Round 1 of AZOP’s 2019 Championship series races through Wickenburg, Arizona
2019 AZOP Series, Round 1, Vulture Mine, January 19-20, 2019
Written and Photographed By Jonathan Barrett
The brutal Arizona desert held nothing back as Arizona Offroad Promotions opened its season in the Vulture Mine area south of Wickenburg. Sponsored by Ridenow Powersports and Sinfab Industries,the race was held in memory of Todd Peterson, a long time checkpoint volunteer and close family member to all within AZOP over the years. The minis had a five mile course through winding hills and steep inclines, and the big bikes, quads and UTV’s had a 30 mile loop of multiple sand washes, long stretches of whoops and even a waterfall to traverse. With the morning sun cresting the mountains, the peewee bikes lined up on the start line.
Cooper Skersick continued his dominance from last season in a new class on his new Husqvarna 65, taking first overall with three more laps completed than second place Chase James in 65cc C Peewee. In the 50cc 7-8 Year Old class, Ryder Yates took first in front of Lane Oden. In the 50cc 4-6 Year Old class, Brayden Almendarez took a strong first place ahead of Asher Galindo and Courtney Curley. The Peewees had a fast flowing one mile loop that kept the speeds high and riders on their toes.
The Peewee Quads were next, with Brayden Earlewine, Tavin Freeman and Brendon Turner battling all race in the 80cc+ Advanced class, with Earlewine taking the win ahead of Freeman and Turner, respectively. In the 80cc+ Beginner class, it was Jack Wilson who’d take the checkered flag first, with Danika Simmons and Keagan Trucky following close behind. The 50-79cc 4-6 Year Old class had Brantley Little taking the victory with Matteo Gallegos and Tyler Wade taking second and third. Top 10 are as follows: Brayden Earlewine, Tavin Freeman, Brendon Turner, Jack Wilson, Danika Simmons, Keagan Trucky, Tatum Bransitter, Kaiden Lee, Anthony Gastelum and Brantley Little.
To round out the Peewees on course, the UTV 170’s and 250’s came to dominate in the desert. Braden Krah, Kenzey Foshee and Erik Alvidrez would take the podium in the 170 class, and the 250’s would bring Reid Aikins, Vincent Riccitelli and Brody Aikins to the top spots. Polaris held the top 170 spots, and the 250 podium would bring a Polaris and two HiSun cars running second and third.
The Mini Bikes came out to conquer the five mile loop, with the two fastest riders in Travis Boyd and Porter May battling all race across five laps, with Boyd taking the win by two seconds in the 80-150cc A class. Chase Boyd took the win in the 80-150cc B class, and the stacked 80-150cc C class had Jaxon Steele on top with Danny Baca and Demarco Dugi hot in tow. The Women’s C class had Nikki Earlewine take the win ahead of Emilee Carter, both putting in strong performances. 65cc A had Marley Kuhn take the win ahead of Preston James, who had an early crash that took him out of the race. 65cc B had Owen Wesley, Ethan Chanella and Brendan Chandler taking the top three spots. Top 10 are: Travis Boys, Porter May, Jaxon Steele, Danny Baca,Demarco Dugi, Clayton Hixon, Colson Skersick, Talan Raper, Marley Kuhn and Danny Carter.
The Mini quads didn’t have a great turnout, with just three battling for the win. Gabriel Simmons and Sarah Tsosie took 1-2 in the 91-300cc 10-15 Year Old class, with Dylan Skaggs taking first in the 250-400cc class.
