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AZOP Takes Over Cinder Mountains For Brutal Race

Round 8 of AZOP Championship Series Races in Flagstaff, Arizona

Written and Photographed By Jonathan Barrett (August 2018)

Dateline: 2018 AZOP Series, Round 8, Cinder Mountain OHV Area, July 28-29, 2018

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

The Cinder Mountains near Sunset Crater in Flagstaff, Arizona offers some of the most unique OHV trail systems and terrain in all of Arizona. The volcanic sand can be found nowhere else in the southwest and was the 8th stop in the Arizona Offroad Promotions championship series. With only one day of racing, the racers came to battle in the 88 mile race across the tight trails and wide open mountain ranges that this area had to offer. Presented by Moto Race Tire and Star Lightbars, the event was full of food, vendors, and plenty of play. The Peewees took control of the morning on their own two mile track next to the main staging area, complete with multiple whoops sections, inclines, declines, and dense volcanic sand. With the sun just coming up and the weather clear and cool, the Peewee Bikes lined up.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

With multiple podiums already under their belt, the Skersick brothers performed strongly yet again with Colson taking the victory in his 65cc C class with 15 laps, finishing ahead of Zayden Serna with 12 laps and Ayden Candelaria with 10 laps. Cooper Skersick took the 50cc 7-8 Years Old class with 13 laps, ahead of Rhylan Benally with 12 laps and Wyatt Massey with 11 laps. Steele Robinson won the 50cc 4-6 Years Old class, with Courtney Curley and Jayce Letner in tow.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

Next up was the Johnson brothers of the Thin Air Offroad Park in nearby Winslow showing up to dominate in the Peewee Quad class. Landen was running a strong race in the ATV 80cc+ Advanced class until a pileup on a narrow section sent him hurdling into the back of Caleb Sartor and taking a few seconds to get untangled from him. Those few seconds combined with a few other errors on the tight course was all the Gabriel Simmons and Caleb Sartor needed to pull ahead on Johnson, finishing first and second respectively. The Caliber Racing quad of Cole Rusnell also ran strong, finishing just behind Johnson. In the ATV 80cc+ Beginner class, 12 quads lined up in a single row and took off to battle. Despite flipping over, Brayden Earlewine took the victory, showing that nothing can stop you if you want the victory bad enough. Brendon Turner and Cade Little rounded out the podium, finishing within a minute of Earlewine.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

Following the peewees, the minis rode out to the big track, albeit cut off at 5 miles, to ride their most scenic race of the year. The Mini Bikes came out to traverse the long whoops sections and tight single track, with Marley Kuhn taking the 65cc B class followed by Colton Calmes and Sam Yazzie. The Boyd Brothers Racing Kawasaki of Chase Boyd took a solid fourth, followed by Chase Dugan, who after finishing couldn’t even stand to ride his bike into his pit area, falling into his parents arms, exhausted. Emilee Carter came out to gain more experience and did just that, finishing five laps and winning her Women C class. Keegan Hardy, Cody Reyes and Dominic Craighill represented the 80-150cc A class and all performed well, finishing eight laps each and finishing within two minutes of each other. The other half of Boyd Brothers Racing finished strong in the 80-150cc B class, taking third behind Porter May and Cole Fryar. Gunner Deatherage also had a great performance, getting stronger each race following his injury earlier this year. Last but not least, the stacked 80-150cc C class brought Clay Stringer to the top of the podium in his hometown, followed by Austin Marini and Demarco Dugi. Other notable finishes include Tyler Rees taking ninth and Trevor Supalla taking sixth. Overall finished for Mini Bike is as follows; Keegan Hardy, Cody Reyes, Dominic Craighill, Cole Fryar, Clay Stringer, Porter May, Travis Boyd, Austin Marini, Demarco Dugi, and Breyden Hightower.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

When the Mini Quads took to the course, there was one thing on Miss Carly Senter’s mind; victory. The Caliber racing member has been absolutely dominant in the 250-400cc class this year, and this year was no different. Representing the minority of female offroad racers as well as the small female ATV riding community, she came out swinging and took the top spot on the podium, followed by the Colorado racer Marcus Harris and Tyler Tsosie. All three ran a tight race and finished within three seconds of each other. In the 91-300cc 10-15 Years Old class, Wyatt Rock showed his Caliber Racing superiority and took the win a full lap ahead of second place of Kolbie Lang (CMPFoto/Blud Lubricants sponsored rider) and the next Caliber Racing competitor of Ryan Forward. Top 11 results are Wyatt Rock, Carly Senter, Marcus Harris, Kolbie Lang, Tyler Tsosie, Ryan Forward, Kasey Snyde, Wyatt Little, Dakota Hibler, Mason Sabatina and Lane Fryar.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

