OMA Nationals-Jarrett ends his drought!

Jarrett ends his drought in storm-soaked Tennessee
Story and photos Mark Kariya

Even after a disappointing 2009, Jimmy Jarrett never quit believing he could win and proved it by topping the field in Tennessee after battling all day in the mud.

For the past two years, Paul Whibley has been the man to beat and grabbed all the headlines in the Parts Unlimited Off-road Motorcycle and ATV Nationals. It should be understandable since he’s won the series championship in both 2008 and 2009, which, of course, is when he swept all 10 rounds.

That didn’t set well with the man he supplanted at the top of the charts, Jimmy Jarrett. The four-time series champ last tasted victory when he motored past Whibley with a mile or two to go at the 2008 series finale, Whibley’s bike sputtering but running well enough for him to hang on to second place that day.

But 2009 proved frustrating for Jarrett. Not only did he go winless, he also broke his right wrist midway through the season, though he minimized the damage and still got enough points to finish the year third behind Whibley and Scott Watkins, both of whom were his teammates on the all-conquering JG Off-road/GEICO Powersports/Monster Energy Kawasaki squad.

And 2010 didn’t start well for Jarrett either. While running with the leaders in Indiana, he swapped, hit a tree and bent a radiator badly enough to end his day prematurely. Starting out the season by using his one throwaway was not his original plan and put him up against the wall.

So how did Jarrett respond?

Like a champion. At the Rekluse Hangman Cross-country National in Hanging Limb, Tennessee, he worked his way into the lead on the second time around the long, hilly, wooded course made more difficult by storms, the bulk of which skirted the area but left the rest of the state literally underwater with the most rain ever recorded.

After Watkins got his first-ever holeshot (thus earning the $200 K&N Filters Holeshot Award), two-time and reigning AMA National Enduro Champion Russell Bobbitt put his FMF/KTM Factory Off-road Racing Team 250 XC into the lead. But before long, Jarrett snuck past and officially led the remaining three laps, though each of those saw Jarrett and Watkins battle back and forth, neither able to hold the lead for long.

Local racer Jordan Ashburn ran near the front all day and finished fourth, repeating his round one performance.

‘Today wasn’t about being the fastest guy,’ Wakins declared, ‘it was about being the smartest guy. There was definitely a lot of tough hills and mud holes out there. Jimmy and I, we went back and forth; each of us got stuck or fell down. I’d go down and he’d go by me, and he’d go down and I’d go by him, so it was a fun day.’

The race would come down to the last lap. ‘That one hill out there that everybody was talking about, as we were riding to it, he was right behind me,’ Jarrett said. ‘I knew it was going to come down to that hill. Somehow, I made it. I know I was mowing trees over and running over peoples’ legs, but I was going to get to the top one way or another! But I made it and looked back and never saw him.’

Despite almost giving the race away within sight of the finish when he slid out in deep, slick mud, Jarrett stayed in front to take that elusive victory with Watkins trailing by just seven seconds and Bobbitt almost two minutes back for third in his OMA debut. Local ace Jordan Ashburn took fourth on his Kawasaki followed by Husaberg’s Nick Fahringer, Kawasaki privateer Adam Bonneur, Am-Pro/FMF Yamaha’s Whibley (who reportedly had brake problems to contend with), Kenneth Gilbert on another private KX450F, Lite A winner Michael Williams and Open A winner Zach Klamfoth.

‘Last year was pretty frustrating,’ Jarrett said. ‘I was close a bunch of times and it seemed like every time ‘Whibs’ would get me at the end or I’d have a good race going and he would have a little better race going. ‘Finally, I get one and it feels good.’

Russell Bobbitt found the conditions right up his alley and, after leading the first lap, hung on to easily claim third place in his first-ever OMA National.

Normally a comparatively slow starter, Scott Watkins easily earned the $200 K&N Holeshot Award and would go on to finish second after a spirited, race-long battle with his teammate. Russell Bobbitt (55), round one winner Thad Duvall (989), Adam Bonneur (5) and Jeremy Smith (94) are also visible here.

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