McThoughts: Gopher Dunes National
By Jeff McConkey
We have a pretty stacked MX2 class this season, and most of the front-runners love the sand. Gopher Dunes has got to be one of the roughest tracks in the world. This year was no different; it was hot and nasty, but that didn’t slow the top dogs. We had a few new additions to our series starting at Round 5. South African/Canadian Liam O’Farrell, American Shawn Rife, and French Canadian Tim Tremblay were just a few of the new names. All 3 have serious speed and can be fighting for podiums and top 5’s. The racing was exciting as always, so let’s take a look at my thoughts.
1st Kaven Benoit (1-1) Kaven pulled both holeshots, led every lap and won both motos. Benoit looked as good as you possibly could on a 2-stroke at the Dunes. ‘Jimmy D’ stayed close in moto 2, but I believe Kaven could have turned it up more if needed. He looks like he was built to ride the 250 2-stroke, but don’t kid yourself, he’d be winning if he was on a 250f too.
2nd Jimmy Decotis (2-2) Jimmy had 2 great rides and he looked great. There shouldn’t be anyone questioning his fitness or heart ever again, as he hung off of Benoit’s rear fender the entire moto (half of which with no goggles). After the moto he said “I’m sorry” to team manager Kevin Tyler. ‘KT’ replied, “Are you kidding me?!?” Jimmy D is definitely giving it his all.
3rd Dylan Wright (5-3) Dylan looked good in the sand as always. The kid doesn’t know the saying ‘give up.’ He will be exciting to watch this coming weekend at his hometown SDL track. Will he win a moto? No, I don’t think so, but that won’t stop him from trying.
4th Blake Savage (4-4) Blake had great starts and battled hard all day, and if it weren’t for a few mistakes, he would have had 3rd o/a. He’s a real good guy with a ton of talent and will be on the podium real soon!
5th Jeremy Medaglia (3-12) Good first moto for Jeremy. He got pinched off the start from the very inside gate and went down in moto 2 and had to come from 40th. A 12th is a good recovery but it really hurts his title hopes. This guy flies at Sand Del Lee, so he will be looking for some wins.
6th Liam O’Farrell (8-6) Liam jumped into the series at the toughest round and rode up front. Not bad for a guy working a full-time job and going to school at night. Some of you younger riders and lady racers should take note. It is possible. Great first round for O’Farrell.
7th Brad Nauditt (15-5) Brad was forced to ride his back up bike all day. He came from way back in moto 1. Moto 2 he really started to look like his old self. Look for Brad to pull a few holeshots and lead some laps soon.
8th Westen Wrozyna (13-8) Westen looked pretty solid for his first national of the year. This kid works super-hard, and if everything falls into place, a top 5 is possible.
9th Bobby Piazza (14-11) Bobby had 2 solid rides and got a bit of a gift with a 9th o/a.
10th Marcus Nilsen (11-14) I got to see Marcus ride quite a bit a few years back at GPF. He is a hard worker and should be just inside the top 10 both motos. He looked pretty decent for his first time racing the Dunes.
Biggest Stud: Kaven Benoit is my stud. The guy is just that good. He almost looks unbeatable.
Biggest Dud: I don’t know what happened [Editor’s Note: hurt finger in first moto and has called it a moto season] but I was bummed not to see Tim Tremblay in moto 2. He had a real good ride going in moto 1. I was also bummed to see Seth Rarick‘s bad luck continue. Rarick went down at the start in moto 2 and was passing guys with ease on his way through the pack, only to have his bike let go. This guy’s luck has got to change soon, and when it does, a podium is possible.
Biggest Surprise: I was shocked to see Shawn Rife under the Leading Edge Kawi tent. I’m glad he is getting a shot. This guy has some serious speed. If they stick with it, I could see him fighting for podiums by Walton.
All of the hype leading into the MX1 class for Gopher Dunes didn’t disappoint. At one point in moto 1, we had all of the top guys up front and going at it. Matt Goerke took both wins, but it wasn’t as easy as it was for him in 2012. Goerke was physically spent and looked like he left it all out on the track to edge out Australian Brett Metcalfe. The track was tough, as always, and I think the quote of the season goes to Kyle Regal saying, “This is probably the gnarliest track I have ridden by far, and it makes Southwick look hard packed.” It was great racing in both motos, so let’s see my thoughts.
1st Matt Goerke (1-1) Goerke was the favourite going in, and didn’t disappoint. This guy is a beast in the sand. He will be hard to make points up on for the remainder of the season.
2nd Brett Metcalfe (2-2) Brett had some great battles all day, but I was impressed with how hard he pushed Goerke in moto 2. He rode great all day and will be right there every moto right up until the final moto at Walton.
3rd Tyler Medaglia (4-4) Who doesn’t love ‘T-Dags?’ The guy rips 2 holeshots and has 2 great motos. His 1st moto battle with Cole Thompson was great to watch and Tyler almost got Thompson when he absolutely launched his Husky off a single with 1 corner to go. Great ride, Tyler!
4th Colton Facciotti (6-3) Colton led some laps, but unfortunately the Dunes bit him and he went down. He battled back hard and will win a moto soon.
5th Bobby Kiniry (5-6) Bobby rode his butt off all day. This guy will never give up and always give you 100%. He battled hard from way back and should land on the podium before season’s end.
6th Teddy Maier (7-5) Teddy needs a good start. He will catch a good break soon and then people will remember why he is a 2-time Canadian Champ.
7th Cade Clason (8-7) What a great pick up by the Redemption Racing team. He rode great, for it being his first trip to the Dunes. This kid could be champ one day if he keeps up the hard work. I really hope he comes back for a few more years.
8th Hayden Halstead (11-8) Hayden loves the sand and it showed on Sunday. I don’t think anyone loves riding their bike more than this guy. Congrats on a killer ride.
9th Shawn Robinson (15-9) Nice 2nd moto ride for Shawn. He has always had the speed and talent to be a top 10 guy, he just needs to put it together on Sundays. His Duroy KTM and Fox kit looked solid as always.
10th Kyle Regal (9-17) Regal was thrown into a gunfight with a butter knife (no disrespect to the Husky 250 2-stroke, it’s a great bike). A last-minute deal, very little seat time, one of the roughest tracks in the world, and an MX2 bike in the MX1 class. That doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, but the newly-crowned Arenacross champ and his Husqvarna 250 2-stroke made it happen. Regal moved forward both motos and looked really good on his way to a top 10 o/a. I was very impressed with Kyle’s ride and his Husky!
Biggest Stud: Regal and his 250 2-stroke Husqvarna are my studs. The bike looked, performed, and sounded great all day, and Kyle showed us that underneath that little bit of rust is one heck of an outdoor racer.
Biggest Dud: The lappers were terrible. I believe they were into them by lap 3 or 4. Come on guys, just because some of you have a Pro license, doesn’t mean you are Pro National ready.
Biggest Surprise: I don’t know if it’s as much a surprise or just a super-cool story. 49-year-old (50 in a month) John Down and his son Ryan both lined up in the MX1 class. For most of moto one they were only a few bikes apart with the old man chasing his son. John scored a 10th in moto 2 to show that he is still one of the most bad-ass sand racers ever.