O’Banion edges Johnson in OMA Winter Nationals Kentucky thriller


Parts Unlimited Off-road Motorcycle and ATV Winter Nationals, Round 2: FMF Racing Blue Grass National


O’Banion edges Johnson in OMA Winter Nationals Kentucky thriller


With the finish in sight, Shane O’Banion had just a few bike lengths on Chad Johnson, but that was all he needed to take the win after a race-long battle with the two-time Arenacross champion.

Was it the cool, dry autumn day or the $250 bonus offered to the overall A, B and C winners? Whatever the reason, a good crowd showed up for the FMF Racing Blue Grass National outside of Dawson Springs, Kentucky, round two of the Parts Unlimited Off-road Motorcycle and ATV Winter Nationals. And besides the great weather and unexpected cash for amateurs, those attending witnessed a great race for the win that went to Shane O’Banion by a couple bikelengths over two-time Arenacross champion Chad Johnson.

Though a bit dry in places, the Thomas family’s farm provided good variety on a great day for racing. Here, eventual runner-up Chad Johnson completes another lap late in the race while leading.

            O’Banion got the jump off the line and tried to gap the field on his borrowed KTM 300 XC, but he only succeeded in getting arm-pump, allowing Johnson to close in. When O’Banion made his scheduled pit stop, he expected Johnson to also pull in, but Johnson’s Fun Mart Cycles/Maxxis/Moose-backed KTM 450 XC-F had a big tank, allowing him to put off pitting until later.

            Originally, off-road newbie Johnson planned to just tuck in behind and follow, but dust altered that plan. “That was my goal at first, but I realized trying to tuck in behind him, it was so dusty I couldn’t see anything,” Johnson said. “Once I got out front, I was just trying to cruise and hold a decent pace and keep my heart rate at a decent level and try to move forward.”

            But Pro Action KTM/Eric Gill/Fox-sponsored O’Banion clung doggedly onto Johnson’s rear wheel, knowing that his less-experienced rival (at least in woods racing) would have to get gas eventually.

            His patience paid off as the race wound down. Johnson indeed pulled in to get a splash from mentor Junior Jackson, and that allowed O’Banion to shoot past as they got the white flag. “On the next-to-last lap I was taking some chances [because] I thought it was [the last lap] and I was going blind–too fast, really,” O’Banion admitted. “I got to the end [of that lap] and I was still behind him and I was like, ‘Well, it’s over.’

            “Then I saw the white flag and he stopped for gas. Then I knew, ‘Yeah, okay; I’ve got this.

            “I knew unless I did something dumb and wrecked, he couldn’t pass me [back] because of the dust,” O’Banion observed. “Of course, I was glad to see him stop for gas! I about ran out of gas [myself on the last lap].”

            Officially, they finished less than three seconds apart, 2:17:31.7 to 2:17:34.1. Third overall went to Open A winner Zac Nash, who had to come back from a mediocre start and some off-course excursions early on. “Once I got [up to early leader Ryan Lenth], I passed him and just moved on and just focused on trying to move up in the overall [standings],” the Performance Supercycle KTM/Motorex/Moose 250 XC-mounted  Nash reported. As the overall A winner, he picked up $250 cash, as did the overall B- and C-class winners at this round.

Though he didn’t get the best of starts, Zac Nash worked his way through the pack and would finish third overall to comfortably win Open A and earn the $250 bonus for first A.

            Rookie Pro Michael Williams had a multi-kick start and a big crash later that detuned him to an eventual fourth overall aboard his Barry Heath Racing/Pro Logic/Fox KX250F. Open A runner-up Ryan Lenth, who led the class early on his G2 Ergonomics/FMF/Moose KTM 250 XC, claimed fifth overall with Spencer Burke (third Open A), Alan Westerfield (30-39 A winner), Taylor Downs (Lite B and overall B winner), Kyleer Vance (fourth Open A) and Colin Brasher (Lite B runner-up) rounded out the top 10 overall.

The king of budget racing, Alan Westerfield raced this barely-used 2007 RM-Z250 he found on Craigslist.com for $2700 and won 30-39 A, finishing seventh overall, after not racing for more than three months.

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