Although billed as a chance for those from the East and West to meet in the middle and see who was indeed best, the inaugural Kenda/SRT AMA East-West Hare Scrambles Shootout turned into a West rout with FMF/Maxxis/RPM Racing KTM’s Dante Oliveira recovering from a dead-last start, grabbing the lead on the second time around the 13.4-mile course at Stillwater, Oklahoma’s private Stillwater 500 riding area, and nailing the overall victory. He also towed fellow West rider Devan Bolin, who kept it close until the final lap when Oliveira turned it up, the Gray Area KTM rider finishing second. Beta support rider Kyle McDonal upheld East honors by claiming the final podium spot.
Oliveira’s second win of the season in the eight-race Kenda/SRT AMA West Hare Scrambles (WHS) Regional Championship Series, presented by Mojo Motorsports, moved him to second in points with one round remaining. He now trails current point leader Trystan Hart, 152–126, but the SRT Husqvarna rider is out with injury and expected to miss the rest of the year. If Oliveira wins the WHS finale in two weeks, he’d take the championship with 156 points, but if Beta’s Max Gerston—the current champ recovering from a broken finger—wins the finale, he’d keep the number-one plate with 154 points, Oliveira only able to earn third with 151 points. It’ll be interesting.
McDonal leads the AMA East Hare Scrambles Regional Championship Series by a wide margin, the Shootout serving as round 9 of 11. For locals in the Oklahoma Hare Scrambles Championship Series (OHSCS), this was round 7. Things didn’t start well for Oliveira when his bike refused to light, spinning but not firing until the pack was about two turns down the course.
From there, however, he was untouchable, ripping through the pack and picking off rider after rider until breaking into the lead by the second time through the scoring chute. “[Bolin] let me by, then he got on my ass and we just started going and moved away from the pack,” Oliveira said. “We were like five bike lengths apart the whole race—it was sick!”
Although he grew up riding the woods trails at the Hollister Hills State Vehicular Recreation Area in his hometown of Hollister, California, Oliveira focused his racing, besides WHS, on the faster WORCS series. “This was definitely slower speed, but you could still push the whole time. It was super flowy so you could be aggressive. The dirt was money!” he observed.
The winner at round 5, Bolin admitted he couldn’t hang with Oliveira’s final-lap sprint but had a plan: “I knew we’d never gap the rest of the field if I tried to hold him off—the battle would’ve been too intense. I kind of sacrificed it there and was hoping to be able to do something on the last lap, but he wore me out, honestly.”
As for McDonal who’s more accustomed to the really tight woods back in New Jersey, the Stillwater 500’s trails were faster than he was used to, but the WHS riders lived up to his expectations. “It ended up being a good race; it was fun holding it wide open for two and a half hours, which I’m not used to!” he said. Of his West competitors, McDonal observed, “There’re definitely fast guys here and good racing; good battles all the time—can’t complain.”
GasGas-mounted Travis Coy finished fourth for the third consecutive round while early leader and OHSCS champ Zach Ingram settled for fifth after a slight mechanical issue on his XC 300.
Gray Area KTM’s Jeremy Wilton took sixth overall in winning the FMF Pro 250s, wrapping up the class championship as well. Gerston gamely picked up points for seventh overall, sixth Pro, his still healing finger making it difficult to hold on (he even put in a Rekluse clutch and taped two fingers together to compensate).
Local OHSCS rider Eddie Kowalski, FMF Pro 250cc runner-up Dillon Sheppard on his 707 Suspension YZ250FX, and GasGas-supported Kyle Kerling (the first 250cc A and first overall A rider) rounded out the top 10.