If there was an emoji to put in a post-race report for our opening weekend with the 250’s it would be a giant smiley face. Minneapolis turned out to be almost everything that I could hope for as we fielded three racers in the class for the first time. Not just any three racers – but three unique individuals with a variety of strengths that seem to compliment each other. The weekend started early by dealing with sub-zero temperatures on Friday. We had the opportunity to ride on press day partially because our owner, management team and Alex Martin are all from Minnesota. Add to that our sponsor relationship with FXR who is also based in Minnesota and you have some great story lines.

NOTE: to the broadcast crew – thank you for asking Alex to be in the booth two times. He came back to the pit area both times with a smile on his face as if he just got a promotion. It was fun to see.

ALEX MARTIN: Alex is always cool under pressure so when we found out on Friday morning that his mechanic was detained at the Canadian border, he just shrugged and said, “What’s the back up plan?” Fortunately for us it was a race that our backup racer and pro trainer Brandon Scharer wanted to attend. Scharer volunteered to don the pit uniform and go to work so Alex would not miss a beat.

Alex rode well and never once mentioned the injured pointer finger from A3. That is not to say it did not bother him – he is just not one to complain. His finger is twice the size of what it should be but there was no way he was going to miss his home race. His qualifying times were good but a poor start in the heat race found him near the back thus sending him to the LCQ. The LCQ went according to plan with expectations of just advancing to the main event, which he easily did.

A main event start from the outside gate on a short start did not help matters as he tried to move to the inside after the launch but by then the door had closed resulting in a last place position to the second corner. Not all was lost since Alex is a fighter. He went on to a 14th place overall finish which matches his best result yet. This week will be spent working on starts. For his power to weight ratio he should launch up front. We are all still learning the 450 Yamaha but I am confident that once he hits on a setup he likes it will be “game on”.

ENZO LOPES: It is fun to watch and read about the upcoming 250 series without one word being mentioned of Enzo Lopes – and it is justifiable, what would you say? Enzo is an unproven commodity and without any proof other than the rookie team marketing guy saying the dude is ripping at the practice track why would you risk your media credentials if you went out on a limb. Enzo was super nervous all-day Friday and up to the main event on Saturday. I do hope that you had the chance to really watch him though. His style, technique and race craft are all on point. The good news on the day was that Enzo’s parents, girlfriend and friends were in Minnesota to support him in his first round. The Brazilian culture is very family oriented and that really helped Enzo focus on his first big race on the new Yamaha. As a team, we have a ton of radio chatter that the riders never hear. Right after the site lap, team owner Brandon Haas radioed to Enzo’s mechanic to write, “Make Brazil Proud!” on the pit board and leave it on there for two laps. Genius!! Enzo got a decent start, shook off the nerves, put his head down and marched to an 8th place overall finish and the top privateer in the race. It was the first time over the weekend that he finally took a deep breath and smiled. I anticipate he will move up from there in the next few rounds.

PHIL NICOLETTI: As the journeyman on the team, Phil has realistic expectations that I am not sure the public believe. Some may think he is over the hill but after seeing the heart and determination he puts into his craft; nothing will surprise me. Phil is ready and I hope people saw that. When he was relegated to Group B for practice, he just took it in stride by saying, “I’ll just get out in front of the kids and do my thing” and he did just that by qualifying P2 in the group. All three of our 250 riders were in the second heat so I was a bit nervous of the possibilities. The heat turned into fire when the #33 decided to try and muscle his way past Nicoletti after
Nicoletti had passed him cleanly. All three of our guys advanced easily but
the radio chatter to follow was all time best. Brandon Haas: “Phil just
crossed the finish line and is looking over his shoulder. He’s looking for Forkner so head to the tunnel entrance to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand
.” As it turned out Phil did navigate his way to stop the #33 before the tunnel and offer up some “coaching” that could be heard from sections 130-406. More radio chatter followed: “Guys, stay with the bike and rider and don’t leave the pit area.” It was just coincidence that the only thing
between Phil and #33 in the pit area was Jace Owen as we were next to each other. Phil is smart – he said what he had to say and mentally moved on to the main event. A mid-pack start had him moving up to 7th after the group spread out in the first few laps. Then out of seemingly nowhere the red #90 started cartwheeling past, pushing Phil off the track and losing a few
positions. Phil had the sense and experience to feel something coming and he likely knew who was behind him, making the quick deduction for evasive maneuvers. Still, he brought home a very respectable 10th place overall finish and the desire to improve at Arlington. Are you a believer yet????

JACE OWEN: It is hard to erase the memory of last season for Jace. He worked so hard to position himself as a contender and a hole shot in the first main event looked like that would be his year. Fast forward to 2022 and two surgeries later and it is like starting all over again. Good news – Jace is not afraid of the hard work and realized he has a bit more to do. Of the group, Jace gives great feedback and an honest assessment of his racing and can clearly see his direction. For a guy that is not totally one hundred percent he hit his goals of advancing straight to the main and finishing in the top fifteen with and overall 11th place. In a field that is “stacked” and with over seventy entries, I would say that is pretty damn good. Of course, like any racer, he was not happy with the result but in the grand scheme of things it is a great foundation to build on. If you get a chance to watch Jace race you may consider him a bit vanilla but add some sprinkles and watch some more – he is fast! I anticipate as the season progresses, so will he. He is known as our best starter off the gate and those qualities will be brought to light sooner than later.