The final night of action before AMSOIL Arenacross’ annual Race to the Championship commenced in “The Big Easy” on Saturday, in front of a captive audience inside Smoothie King Center. With momentum on the line heading into the battle for the Ricky Carmichael Cup, Woodstock KTM’s Daniel Herrlein picked an opportune time to capture the first 250AX Class overall win of his career. In the Eastern Regional AX Lites Class, Team Babbitt’s/GPF/Monster Energy Kawasaki/MMCR’s Jacob Williamson took a big win, preventing Yamaha/Rock River bLU cRU rider Justin Cooper from clinching the championship.
Before the main event action in the 250AX Class got underway, the RMATV/MC Head 2 Head Challenge set the tone for the battle for victory, with Rockstar Energy/OTSFF/Yamaha, in association with Cycle Trader and Rock River, rider Chris Blose taking the win over Team Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/AMSOIL Kawasaki, presented by AP Design, rider Gavin Faith. Blose earned an additional championship bonus point with his triumphant effort.
When the opening main event got underway, Faith put his Kawasaki out front early over Herrlein and TiLUBE/Jack Link’s/TUF Racing Honda’s Jace Owen, the championship leader. The clear track allowed Faith to sprint out to a healthy multiple-second lead after just one lap, with Owen passing Herrlein to move into second. From there the lead group stabilized and Faith maintained his margin of about three seconds.
The defending 250AX class champion appeared to be on his way to his sixth main event win of the season, but disaster struck on lap 11 when Faith lost control of his bike in the rhythm section and crashed out of the lead. The misfortune handed control of the main event to Owen, who sat comfortably ahead of Herrlein in second and his TiLUBE/Jack Link’s/TUF Racing Honda teammate Ben Lamay in third. With a championship-leading 13th main event win within reach, Owen also made a crucial mistake and crashed in the whoops on lap 13 that opened the door for Herrlein and Lamay to move into first and second. Owen was able to get back on his bike quickly and reentered in third.
Herrlein maintained his hold on the lead to take a surprise main event win, the first of his 250AX class career. He crossed the line 3.7 seconds ahead of Lamay, while Owen soldiered home to finish third. Woodstock KTM’s Cody VanBuskirk was fourth, with Team Babbitt’s Travis Sewell fifth. Faith reentered the race in 11th following his crash, losing a lap to the leader, and stayed there through the finish.
When the gate dropped on the second 250AX class main event, Sewell put himself out front ahead of Lamay and Blose, while Owen settled into fourth, Herrlein fifth, and Faith sixth. Blose was able to make the pass on Lamay for second on lap two, while Herrlein moved past Owen for fourth. A handful of laps later Owen dropped out of the top five after getting tangled with a lapped rider, giving up two positions to Faith and Sportland 2/TZR/Kawasaki Team Green’s Josh Osby.
Herrlein was in control of his own destiny as the race passed the halfway point and successfully moved into podium position on lap nine with a pass on Lamay. One lap later, Blose crashed out of contention while running second, giving the runner-up spot to Herrlein and third to Lamay. Blose dropped all the way to 10th.
Sewell went unchallenged en route to his first main event win of the season, taking the checkered flag 6.4 seconds ahead of Herrlein and lapping all the way up to fifth place. Lamay followed in third, Faith in fourth and Osby in fifth. Owen finished sixth.
When the overall results were tallied, Herrlein’s impressive 1-2 results were more than enough to give him a breakthrough win. Lamay grabbed the runner-up spot (2-3), while Sewell’s second main event win gave him the final spot on the podium in third (5-1). Owen was fourth (3-6), his worst outing of the season, while Osby finished fifth (6-5).
With the Race to the Championship set to get underway, the 250AX class standings were reset with Owen earning the top seed on the heels of 12 main event wins and seven overall victories. Faith will begin the Race to the Championship in second, just one point out of the lead. Goerke (3rd) and Blose (4th) will sit two points back of Owen, while Lamay (5th) and Team Babbitt’s Gared Steinke (6th) sit three points behind. Herrlein (7th) and Sewell (8th) are four points out of the lead, while Woodstock KTM’s Cody VanBuskirk (9th) and Osby (10th) round out the Race to the Championship field, five points behind Owen.
With a title on the line, the 15-lap Eastern Regional AX Lites Class main event began with Woodstock KTM’s Hunter Sayles grabbing the early lead, followed by Williamson and Sportland 2/TZR/Kawasaki Team Green’s Scott Zont. Cooper, the championship leader, found himself mired back in ninth and in need of gaining several positions if he hoped to clinch the title.
While Williamson looked to hunt down Sayles for the lead out front, Cooper was able to jump up to seventh after lap one, but then dropped to 10th on the following lap. After patiently waiting for his opportunity to make a pass for the lead, Williamson successfully took control of the main event on lap four and proceeded to check out on the field. From there all eyes were on Cooper to see if he would be able to make enough passes to clinch the title.
As Williamson’s lead grew to double digits, Cooper was going to work, methodically making critical passes over the second half of the main event. He broke into the top five on lap 12 and needed only to pass his main championship rival, Babbitt’s KTM rider Isaac Teasdale, for fourth to become champion.
Williamson was dominant en route to his second Main Event win of the Eastern Regional Championship, crossing the line 9.7 seconds ahead of Sayles, with Zont rounding out the podium. Cooper made a late charge on Teasdale for fourth, but came up just a couple feet short at the finish.
The victory by Williamson moved him from third to second in the Eastern Regional standings with one round remaining, 15 points behind Cooper. The fifth-place result by Cooper left him just one point shy of clinching his first professional title. Only he and Williamson will be eligible to claim the championship at the finale in Las Vegas on May 5.
AMSOIL Arenacross will kick off the highly anticipated Race to the Championship next Saturday, March 18, from Portland, Oregon’s Moda Center. Six nights of racing will determine which rider walks away with the Ricky Carmichael Cup in Las Vegas on May 5.