Article and photos by John Gasso
The Parts Unlimited OMA Nationals Buckeye XC was held at the Area 330 recreation area near Carrollton, Ohio on August ninth. BRP Can-Am Pro rider Chris Bithell had a less than stellar start, but after the dust settled he was on top of the Cycra podium. “I actually forgot to turn my key on,” he recalled, “so I was dead last. I worked my way up and I was running second the first and second lap.” Bithell was running second behind the Factory Yamaha of Johnny Gallagher, who ultimately finished one minute behind the Can-Am after ten laps in two hours and ten minutes. The Tom Clark Motorsports Honda of Jeff Pickens rounded out the top three just nine seconds behind Gallagher with a time of two hours, ten minutes and thirty nine seconds. Donnie Ockerman brought his Yamaha through the Moose Racing scoring tent at two hours, eleven minutes and twenty two seconds to take fourth place while the Honda of Brad Shankel rounded out the top five.
Chris Bithell recovered from his poor start and went on a charge that would eventually put him in the lead, but not before another incident. Bithell came upon a young racer who had crashed on the trail and he provided assistance rather than blasting past a down rider. “I actually had to stop,” said Bithell. “There was a little girl stuck in a tree with her leg all twisted under the quad, so me and my buddy Jeff (Pickens) stopped and picked the quad up off of her and made sure she was alright.” After clearing the injured rider from her quad and summoning help, Bithell and Pickens headed back to the chase. The DS450 of Bithell was soon flying at a pace that put him ahead of Johnny Gallagher with about three laps left in the race. “I put my head down and said I’m leavin him,” recalled Bithell. “There must have been three laps to go in the race,” he said. “I was really looking for that white flag. I was pretty dead tired. It was a pretty long race, so I ran the last two laps there and I was feelin it. I was pretty tired out, but I pulled it off and stayed ahead of them a good ways, so I was happy.”
Cleveland, Ohio rider Johnny Gallagher lead the first few laps, but the combination of being off for a couple weeks due to injuries and a very determined Chris Bithell added up to a second place finish for the factory Yamaha rider. “It was a great day,” said Gallagher. “I got a good start, got out front, ran a good pace for a little over an hour and then started struggling a little bit, making some mistakes. I think I was pushing a little bit over my head. I was off the bike for a couple weeks with a couple injuries and I was just trying to get my legs back under me. I had a good pace going then Chris Bithell caught me. We hooked up for a little while and he just had a little more than me today. I wouldn’t say I let him go. He took it. I ended up trying to hang with him and it was just real hard in the dust. With two laps to go I looked back and I saw Jeff had closed in a little bit so I picked it up again the last couple laps and stretched it out a little bit again.”
Third place rider Jeff Pickens said “I did better than I expected I guess, so I’m happy about that.” The GT Thunder, HMF Honda racer from Uniontown, Pennsylvania was also racing wounded. While his injured finger is nearly healed, a small rock kicked up by a fellow racer managed to hit directly on the end of the finger and made things painful for a while. Pickens overcame the pain and battled for ten laps with his buddies to collect third place with a gap of forty three seconds of the Yamaha of Illinois racer Donnie Ockerman.
The second half of the OMA Nationals series is under way with another new winner on top of the podium. ATV racing on a variety of courses throughout the Midwest continues to be the hallmark of this series. The racing is always exciting, with a variety of different players battling for top honors in the Parts Unlimited Moose Racing backed race program. Check out omanationals.com for more information on the series that does things just a little bit different that most of the others. This is off road racing.
Cycra Buckeye XC Pro ATV Results
1. Chris Bithell Can-Am
2. Johnny Gallagher Yamaha
3. Jeff Pickens Honda
4. Donnie Ockerman Yamaha
5. Brad Shankel Honda
6. Shea Dickson Honda
7. Andy Lagzdins Honda
8. Bryan Hulsey Honda
9. Shane Gaunt Honda
10. Cody Buchanan Honda