Ricky Brabec Wins National Hare & Hound Finale & Takes Championship Again In 2016

Lucerne National Hare & Hound Finale 2016

If most people had a 17-point advantage going into the seventh and final round of the Kenda/SRT AMA Hare & Hound National Championship Series, they’d probably opt to be a bit conservative in that finale and do just enough to ensure earning the title.

But when you’ve got the mindset of a champion, a race is something to win, no matter what. At least that’s how Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda’s Ricky Brabec feels. Even after being left at the starting line when the banner dropped for the Dusty Buckaroo National Hare & Hound put on by the 100s Motorcycle Club outside of Lucerne Valley, California, he refused to play it safe. Or maybe that fired him up even more.

Ricky Brabec
Ricky Brabec celebrates winning both the race and championship after passing the checkered flag.Photo by Mark Kariya

“I didn’t have to win, but when you sign up to race, you want to win,” he said.

Especially after all the trouble he went to beforehand: “I spent like four hours out there building a line [on the bomb run] with ‘Gnarly Dave,’ Jeremy and Tyler. We had all the road crossings perfect.”

But when the banner dropped, the pack left without him.

“I don’t know what happened,” he admitted. “I kind of hesitated and gave it too much gas before the bike was running [and] flooded the carburetor, then it took a while before it started with the button.

“But I still took my line on the bomb and pushed [through] the dust, kind of blind racing. Got to the bomb in third or fourth so I was pretty happy when I saw Jake [Argubright] right there and I saw Ivan, [too].”

Jacob Argubright
Though he put up a good fight and rode better than ever, Jacob Argubright had to settle for second in the race and the championship. However, he noted that he’s closer than ever to the winner.Photo by Mark Kariya

That’s because Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-road Team’s Argubright was the only man in the field who stood a chance of stealing the championship from him, though it was somewhat of a long shot: Argubright had to win with Brabec finishing worse than eighth for the Husky rider to pull it off.

“I just tried to keep [the points situation] out of my mind,” Argubright insisted. “I can only control how I do. I can’t control how Ricky’s going to do or anything else.

“It’s just another race.”

In other words, as he put it, “I just really wanted to win.”

But it wasn’t in the cards this day as Brabec swept past to take the lead before the end of the first 40-mile loop, though Argubright kept him in sight and even closed the gap over the gnarly third and final 14-mile loop.

At the end, Brabec took the checkered flag—and the championship—17 seconds ahead of Argubright, though Argubright pointed out, “Last year I was a couple minutes off the pace and at the last round he killed it. Now, it’s a little better and I’m right on him.”

Third saw a fight between teammates go down almost to the end. Reigning series champ Ivan Ramirez had led the early going after a quick start on his FMF KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team 450 XC-F, then yielding to Brabec and Argubright. He spent most of the remainder of the race dueling with Bonanza Plumbing/FMF KTM support rider Gary Sutherlin until a mechanical problem stopped him in his tracks about two miles from the finish, letting Sutherlin coast to third. A disappointed Ramirez eventually managed to get it running again to salvage 12th Pro and 59th overall.

Rocky Mountain ATV-MC/Precision Concepts Yamaha rider Justin Morgan happily took fourth to equal his season and career best ahead of Joe Wasson, the FMF Pro 250 champ moving up to a YZ450FX for his Pro-class debut.

Purvines Racing Beta’s Nick Burson took sixth followed by Chidester Transport Racing Kawasaki’s Max Eddy, Jr., Pearson, Motoworld Yamaha’s Grant Statley (the Open A champ making his Pro-class debut) and 3 Brothers KTM’s Jeff Trulove (his first FMF Pro 250 win).

The final points read: Brabec 170, Argubright 148, privateer Ryan Smith (11th overall for the day after crashing and losing precious minutes trying to bend the brake pedal so it’d let the rear wheel of his Rick’s Custom Shutters and Blinds Yamaha spin again) 106, Wasson 101. Sutherlin, Purvines Racing Beta’s Axel Pearson and Morgan ended up in a three-way tie for sixth, each having 92 points. Burson finished the season eighth with 77, Ramirez ninth at 60, one point ahead of FMF Pro 250 runner-up Nick Stover.

Of his second career title, Brabec said, “It feels good to get [another] championship and another win. Tonight, tomorrow—I don’t know. I’m going to wake up and probably do nothing. I’m going to relax for a little bit. The next race is Dakar so I’m done with the small bikes for the rest of the year.”

But he’s not done going for championships here in the U.S.

Women's class champions
The three Women’s-class champs (from left): Women C champ Rachel Stout, Women B champ Heather Mowell and Women A champ Nicole Bradford. Though she’d wrapped up her title at the previous race and didn’t have to ride the finale, Bradford wanted to pick up her AMA number-one plate in person so she made the drive from Colorado to SoCal and won for the fifth time in this, her last season of Nationals—and only a few days after coming home from the ISDE in Spain.Photo by Mark Kariya
Taylor Olivas
Taylor Olivas (N4G) and younger sister Laci (N6F) weren’t much farther apart than this for much of the combined Micro Mini/Girls/Junior Girls race on Saturday, as they traded the overall lead numerous times. However, crashes in the latter stages relegated Junior Girls winner Laci to second overall while birthday girl Taylor held on to the overall and Girls triumph.Photo by Mark Kariya