When the big bikes hit the starting line, it was like a scene from a movie. 128 bikes all in one line, eagerly anticipating the drop of the green flag. This race is the only race of the year to offer the National Hare and Hound-style “bomb start”, a quarter mile drag race into a tight first turn. The nearby storm was just behind them, roaring thunder every 30 seconds or so, with lightning in the distance. There was a thick tension in the air, the smell of race fuel in the nostrils of each spectator watching this once-a-year event. As the marshall got into position, all bikes cut silent. The dead engine starts are a favorite for some and a dread for others. With some fingers prepped on the start button and a multitude of feet on kick starters, the green flag dropped. A thunderous roar filled the air as all 128 bikes roared to life and slammed into first gear and took off. The Blud Lubricants/ZR1 Suspension Honda of Wyatt Perry had a rough start, coming 15th off the line and into the dust. With so many bikes all next to each other, the visibility was down to zero. “You couldn’t see your handlebars it was so bad” said Chris Mankowski, the Senior 40+B rider. While he had a bad start, Perry pushed hard in the first few turns, and through a risky maneuver came out of the first forest section in second place. Zach Myers of Laveen would be the one to take the early lead, coming from a background in desert racing this was his forte. Coming off the line almost last would be the third pro of Luis Kortright, taking a while to get his KTM 350 up and running. While he had a rough start, Kortright came into third place by the end of lap one, following Myers and Perry. As the end of lap one came near, the weather struck the race course hard as a torrential downpour accompanied by a massive hailstorm hit all at once. While most riders were hitting the faster sections of the course, one inch balls of hail started pelting them mercilessly. “The hail was absolutely insane” Perry stated after finishing. Also chiming in on the hail was Austin Bott, a 125-250cc B rider: “People around me quickly began to slow as it became difficult to see and fairly painful as temps hit mid 50s during the storm and the hail felt like huge rocks getting thrown up”. Perry made it through the initial beating and skipped the hot pit on lap one, feeling confident in his riding and fuel levels after 22 miles. Myers followed Perry through the hot pits and they were off for another grueling lap. Michael Savage of Prescott Valley didn’t last long as he found a tree root in fourth gear, ending his day with a hard crash. On lap two, Perry would lose his rear brakes and be without them for the remainder of the race. That didn’t stop him from putting a hard push on Myers, who was still leading overall. All riders made it to the second pit, stopping for fuel and a gear change. Lap three would bring a few notable crashes in the pro class. Perry was pushing hard to keep pace with Myers and crashed really hard, twisting the bike up pretty hard and ringing his bell. Perry recovered and put the charge back on. Kortright was running a serious hot lap when disaster struck. While lazing through a fast section at approximately 65mph, Kortright found a tree root that stooped the bike dead and sent him flying 25 yards, hitting the ground hard. Over the next 90 minutes multiple racers, medics and crew stopped to check on him while an air-evac was denied due to weather. Eventually an ambulance was able to arrive and pick Kortright up, where he went to the nearby Flagstaff hospital to recover. Kortright was released later that night with a serious concussion and luckily no major trauma. Lap four had Myers taking a nasty spill, and as Perry stopped to check on him, saw he was okay and hopped back on the bike to finish in an overall first. Myers quickly regained his composure and finished only one minute behind Perry, with a third place Cameron Hakes six minutes behind him.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

In the rest of the pack, Austin Bott shined with a win in 125-250cc B class, despite having a few rough crashes and dealing with puddles that swallowed the bike on lap three. Austin Alexander would dominate 125-250cc A with a 20 minute lead on second place Drake Hacker. Anthony Luna won 125-250cc C class, being the only rider to complete four laps in his class. Phil Means would take the Master 50+A class and Richard Heyer would take the Master 50+B class with a 33 minute lead on second place Ron Simpson. Dominic Dugi and Johnny Eason would have a tight race with Dugi taking the win 10 minutes ahead of Eason. Brandon Ybarra and Kyle Mcminn would also finish close, with Ybarra taking the victory two minutes ahead of Mcminn and only three minutes ahead of third place Kyle Pethers. Channon Yazzie took first home in Open C, followed by Matthew Cutchen and Jordan Mann and Weston Atwater. Joe Mcneil and Chris Mankowski won the Senior 40+A and B classes respectively, with Francisco Teran taking Senior 40+C. Vet 30+A,B, and C were won by Colter Van Wagenen, John Spires, and finally Christopher Neswood. Top 10 Overall goto Wyatt Perry, Zachary Myers, Dominic Dugi, Cameron Hakes, Nic Colangell, Pernell Yazzie, Travis Azure, Austin Alexander, Johnny Eason and Tyler Brown.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

