Mike Brown repeated as the winner of the second annual KENDA Tennessee Knockout, presented by Monster Energy but it was far from easy. During the third Knockout round, it appeared that Brown was going to be eliminated from the event. He was hopelessly stuck in one of the special test sections and had his helmet off and steam spewing from his KTM as he tried to find a way up a wet and rocky creak. He needed to finish in the top three in his group and more importantly, finish the loop in time to start the main event.
With the hillsides filled with screaming fans, Brown finally found a way to get through the section and finished out the loop in a qualifying position for the main event. He then took the lead away from Beta’s Cody Webb on the first lap of the 10 lap main event and withstood steady pressure for over thirty minutes before edging away over the last few laps to take the win.
“I thought the race was over for me when I was stuck up in that Creek and I was physically overheating” Brown said after the main event. “But then I realized that most of the other riders were also stuck in the same section so I kept pushing and pulling my bike up the ledges that were slick from the rain that hit just before the start of that third round. The main event was really tough but I managed to keep from making any big mistakes.”
The TKO format automatically qualifies riders from all of the major off road racing series into the Sunday Knockout rounds and there are open slots for non-qualified riders to qualify from Saturday. Forty Four riders started the Sunday program that began with a single hot lap around the “short course”, which took Webb just over three minutes and fifteen seconds to complete. Brown, Kyle Redmond and Colton Haaker were all very close with 3:27, 3:28 and 3:29 runs. Husqvarna’s Andrew Delong was fifth with a 3:36.
The second round would have the riders ride another lap against the clock but this time on the 13.5 mile “long course”. The riders started in 15 second intervals and Brown caught Webb and the two exchanged the lead several times and crossed the finish line with Brown just ahead physically, which meant he beat out Webb by 16 seconds with a time of 44:28. Bobbitt, Fahringer, Delong, Jordan Ashburn, Whibley, Haaker, Brad Bakken, Redmond, Max Gerston, Zach Love rounded out the top ten. Only the top 25 riders would move on and now be placed into groups of five for a head to head race for another lap around the long course but with a few additional “challenge” sections added.
An intense thunder shower hit just at the end of the second round, which made it very difficult for some of the last riders on the loop and would make round three much more challenging. For each group of five riders, only the top three would move on to the 15 rider final. This was the round that would prove extremely difficult as the rain combined with the new challenge sections increased the time to just over fifty minutes for Webb, who set the fastest time to win his group. Haaker, Whibley, Fahringer and Delong each won their groups to take the front row spots for the main.
Brown, Ashburn, Bobbitt and Alex Bedley each finished second in their groups to earn second row starts (no other riders finished from Delong’s group). Hawaii’s Aaron McKnight, Zach Love and Dustin Gibson were the final three qualifiers, which meant that only twelve riders had made it to the final round. Husqvarna’s Redmond dropped out in spectacular fashion after he cleared the most difficult section with the crowd cheering; leaves that had collected in the bottom of the skid plate caught fire and burned through a radiator hose to create a smoky conclusion to his day.
Since Webb and Haaker seemed pretty fresh after the first three rounds, they appeared to have the upper hand going into the final and jumped out to the early lead. Brown started from row three and quickly got into second when several riders got hung up in the EnduroCross section. Webb got stuck attempting the most difficult line up a steep hill, which allowed Brown to take the lead. Webb and Haaker were close behind and with a ten lap main on the short course, it was expected to take about 40 minutes and fitness was going to play a role in the extremely humid conditions.
Haaker stayed close to the leaders for the first three laps before he began to lose touch but was still safely ahead of the intense battle between Bobbitt, Whibley and Fahringer, who all exchanged positions several times. Delong pulled off due to physical exhaustion at the midway point and joined Love, Gibson and Bedley on the sidelines. Haaker pulled over on lap seven when the heat and humidity had him seeing stars. Webb stayed very close to Brown for the first seven laps but then he was the next to crack, which allowed Brown to open up a fifteen second gap that he held to the finish. Bobbit finished just a few seconds ahead of Whibley to take the final podium spot and Fahringer took fifth ahead of Ashburn.
The race featured riders from several different disciplines and in the end, Brown, the 2012 X Games Enduro X gold medalist took the win over fellow EnduroCross regular and former AMA Trials Champion Cody Webb. Russell Bobbit, the multi time National Enduro Champion took third ahead of current GNCC point’s leader Paul Whibley. Nick Fahringer, another Enduro regular, rounded out the top five.
2012 AMA Tennessee Knockout, fueled by Monster Energy results:
- Mike Brown, KTM
- Cody Webb, Beta
- Russell Bobbitt, KTM
- Paul Whibley, Yamaha
- Nick Fahringer, Husaberg
- Jordan Ashburn, Yamaha
- Colton Haaker, Kawasaki
- Aaron McKnight, KTM
- Andrew Delong, Husqvarna
- Zach Love, KTM
- Dustin Gibson, KTM
- Alex Bedley, Kawasaki
The Trials Training Center staff would like to thank KENDA Tires, Monster Energy and Moose Racing for their support of the AMA Tennessee Knockout event.