Photo: Ken Hill

John Natalie has the rare distinction of heading into Round 1 of the 2015 Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship series with the lead in the point standings.

Last week, the ATV MX season began the year for the first time at the Daytona International Speedway where Natalie grabbed the holeshot and then pulled off a well-fought win over a charging Joel Hetrick. The series' official "Round 1" starts Saturday at Echeconnee MX in Lizella, GA.

The Daytona victory ended a 19-race winless streak for Natalie who had the speed last year but ran into some suspension problems and other mechanical issues that ultimately soured the season where the 2011 Champion ended in a disappointing fourth-place.

"We brought Mark Baldwin from Baldwin Motorsports (to the team) because of his years of experience working with pro riders," said Natalie, a MotoSport rider. "He is the best most thorough mechanic out there. Also, bringing on Wayne Mooradian and Pep Suspension smoothed out all the bumps."

Natalie won the Holeshot Championship Award for 2014 but it was those suspension issues that helped rob him of down-the-stretch speed but also wore him down physically. This year, Natalie said the bike brings a great combination of handling and power.

"I also don't have to worry about the bike being ready because Mark is always on top of keeping it perfect," he said. "I think we will only get better as the season progresses."

In addition to the Baldwin team helping out, Natalie said he's been working on his personal conditioning so he has the endurance to race hard through the whole Moto. He'll need it too for Round 1 as Echeconnee is considered a "sand box" with a two-plus minute lap time and lots of elevation changes.

"My mindset hasn't changed," Natalie said of his approach to the 2015 season. "I want to win as many races as possible and ultimately win the Championship."

One down, 10 to go.

Racing for Round 1 of the ATV MX Championship series starts at 11 a.m. (EST) and the first Moto (15 minutes plus two laps) at 3 p.m. (EST) on Saturday at Echeconnee MX, 5070 Marshall Mill Road in Lizella, GA.

2015 ATV MX Championship Standings

  1. John Natalie (25) - MotoSport rider
  2. Joel Hetrick (22)
  3. Chad Wienen (20)
  4. Joe Byrd (18)
  5. Nick Gennusa (16)
  6. Thomas Brown (15)
  7. Josh Upperman (14)
  8. Adam Clark (13)
  9. Vital Cazenave (12)
  10. Tyler Hamrick (11)