A new year, a new team, a new race and John Natalie is already wiping the slate clean from a frustrating 2014 season.
The 2015 Mtn. Dew ATV Motocross National Championship series began Tuesday with an unprecedented first round at the Daytona International Speedway on a Supercross style track laid out on the grassy area of the famed raceway that is home to the Daytona 500 for NASCAR.
Natalie, who had more downs than ups last year as he encountered various mechanical troubles that ultimately dropped him from a chance to win a second ATV MX title to a fourth-place finish, found a new team in Baldwin Motorsports Honda during the off-season which allows him to hand over the reins for the day-in and day-out operations so he can simply focus on what he does best - racing.
It apparently worked.
Natalie won his qualifying Heat race and then when the gates dropped for the inaugural ATV Supercross race at Daytona, he was nearly untouchable. He grabbed the holeshot and led wire to wire. Halfway through the 15-lap event, Natalie opened a huge lead after Jeffrey Rastrelli, who provided early pressure, crashed in a rhythm section and bowed out of contention. But the battle for second between Joel Hetrick, and the three-time defending Champion Chad Wienen, helped close the gap on Natalie. Wienen went for a pass on Lap 10 getting alongside Hetrick but couldn't get by so Hetrick stepped it up by pulling away from Wienen and setting his sights on Natalie.
Hetrick, who settled for second in 2014, made a charge for the lead on the final lap as lapped riders became obstacles and he managed to pull alongside Natalie's rear fender. A last ditch effort leading to the checkers failed as Natalie held on for the win. Wienen, who needed the LCQ to get into the Main, pulled up in third-place.
John Natalie with a whole bunch of awards - All Photos: Ken Hill
"I am extremely pumped right now. It's Daytona. This is the land of speed," said Natalie, a MotoSport rider. "I'm standing in the same spot (Gatorade Victory Lane) as legends like Petty and Earnhardt, and I'm so honored to be able to share this space with them. I am the first one to ever win an ATV race at Daytona. Nothing will ever change that."
Natalie ended a 19-race winless streak that stretched back to the final race of the 2012 season. The win also puts him in first place with 25 points in the Championship standings. Hetrick is in second with 22 and Wienen is third with 20 points.
The official Round 1 of the 2015 ATV Motocross National Championship is March 21 at Echeconnee MX in Lizella, GA.
2015 Daytona ATV Supercross Results
- John Natalie - MotoSport rider
- Joel Hetrick
- Chad Wienen
- Joe Byrd
- Nick Gennusa
- Thomas Brown
- Josh Upperman
- Adam Clark
- Vital Cazenave
- Tyler Hamrick
2015 ATV MX Championship Standings
- John Natalie (25) - MotoSport rider
- Joel Hetrick (22)
- Chad Wienen (20)
- Joe Byrd (18)
- Nick Gennusa (16)
- Thomas Brown (15)
- Josh Upperman (14)
- Adam Clark (13)
- Vital Cazenave (12)
- Tyler Hamrick (11)
Written By: AndrewT