’s dust was just gone.

Axel Pearson, Panaca WHS 2016
Axel Pearson treads gingerly as he laps eventual fourth-place Senior B Curry Smythe. After taking the lead at the start of lap two, Pearson went unchallenged for his first win of the season and the second of his career (that one the season finale last year at Laughlin).Photo by Mark Kariya

“I tried to push the third lap and it was getting really silty so I stopped for gas again just for [safety], points-wise. Axel made it with maybe a cup of gas left so it was probably a good call because I usually burn more gas than him so I probably wouldn’t have made it.”

He added, “I could’ve pushed harder and went for the win, but it wasn’t worth it in the long run.”

That’s called thinking about the championship. Since Burson’s leading the points chase, he knew that the 25 points he’d get for second on the day would give him a bit more cushion over defending champ Graffunder, who earned 21 for third place. The points now find Burson leading with 106 and Graffunder in second at 92 after finishing third for the day.

Ryan Smith rallied from eighth at the white flag to pick off four on that final circuit for a best-to-date fourth aboard his Rick’s Custom Shutter and Blinds Yamaha, just seven seconds behind Graffunder. Round-two winner Ian Blythe finished fifth followed by Maxxis/FMF/RPM Racing KTM’s Travis Coy, who’d given Graffunder fits in the first half.

Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Yamaha rider Justin Morgan enjoyed his best result of the season to date by claiming seventh followed by round-four winner Justin Bonita, Tuffy Pearson and SRT KTM’s Steven Godman.

After tailing SRT Husqvarna rider J.T. Baker closely all afternoon, Maxxis/FMF/RPM Racing KTM’s Dante Oliveira found a way past late on the final lap to notch his third-straight FMF Pro 250 triumph and finish 11th overall. Baker recovered for second in class and 12th overall.

Dante Oliveira, Panaca WHS 2016
Dante Oliveira tailed rival J.T. Baker for most of the afternoon before finding a way past to win the FMF Pro 250 division for the third time in a row. Baker settled for second for the second round in a row.Photo by Mark Kariya
Sophia Oliveira, Panaca WHS 2016
Not to be outdone by her older brother, Sophia Oliveira rolled through the EnduroCross portion of the course en route to winning Women A for the fourth consecutive round.Photo by Mark Kariya