The first race of the weekend for the adults were the Big Bikes. Taking off two by two, the Pros took to the front of the line. In the Pro class, it was the Scootin’ Newton Racing Suzuki RMZ450 of Jeremy Newton battling with Mauri Herrera for two laps, until a mechanical failure took Herrera out and left Newton to cruise to the finish. Before he crossed the line, he had a bad crash on the waterfall that made the bike land on him, burning his arm with the exhaust pipe. Newton would take first in Pro and first overall. 125-250 A had Kaden Vermilyea take the win, with Colton Edwards taking the win in 125-250 B. 125-250 C had a huge class, with Tres Couch, Josh Peterson and Taylor Wilson taking the podium in a class of 14. Open A saw Quanah Smith, Luke Vermilyea and Brian Perry take the podium, with the Blud Lubricants/ Go Ride Mountain Yamaha 250 of Austin Alexander putting up a strong ride and leading for two laps until a mechanical failure took out his third gear, ending his race. Open B saw Aaron Cordova, Dylan Manning and Daniel Cordova take the top three spots in another class of fourteen. Open C had Matthew Cutchen, Jacob Moraga and Juan Robles on the box. Vet 30+A was won by Jon Froust and Vet 30+B had Nick McDonnell take the win. Vet 30+C was taken by Juan Luna, followed by Manuel Fernando and Keith Tobin. Senior 40+C had Francisco Teran take home the win, and the young guns of Master 50+B and Super Senior 60+ were taken by Ron Simpson and Richard Genovese. Top 10 are as follows: Jeremy Newton, Kaden Vermilyea, Quanah Smith, Luke Vermilyea, Brian Perry, Tres Couch, Jon Froust, Aaron Cordova, Dylan Manning and Richard Genovese. The course proved extremely tough as the 100 mile race wore on the riders and machines.
The quads were next to conquer the course, with the Pointless Racing/ Antelope Slot Canyon Tours brothers of Erin and Andrew Simmons taking first and second overall and in Pro class ahead of the Ponderosa Crossfit Honda of Koby Dodson. The Vet Pro class had Eliminator Racing’s Todd and Rick Ellsworth taking one and two. Expert saw a dominant performance from Nick Helton and Dylan Mayol, and Sportsman had Michael Mack, Rusty Batza and Tyler Tsosie on top. David Ham and Shane Crumm brought their ATC 3-Wheelers out and Ham came out on top. Top 10 are as follows: Erin Simmons, Andrew Simmons, Koby Dodson, Nick Helton, Michael Mack, Todd Ellsworth, Rick Ellsworth, Dylan Mayol, Tristan Jones and David Ham.
The day ran out of time and the quads were cut one lap short as the sun set as the last quads rolled through scoring.
The next morning, the UTV 570’s came out to race, with Hailey Hein yet again getting on top of the box with Riley Hein and Mia Lloyd rounding out an all girls podium. All three Polaris 570’s performed to perfection and blasted through he Arizona desert.
After the 570’s, the big UTV’s staged at the starting line, ready to put rubber to dirt through a 120 mile race. In the Pro class, it was James Moore off to a quick lead after leaving the line sixth, but at race mile 15 the front differential gave out and he limped it to the pits, ending his race. That left the Geiser Performance Can Am of Derek Geiser to take the lead and hold it all four laps to the checkered flag, followed by Mark Milne and Cory Sappington, running Polaris and Can Am. Tom Wilson, the 2018 Pro Champion, blew a tire on lap one, repaired it in the pits, had a strong lap two trying to make up time, and then blew the same tire again on lap three, ending his race after three laps. The Unlimited Turbo class hosted the biggest class, with Bruce Kennedy’s Can Am powering through the rough terrain and taking a first place finish over the Hardcore Tuning Polaris of Cole Keatts and the Geiser performance Can Am of Greg Geiser. The 1000 Non-Turbo class had the Polaris RZR of Logan Goodall taking the win ahead of the two RZR’s of Paul Romanek and Luis Fernandez. Last but not least, Logan Stephenson put his RZR 850 on the top spot in the 850cc class. Top 10 are as follows: Derek Geiser, mark Milne, Bruce Kennedy, Cole Keatts, Greg Geiser, Daniel Turn, Logan Goodall, Richard Epperson, Paul Romanek and Luis Fernandez. After 120 miles, many cars were broken and battered, with the winners happy they left mostly intact.
The last race of the Vulture Mine Hare Scramble was the Trucks and Buggies. Racing another 120 mile race, Kenneth Goodall absolutely demolished the competition in his Hammers rig, winning the overall by 21 minutes. Tyler Davis took second overall in his class 1450 truck, followed by Jan Pora in the same class. Bucky Strunk took the Pro Open Buggy win, Curtis Beard took the Sportsman Open Buggy win and John Vanderway took the Sportsman Limited Buggy win. Cordell Weaver had the nicest looking truck out there, until a fuel pump malfunction took him out of the race. The Trucks and Buggies have a limited season with AZOP, only racing four times this year.
The Vulture Mine Hare Scramble was a great location to start the long AZOP season this year, with a great turnout by all and plenty of action laid down on the track.