Ricky Brabec Wins at New Mexico National Hare & Hound 2016

JCR Honda rider Ricky Brabec right at home at new AMA National Hare and Hound race in New Mexico.

When a new race venue in Utah had to cancel only a couple weeks before, it appeared at first that the Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series had become a seven-round series.

But after a short week of e-mails and phone calls, the AMA and National Hare & Hound Association fast-tracked the Gas It Off-road Racing Series request for a sanction, with Gas It’s Rattlesnake 100, Presented by Team R&S Racing, becoming replacement round four as well as the first National hare & hound in the state in recent memory if at all.

This required some adjustments for series regulars because the BLM regulations for the Fun Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Area outside of Española, New Mexico, differ from other places the series regularly visits. (In fact, other BLM districts would like to adopt many similar rules, obviously changing the nature of hare and hound racing.)

One of the biggest differences was the use of a single 25-mile loop, run for multiple laps depending on your class. Normally, a hare and hound doesn’t go over the same trail twice so some looked at the Rattlesnake 100 as more like a hare scrambles.

In addition, instead of a mass start, each class would start on its own line with each line’s elapsed time figured in, significantly reducing the crazy crowding and wild passes that are often a hallmark of bomb runs.

And while Nationals haven’t allowed any pre-running (except for the bomb run) in the past, the NHHA conceded to local tradition so anyone who wanted to pony up $15 could take a lap or two of the race course on Saturday before the kids raced.

Because of the new area and new rules, none of the series regulars knew quite what to expect. To prepare, series points leader and 2014 champ Ricky Brabec arrived on Wednesday in order to see the area and get his Johnny Campbell Racing Honda dialed in, but what he found surprised him: “It’s exactly like my backyard [in Hesperia, California]! It’s just that my backyard’s not this green.”

Ricky Brabec, New Mexico NHHA 2016
Though Ricky Brabec felt the BLM-limited course lacked an abundance of really technical terrain, he said it reminded him of home, just greener. After battling with Jacob Argubright, Brabec went on to run away, winning by more than nine minutes while round-three winner Argubright slowed after injuring his knee and claimed third.Photo by Mark Kariya

So other than the event’s unique rules (and average elevation of over 6500 feet), Brabec felt comfortable and it showed in the final results. After going back and forth with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Jacob Argubright in the first half, he got a break when the round-three winner crashed, twisting his knee badly enough to knock him well off the pace. (Brabec needed to pit every lap as his carbureted CRF450X couldn’t match the range of Argubright’s injected FC 450 that could barely 50 miles. “Coming in [to the pits on the second lap], I heard one sputter, but it was fine the rest of the way,” the Husky rider revealed.) From there, Brabec dominated, though he apparently never checked behind him so he kept it pinned.

“I rode my ass off because I thought he was right there behind me [the whole time],” Brabec admitted after finishing with nine minutes and 30 seconds over runner-up Nick Burson. It marked only the second finish of the series for the Purvines Racing Beta rider after two DNFs, though it was better than teammate Axel Pearson who hit a downed bike in the dust off the start, ending his day with a shoulder injury.

Though he lost third place briefly to LG Electric Yamaha’s Ryan Smith, Argubright grabbed the podium spot back when Smith slid out. Smith matched his career and season best finish at fourth followed by Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Yamaha rider Justin Morgan and Chidister Transport Racing’s Joe Wasson, the FMF Pro 250 winner for the third straight round.

Jason Wasson, New Mexico NHHA 2016
For the third round in a row, Joe Wasson dominated the FMF Pro 250 class, this time finishing sixth overall, more than six minutes ahead of runner-up Nick Stover.Photo by Mark Kariya

Local star Travis Porter finished seventh in his National debut—the college student running third in the early going—with Open A winner Grant Statley and FMF Pro 250 riders Nick Stover and Tyler Lynn rounding out the top 10 overall.

New Mexico NHHA 2016 Womens podium
WORCS regular Britney Gallegos (center) made her H&H debut a winning one, though Nicole Bradford (left)—the winner of the first three rounds—kept her honest the entire way. Stephanie Woolslayer (right) nursed her ailing bike to third and her best finish to date, collecting $200.Photo by Mark Kariya

Afterward, Brabec dedicated his win to Destry Abbott, who’s in the early going in a battle with leukemia; after the mini races on Saturday, the kids signed a “Get well, Destry” pit board for the five-time series champ.

New Mexico NHHA 2016 Youth racers
After their races on Saturday, several kids signed a “get well, Destry” pit board.Photo by Mark Kariya