The ATV’s took to the course following the maelstrom of bad weather the bikes had to endure, racing in cloudy weather and lots of mud. Without a constant rain, the quads had an easier time seeing in the cinders sections, but the mud was brutal in the dirt sections. The Pro class was stacked with 11 riders, with the WORCS top contending rider Mike Sloan took the early lead and started to show his dominance. After two laps, a combination of taking a wrong turn and a battery malfunction led Sloan to an early end to his day. The Pointless Racing Honda’s of Erin and Andrew Simmons started strong, with Andrew in fourth place after lap one and Erin mid pack in sixth. Jarrett Curley took an early second place behind Sloan, dropping to fourth on lap two and back up the second on lap three. Andrew Simmons would take one position on lap two and then overtook Curley and took home the win overall. Curley would take home second place, with Tyler Benally taking home third. Koby Dodson had a rough race this weekend, starting mid pack and working his way up to fifth after lap two, making the pass on fourth place. While pushing for a podium, Dodson clipped a tree and bent his steering stem, snapped his steering stabilizer, and got bucked off his bike. After getting back on, he limped his bike to an eighth place finish. In the Expert class, Michael Tsosie started dead last without any tearoffs, treading slowly through the thick mud, trying to keep his vision steady. Lap two got him new goggles and a new pace, catching upto his class and finally finding first place on lap three, holding it until the checkered flag. Austin Snyder would also hold a strong race, taking second place home, followed by the Colorado racer Noah Harris and family member Kent Harris. Deshawn Tallsalt was fifth off the line, losing a few positions through the rough mud sections and finally settling on a sixth place finish with no goggles. Nick helton would take the win in Sportsman, the only Sportsman to complete four laps. Logan Heath and Bradley Joel would take second and third respectively, with an honorable mention of Nicole Earlewine gaining experience, finishing mid pack at eighth place. Micheal Mack had a solid race until mechanical gremlins took him out on lap two. The ATC 3-Wheelers had Tim Coulson winning, followed by Leesa Bolden. Top 10 finishes go to Andrew Simmons, Jarrett Curley, Tyler Benally, Erin Simmons, Harry Donald, Michael Tsosie, Justin Keeton, Austin Snyder, Noah Harris and Nick Helton.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

Sunday would bring 42 UTV’s lined up in the lake bed for the most grueling race of their season. With 13 pros lined up, it would be the Can-Am of Christopher Blais hot on the trail of Cole Freaday passing the halfway mark of lap one, with Sean Lynch and Tom Wilson hot in tow. Freaday would break a joint in his car and give the lead to Blais, ending his day after one lap. At the end of lap one, Lynch would have the lead with Blais ten seconds behind him and Wilson one minute behind Blais. Lap two had Lynch and Blais still battling through the miles of whoops and tight trees, with Lynch still holding onto the lead. Lap three saw Blais take the lead away and hold it until the checkered flag, ultimately landing him first overall. Lynch finished right on his bumper in second with Wilson finishing two minutes down from Lynch. Unfortunately, the hot streak of James Moore and AWC Racing came to an end with a mechanical failure costing him his day on lap one.

Cinder Mountains AZOP Race Photo

Chase De Sousa Dias took home gold in the 900cc class with Evan Striplin, Travis White and Clay Winiecki behind him. In the 1000cc Non-Turbo class, the ATD Automotive female racer of Hailey Hein would win, beating Barry Bennett in second and Mike Nieves in third, the only Polaris RZR RS1 on the course. The 1000cc Turbo class had the promising Kali Kinsman dominating the class and on track for a victory, until five miles from the finish she would break a tie rod and end her day on the side of the course. Neil Carse took the win in class, followed by Greg Geiser and Craig Hein. Top 10 finishers are Christopher Blais, Sean Lynch, Tom Wilson, Neil Carse, Greg Geiser, William Bedlion, Craig Hein, Mike Knightly, Chase De Sousa Dias and Garrick Lastra.

In the UTV170 class, Lucas Johnson put the hammer down on the rest of the class, taking home first, followed by Ashton Stowell and the Hisun Strike 250 of Ian Kowalski, who clipped a tree and still managed a podium finish. The rest of the class went to Vincent Riccitelli, Rhiannon Brinkerhoff, Rhyland Stowell and Jaxen Gibson. The UTV570’s took on the big course and showed their prowess with Grace Vinagro taking first, followed by Riley Hein, Blayne Rockhill, Landen De Sousa Dias, Kasyn Matthews and Ellie Koester.

The 2018 Cinder Mountain Hare Scramble was an exciting one, complete with hail, rain, fog, and lots of action. Next round goes to Prescott Valley, Arizona for the Lynx Creek Hare Scrambles August 18-19th. More info can be found at www.azopracing.com

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