Levi Kitchen took the Moto 2 victory in Open Pro Sport. (Photo by Ken Hill)
HURRICANE MILLS, Tenn. – With the first wave of races completed for all 36 classes, attention shifted Thursday to the second motorcycle race at the 40th edition of the Monster Energy AMA National Amateur Motocross Championship at the Loretta Lynn Ranch.
Twenty-three classes saw the second fall of the week, in what is arguably the most critical time for runners in their quest to win a championship.
Considering how the opening race of Open Pro Sport has unfolded, Thursday’s second race was meant to build excitement and set the stage for a spectacular, win-win final race.
The stacked field of talent converged in the first corner to start Moto 2 and as they crossed the corner it was Jace Kessler of JMS Performance Yamaha who won the STACYC Holeshot over Bar X / Chaparral / ECSTAR / Suzuki Racing’s Preston Kilroy, whose exceptional starts this week continued.
It wasn’t long before Kilroy took the lead and widened the gap on the first lap, before falling into a rut and losing several places. This moved Kessler to the front as Kilroy moved up to fifth.
Further behind them, Monster Energy / Star / Yamaha Racing’s Levi Kitchen was forced to overcome a mid-pack start and showed courage in his ability to enter the top 10 at the end of the first lap.
The next driver to take the lead was Branden Walther of LSR Racing KTM, who passed Kessler. Walther’s time in the lead was not long, however, as Chance Hymas of Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green was on a determined path to the lead.
Once ahead, Hymas asserted his control of the bike and led the way until the end of the race when Kitchen’s relentless charge brought him to the rear wing of the Kawasaki.
Once he got close to striking distance, Kitchen went on the attack and quickly put Hymas to work to take control of the bike within minutes.
From there he quickly pulled away from the field and charged home for the motorcycle victory ahead of Hymas, followed by Kilroy in third, who overtook the same three riders from the Moto 1 podium, albeit in a slightly different order.
After a dominant performance in the opening race, Nick Romano of Monster Energy / Star / Yamaha Racing had all eyes on him to enter Moto 2 as the favorite to repeat his efforts of the opening day.
When the gate fell on the second bike, Romano took off like a rocket and carried lengths of the bike across the field as he took on the STACYC Holeshot. The clear track caused problems for Gage Linville of NSA / bLU cRU Yamaha and Gavin Towers of Monster Energy Kawasaki Team Green, who needed to keep in touch with Romano. Luckily for Linville, he followed Romano in the lead, which gave the Yamaha duo a check as Towers were forced to fight forward from a deep start in the top 10.
After just a few laps, Romano and Linville were more than five seconds ahead of the rest of the field.
Romano was never challenged in the second half of the race and clinched an almost perfect end-to-end victory that put him in control of the overall standings. Linville was second, followed by Towers in an exact copy of Tuesday’s podium.
After two days of racing in two different classes, it was clear that Evan Ferry of Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing had both the speed and the confidence to carry the target on his back as a rider to beat in the 125cc B / vs. However, he entered the second round on Thursday chasing Mark Fineis of the KTM Orange Brigade, who won the opening round.
As the peloton rolled out of the first corner to become Moto 2, it was Logan Best of Triangle Cycles / bLU cRU Yamaha who won the STACYC Holeshot ahead of Bryce Shelly of VPE KTM. Both Fineis and Ferry had a bit of work to do, with Fineis starting fourth and Ferry sixth.
Best led the way in the first two laps as Shelly chased after her, but Ferry was eager to get into the field. The Husqvarna rider only needed two laps to make his way to the front of the pack and effectively took control of the race from there. With his main rival in front, Fineis answered the call and made his way to second place.
Ferry was in a class of his own in this race and opened up a double-digit lead in the closing laps. He earned his second motorcycle victory of the week and rebounded from his grief in Moto 1, with Fineis in second and Shelly in third.
These two budding rivals met again in the second round of Schoolboy 1, where Ferry entered as the first round winner. As the gate fell on the second heat, the peloton emerged from the first corner, it was Fineis who left with the STACYC Holeshot and first place. Ferry placed fourth and got to work trying to find Fineis.
Thanks to a clear track and the motivation to bounce back from a 19th place Wednesday, Fineis managed to win several seconds over Ferry, who made their way to second place a few laps later. Despite his best efforts, Ferry couldn’t make up the shortfall as Fineis took a one-to-one victory, followed by Ferry in second and EBR Performance Yamaha’s Collin Allen in third.
With first and second finishes in the first two races, Ferry enjoys a comfortable advantage in the overall Schoolboy 1 standings over KTM rider Ivan Aldama Jr.
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