RACE REPORT: Axel Pearson Wins WHS Laughlin Finale 2015

Axel Pearson prevails at WHS finale while Travis Coy locks second in series points

With SRT KTM’s Cory Graffunder locking up the title at round seven of the Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles Championship Series last month, you might think there was nothing on the line at the finale, held just outside of Laughlin, Nevada.

But you’d be wrong.

Though the championship was safely in Graffunder’s hands, second place was still up for grabs at the Laughlin Hare Scramble Challenge, co-sanctioned by AMRA (via the Xtreme Motorcycle Club) and MRAN (Dark Side M.C.), and it couldn’t have been closer. Purvines Racing Beta’s Nick Burson and Maxxis/FMF/RPM Racing KTM’s Travis Coy both entered the race with 142 points, so runner-up in the championship would belong to whoever beat the other guy.

After grabbing the holeshot (on his 300 instead of his usual 450), Travis Coy settled for a safe third place, having endured a crash and painful encounters with cactus. More important was he beat Pearson’s teammate Nick Burson, giving him second in points with Burson third after DNFing.Photo by Mark Kariya

On paper, Burson held a slight advantage having won two rounds (the same as Graffunder) and being a desert specialist. Coy from Northern California had a slightly more consistent run of results but lacked any wins. Both wanted it badly.

In the end, after nearly three hours on the challenging 28-mile loop, holeshot winner Coy bested Burson, who’d led at one point but succumbed to a broken bike.

“Nick got past me early on, but he crashed a couple miles in and I ran into him and went over the bars,” Coy said. “We were both laying on the ground; I got up first and took off and I took off leading.

“I led the majority of that first lap, and I had to pit [after] the first lap being on the two-stroke and I knew he wasn’t going to have to. He got by me there. I knew it was going to be tough to catch him here--he’s a fast desert rider.”

He added, “I came around on that second lap and I saw someone sitting over on the side [of the trail] and I quickly noticed it was him. About that same time I smelled fried clutch. That’s a bummer; Nick’s a good guy and a great competitor and we’ve been going at it all year.”

Laughlin has been very good to the Pearsons over the years, and Axel continued that tradition, winning the WHS finale for his first big triumph at this level. He ended up fourth in year-end points. ^^Photo by Mark Kariya

While Burson was out, however, not all was glum for the Purvines Racing Beta team as Axel Pearson took the lead, feeling right at home in both the environment and aboard his 480 RR instead of the 430 RR they’d employed for most of the hare scrambles.

“I like the bike,” he explained. “It’s got more power and you can kind of lug it around a little bit easier so I feel like this bike fits me really good.”

Though he backed off the intensity on the third and final lap, unknowingly allowing fellow Nevadan Justin Wallis to close in after coming from his start on the second row, Pearson claimed his first-ever victory at a major AMA race. (It also continued the Laughlin legacy that the Pearsons have enjoyed since two-time AMA Hare & Hound champ Russell Pearson was winning Best in the Desert races there in the 1990s.)

Though he didn’t know how close he was getting, Dynamic Dirt Suspension KTM-mounted Wallis finished just four seconds slower than Pearson, saying, “It was super-dusty; I had to take a lot of chances [to catch up to the leaders].”

Ryan Smith equaled his best series finish with fourth aboard his LG Electric Yamaha followed by FMF 250cc Pro winner Jeremy Newton.

Ava Silvestri got the holeshot on her row but ended up chasing Sara DeMunda (who started in the previous row) and Baylee Rhodes (240Y) for the first two laps. After that, she moved back to the front of the Girls pack for her fifth win of the year, giving her the championship by six points over season-long rival Rhodes, 168-162, unofficially.Photo by Mark Kariya