Rounds three and four of the Kicker AMA Arenacross Series gave us exciting, yet contrasting levels of racing throughout the night show main events.
The evenings began with the 250f Pro Sports heats, featuring the top riders of the series, followed by the 51cc 4-6 main, where the youngest riders took to the Lubbock, Texas, track. The 51cc class is where many pro riders start. So how do these riders compare the the more youthful versions of themselves?
Learning The Craft
The 51cc 4-6 class is a class that in itself has a wide range of skill levels. From beginners on PW50’s and CRF50F’s to the front runners on CX50JR’s, one can see confidence and technique develop in these young racers.
The #531 of Tanner Smelker held strong to finish 7th as the youngest racer of the event at 4 years old. The #514 of Brogan Chaney got off to the lead early in the second moto. However, he was contested by the #468 of Greyson Vilandry for the entire moto. This battle came down to the wire with less than half a second between the two racers after Vilandry made a late moto charge on Chaney.
Between the less and more experienced competitors in this class, one can see a visible difference in aggression and race craft during the moto. Chaney often blocks his inside lines, playing strong defensive moves on Vilandry. However, Vilandry often counters with hard charges through the whoops. He does so by manualing the bike and keeping the bike planted to get as much traction and acceleration as possible.
These two both show aggression and comfortability with jumping a bit farther than their competitors, as well as seeking out new line choices to make their passes on lapped riders. These are skills the less experienced riders will learn as they continue to race and experience different situations on the track.
As the night progressed to the 250f C Novice class, another class with a wide range of experience among the riders, the racing began to show more complexity in the rhythm and whoop sections. The novice class hosts riders that have just moved up from the beginner class, as well as more experienced riders that are ready to move up to the intermediate class.
The early front runners in the second moto show willingness to jump through the whoop section in comparison to the riders farther back in the pack. These riders are also more comfortable with taking away an inside line, as shown by the #22 of Nicholas Fredrickson on the opening lap. This class also highlights the technical skills needed to jump through the rhythm section in the center of the track.
The bigger bikes and increased experience allowed the front runners to double-triple-double this section, as opposed to the young guns in the 51cc 4-6 who were only able to jump up onto the table top in the middle of this section. Finally, the corner speed of the top riders in this class allowed them to double the finish line, something again not seen in the 51cc 4-6 because of bike size. However, later in the evening, some of the top 85cc riders have the skill and corner speed to complete this difficult obstacle.
Though this class shows the progressions of the riders in technical ability, mental game planning and composure is an area that the pro riders seem to have down. The last two laps of the second moto show how the leaders can make mental mistakes.
The second place rider of Benitez makes a mistake in the corner before the finish, the then second place rider of Shaw makes a mistake in the whoops the following lap, slowing the third place rider of Higgins. Higgins was able to make it around Shaw, but not before McLaughlin was able to make it around the two, going from 5th to 2nd in the matter of half a lap.
On the final lap, the leader, Nathan Fredrickson, also made a mistake in the whoops, handing McLaughlin the lead and the overall win in the 250f C Novice class in Round 4. McLaughlin was able to maintain composure throughout the race, rewarding him with a win.
Again, as these riders experience different racing situations, they will be able to minimize mistakes and improve their mental game and overall finishes.
The 85cc 9-15 class showed many of the same skills as the 250f C Novice class. The top runners were able to make it through the whoops clean, as well as use their corner speed to perform the same double-triple-double in the rhythm section, and cleanly jump the finish line double. These riders again showed thoughtful passes, a skill also shown by the advanced riders in the 51cc 4-6 class.
The #95 of Jace Hinrichs showed impressive technique and composure lap after lap on a smaller bike than the 250f C Novice class. The #779 of Ryan Boutilier was able to learn from Hinrichs throughout the race in order to jump the finish line and rhythm sections, showing his advanced technique and race craft. Both of these riders are good examples of how advancing experience and skill level comes to racers at different ages and times in their careers.
The epitome of the technical skill and mental game in the Kicker AMA Arenacross Series is in the Pro Sport classes, both 250f and 450f. Many riders choose to race both classes in this series, unlike the AMA Supercross Series. The riders in these classes have advanced to blitzing, or skimming across the top of, the whoops. They have been given a second section to show their skill on the Lubbock, TX track.
They also complete a more complicated triple-double-double rhythm in the center section of the track. Like the top 85cc 9-15 and 250f C Novice riders, the pro riders are able to jump the finish line double with ease. However, they are able to do so from the inside of the corner, rather than the outside line.
In the 250f Pro Sport main event, the #800 of Mike Alessi was able to pull a holeshot and ace his marks on the first lap. Opting to jump the second set of whoops allowed the #1 of Kyle Peters to blitz past him and stick the pass on the outside of the following corner early in the race. Both Park and Bitterman use the whoop sections to make similar passes on Alessi later in the main.
All three vary their line choice to make their way through the lapped traffic, similar to the riders in the 51cc 4-6 class. The pro riders have had years of experience making these moves, showed through their precise passes and ability to react on a dime.
These four classes provided exciting racing throughout the night show at rounds 3 and 4 of the Kicker AMA Arenacross Series in Lubbock, TX. Many of the skills that the pros have are similar to the top 51cc and 85cc racers. The ability to think on their feet, use smooth corner speed to complete the obstacles, and maintain mental composure during the races are all skills the top racers have.
Though advanced technique often comes with years of experience, the top 51cc and 85cc racers are already developing these skills and working to perfect them in order to become future pro racers. Although advanced skill makes for exciting racing in the Pro classes, excitement came in other ways during the night show.
The next two rounds of Kicker AMA Arenacross Series move to Guthrie, OK this weekend (January 22 and 23). Two more nights of excitement you won’t want to miss. Watch every round live on FloRacing!
Jackie Riess | @jriess27
Pro Snow Bike and Pro Women's Motocross Rider