2003 ABA GRANDSBy now everyone knows that Warwick Stevenson had the ABA’s Number One Pro title wrapped up months ago--no big newsflash there.But what you might not know is how much drama there was in the other 10,000 or so classes. What you’re about to read are the mains that absolutely kicked ass, as well as a mini-interview with Alliant’s Chris Burke, who won one of the most prestigious races of the weekend, the NAG 5 Challenge Friday night. Let’s start there.
NAG 5 CHALLENGE
Every year at the Grands, the ABA does what’s called the NAG 5 Challenge race. The way it works is they take the top five riders from the 15 Expert class through the 28 & Over Expert class and have them go at it in single, cutthroat laps. Miss out on a top four finish and you’re done. This year (as usual), the main was stacked. Although I didn’t get to see it, Redman/Yamaha Waverunner’s Matt Faulk gave me the play-by-play. From what he told me, the drama started when Jason Rogers, Taylor Wells, and the rest of the pack blew up in the second turn, allowing Chris Burke to snake by for the win. We got Chris to fill us in on the lap from his perspective.
Matt told me about the main; let’s hear your version...
I was on the gate shaking, I was so nervous, so I got a really bad start. I saw everyone go for the amateur section so I just went for the pro section because I was already in last place, and I saw them all ball up, so I clipped out, leaned back, plowed through, and took off (laughs).
Did you see how the whole crash started?
I saw parts of it while I was in the air, and I could see five people going down at once, but I didn’t see how it happened.
So what were you thinking while you were up there?
That maybe they’d slide down the turn and I could go around them... luckily that worked out.
How important was winning that race to you?
I just wanted to make the main; I’ve never done that before. Just making the main was good enough for me; I didn’t think I’d win it from gate seven.
What did you get for the win?
A JBL sound system for my car; like three amps, two subs, some tweeters, some door speakers...
Did you have any trouble getting through qualifying?
Yeah, in my semi I was in fifth place until I hit the pro section and passed two people, so I didn’t have to do the LCQ (last chance qualifier), so that was nice.
Have you been jumping the pro section all weekend?
I did it when I needed to (laughs).
Everyone knows that the Grands is a take-no-prisoners kind of race; there is no “next time” for the guys who get balled up in qualifying, and believe us, it happened to some of the best. Jacob Fitzgibbons and Jeff Upshaw didn’t make it out of qualifying on their cruisers, and neither did Staats’ Joey Bradford or Matt Faulk in Class. Why is this a big deal? Because all of these guys normally win mains blindfolded.
THE AMATEUR MAINS
All day long there was good race action, but things didn’t get crazy until the mains. It all started in 11-12 Open with Redman/Yahama Waverunner’s Trae Proctor and Answer/Staats’ Sean Lechner. Trae holeshotted and was winning down the second straight, with Sean right behind him. I don’t know what happened, but Trae crashed in the second turn and Lechneer got his first win of the night. Believe me, this was definitely a sign of things to come... Sean was unstoppable all night long...
In 13-14 Open, Jeff Pease and Andrew Mayfield were going at it like there was no tomorrow. They were all over each other every straightaway, which is probably why they both crashed in the last turn. I don’t think either one of these guys understands the phrase “second place…” it’s all or nothing every time they’re in the gate.
15-16 Open had so many good guys in it that you knew even before the gate dropped that it was going to be on. Saying that Mike Moeller holeshotted and managed to hold off Danny Caluag for the win just doesn’t do it justice; watching these two go at it was like some weird combination of ballet and guerilla warfare.
25 & Over Open had a great battle between Brent Lee and Eddie Cerone, but in the end, Brent got the win. Here again, saying it was close just doesn’t do it justice--both of these guys were locked at the elbow, straightaway after straightaway, full-speed, no holding back.
I’ve already mentioned Sean Lechner’s name once, but you’re about to hear it again. I can’t remember if it was class or cruiser, but every time he was in second, he’d come from behind and wind up killing kids. He’s got that riding style that makes it look like he’s going to go insane if he doesn’t win--just 100% on the edge. The kid’s got so much ability it’s scary.
16 Cruiser was another Mike Moeller/Danny Caluag matchup, and just like their Open race, it ruled... until they got to the second turn and crashed. That’s one I definitely would have liked to have seen done over...
21-25 Cruiser had TJ Johnson and Brent Lee battling. TJ was winning, but Brent passed him somewhere on the second part of the track and won.
Normally, I’d say 11-13 Girls Cruiser is about as exciting as watching paint dry, but I gotta fess up; watching Alise Post and Terra Nichols go at it was pretty darn good-- the Number One Girl vs. the Number One Girl Cruiser. They were pretty much neck and neck, until Terra unclipped and came off the pedals. Anytime these two are racing their 24’s, I’m going to hang around for it. You should too; you won’t be disappointed.
Here’s a quick re-cap of who went home with what...
#1 Pro--Warwick Stevenson
#1 Pro Cruiser--Randy Stumpfhauser
#1 Girl Pro--Jamie Lilly
#1 Amateur --Josh Oie
#1 Cruiser--Kirk Chrisco
# 1 Girl--Terra Nichols
#1 Girl Cruiser--Alise Post