Russell Pearson effectively earned the number one plate in the AMA/FMF Racing National Hare & Hound Series a couple months ago when defending series champion Destry Abbott got hurt and scored no points at all at round five, this after the two traded wins and seconds through the first four rounds.So when they arrived at the series finale—the 100s Motorcycle Club's 38th Annual Johnson Valley Championship near Lucerne Valley, California, presented by Kawasaki and Kawasaki of Simi Valley—Pearson had such a commanding points lead that all he needed to do was finish, first and foremost. In other words, ride conservatively.But that's not his style, especially when he ended up grabbing the lead after about a five-kick start. Once he got in front (just after the bomb), the Montclair Yamaha/Pro Circuit/Moose YZ450F racer couldn't make himself slow down too much, and he enjoyed a dust-free day, riding off with relative ease to record his fourth victory of the season."I just made sure I didn't get lost, made sure nothing stupid happened and just had a good day—a really good day," he said.Rival Abbott, on the other hand, suffered through a day emblematic of his year. He started well on his Acme Suspension/FMF/THOR-backed KX500 (likely his last race on the 2004-model two-stroke stalwart; next year he'll campaign the KX450F thumper), only to watch second place disappear when his rear tire went flat a few miles into the second loop of the three-loop, 100-mile event."I didn't feel like I had any pressure on me because I knew there was going to be a slim chance that ," Abbott claimed, adding, "I still wanted to come out here and try to win." After losing time and places, he finally got finished the loop and got the wheel replaced. Abbott would eventually recover to finish eighth on the day and retain second in the series.Second for the day went to Honda Baja racer Kendall Norman. His race got off slowly when he blew the start. "Everything was good, I was ready to take off and I rolled the throttle on it," he admitted. " four-strokes you can't do that."So it didn't fire so I cleaned it out, got going right behind everybody , went way left and got on a smooth line so I ended up out to the bomb probably about 12th—from 10th to 12th. From there on, I took my time. I knew it was going to be a lot longer than a usual desert race."Indeed it was, and it worked in his favor as he worked his way into second place before too long, though that was as far as he'd get. Still, it was a personal-best finish at a National for the Precision Concepts/Dunlop/O'Neal XR650R-mounted rider and was one spot better than his previous best.
Matt Gosnell suffered a similar starting line fate, though he wasn't positive what caused his Sportsman Cycle/Pro Circuit/Fly KTM 525 XC to refuse to start for a long time. But he eventually got it going and once rolling, made huge amounts of ground up. An estimate put him deep in the pack (somewhere in the 30s, he thought) at the bomb, and after that, he methodically and carefully picked off rider after rider until he finally dispatched Quinn Cody for third place.Cody used the race as a tune-up for next month's Baja 1000. After racing KTMs for most of the year, he was back on an XR650R, and after dueling with Norman and Gosnell, settled for fourth. (Norman and Robby Bell will be his partners on the Honda "B" team at the 1000.)Luke Dodson rounded out the top five but barely. After riding the race of his life on his Barstow Motorcycle Center/FMF/Too Trick R&D; RM250, fatigue caught up to him, and he dropped it within sight of the finish. David Kamo, who'd ridden off a cliff a few miles before when he misjudged a passing line, wasn't quite close enough to take advantage on his FMF/Dunlop/Fly Racing KX250 and had to follow him the final yards to the finish in sixth place.Johnson Valley Championship Results