OMA Nationals Round 1 Race Report 2016

Steward Baylor battles bad knee and bad starts to win OMA opener.

The off-road Motorcycle and ATV (OMA) Nationals has historically been a series of eras. First, there was the Jimmy Jarrett era. Then came the Paul Whibley era.

Now, Steward Baylor appears to be intent on making his mark as the latest to dominate this Midwestern series, the 2015 champ taking a 1-1 victory at the Beaman Monster Cross-country National in Sedalia, Missouri, the 2016 OMA kickoff.

It was no walk in the park, though, the defending champ having to deal with a recent knee injury as well as a couple of less-than-ideal starts, the second moto’s seeing him waiting and waiting for his SRT KTM 350 XC-F to respond to the start button while the rest of the pack put about 40 seconds on him.

Steward Baylor, OMA Nationals 2016 Round 1
Steward Baylor showed huge resolve at the OMA opener, riding to a 1-1 win despite a recently injured right knee and a horrible last-place start in the second moto. He’ll be tough to dethrone.Photo by Mark Kariya

Given those two factors, it would’ve been easy for him to collect whatever points he could, but that’s not his style.

“It’s tough to ride with, but as soon as you get that adrenaline pumping, you forget about everything and you’re good to go,” he insisted.

Of his remarkable comeback in the second 45-minute moto where he managed once again to pass Maxxis/FMF/RPM Racing KTM’s Mike Witkowski on the last lap, Baylor acknowledged it could’ve gone either way: “The more pressure that you put on him, the more likely they are to make a mistake, but also riding that close, you’re just as likely to make a mistake. It’s just like gambling when you’re getting right up there trying to push them as hard as you can.

“Mike rode really well. Where he made his mistake is the same place where I made mine the first moto; it was a tricky spot.”

For Witkowski, the pair of runner-up finishes gave him that spot overall and he said, “We got the suspension good today [and] figured that all out. My speed felt good. It felt like I could run with Stew no problem; we had a good race going. For the rest of the rounds at the OMAs, I think it’ll be good racing going.”

Mike Witkowski, OMA Nationals 2016 Round 1
Quick-starting Mike Witkowski (he took both $50 FMF Holeshot Awards) seemed to have things wrapped up, especially in the second moto, but losing his front end on a tricky off-camber on the final lap of that second moto forced him to settle for a 2-2 second.Photo by Mark Kariya

Adam Bonneur put in a pair of third-place efforts on his new Fun Mart Cycles RM-Z450, managing to run just behind the leaders. He said, “I think Stew was kind of slow-playing us there for a little while. He likes to ride comfortably and get comfy before he drops the hammer so I was hanging on to Stew there for a little while. Mikey kind of got out in front of us late in the second moto so I think Stew kind of quit playing around. As soon as he dropped the hammer to go catch Mikey, I was trying to hang on, but it was all I could do to see him in some of the longer field sections.”

Baylor’s SRT KTM teammate Mark Heresco, a former Pro 2 champ, finished fourth with his 5-4 day after trading places most of the day with AirGroup/Radiant Racing Husqvarna’s Nick Fahringer who ended up fifth with his 4-5.

Cody Barnes, OMA Nationals 2016 Round 1
Cody Barnes continued the climb through the ranks, the former mini and last year’s overall A champ going 2-1 to win Pro 2. Here, he leads eventual third-placer Duell Murphy late in the first moto.Photo by Mark Kariya

In the heavily contested Pro 2 division, last year’s overall A-class champion Cody Barnes made a mistake that put him on the ground for a moment, though he battled back to take second behind Nishna Valley Cycle KTM’s Logan Lowrey.

Moto two saw Barnes stay upright for all 45 minutes, and he passed Lowrey late in the race for a 2-1 winning Pro 2 debut, Lowrey second with his 1-2 and Obermeyer/MCS Racing Suzuki’s Duell Murphy a 3-3 third.

Buddy Fortune, OMA Nationals 2016 Round 1
No one raced more miles than Buddy Fortune. After winning the mini race in the morning, he rode his other KX100 to win his big-bike class in the afternoon’s two motos.Photo by Mark Kariya