Hayward Victors: Bender, Gulla

Riders battled challenging conditions at Hayward, Wisc., over the weekend, with TJ Gulla and Brett Bender winning the pro races.

Wayne Davis Photography/ISOC

SNX action at Hayward Saturday.

SATURDAY
Tremblay Snares First National Win; Gulla Runs Away in Pro
Bauerly and Mees Tangle, Opening the Door for Tremblay in Semi Pro; Gulla Pulls Away with Kaufman and Crapo in Tow in Pro Super Stock

Hayward, Wisconsin (March 8, 2009)—Warm temperatures earlier in the week followed by a freeze turned the already technical track at the Hayward 300 into one of the toughest challenges of the season as the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series nears the end of the season. A huge crowd was on hand for Saturday's main event, and the finals didn't disappoint as restarts and crashes played a roll as the year-end championship point battle tightens.

The Semi-Pro Open proved to be the race of the day, as multiple crashes and a mid-race accident characterized the outcome. Dan Ebert (Arctic Cat) entered the race as the number one qualifier, followed by Paul Bauerly (Ski-doo) and Darrin Mees (Ski-doo). While Ebert grabbed the immediate lead, he soon began to fade and Paul Bauerly went to the front of the pack with Darrin Mees in second.

By mid-race it looked as if it was Bauerly's race to win, but then the tide turned quickly as Paul crashed in a rutted turn and Darrin Mees slammed into him with a viscous "t-bone". That opened the door for then third place rider Tim Tremblay (Ski-doo) from Ste Jeanne D'Arc, Quebec. Tremblay capitalized for his third National win of the season, with Dan Ebert following and the Swedish talent of Christian Salemark (Arctic Cat) in third as they crossed the line.

TJ Gulla Wins in Pro Super Stock; Kaufman Unable to Hunt Him Down
When the top guns on the AMSOIL Championship Snocross Series came to the line for the final race of the day, it was veteran rider Garth Kaufman (Arctic Cat) who held the number one qualifying position with TJ Gulla having the second pick at the line. However the start of the race was marred with a red-flag incident, which saw DJ Eckstrom (Polaris) unable to continue for the day due to a damaged race sled.

At the green for the second go-around, it was Gulla who shot out for the early lead, and one he would not relinquish. Following the Vermont rider was Kaufman in second and Shaun Crapo (Polaris) in third. Further back, the point leader coming into the race, Levi LaVallee (Polaris), found himself mid-pack and dealing with a swarm of riders. Up front, Kaufman made several runs at Gulla but was unable to complete a pass. Crapo held fast to the third place position, and crossed the line 2-seconds behind Kaufman.

More importantly, the year-end point battle tightened dramatically when Levi was forced to pull of the track on lap 8 as his front suspension gave way. That put Kaufman in a dead tie with LaVallee for the year-end championship with one race to go. Just ten points behind them is Ryan Simons (Arctic Cat) and only one point behind Simons is Gulla. This spells a dual of epic proportions as the season concludes in Lake Geneva, March 20-22, with the Nielsen's Grand Finale.
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SUNDAY
Winning Proves Contagious as Bender Wins Again
Iain Hayden Gives Yamaha First Podium of the Season; Tremblay Poised to Capture Both Semi Pro Year-End Titles

Hayward, Wisconsin (March 9, 2009)—Faced with perhaps the most technically challenging track of the season, the racing action for day two of the Hayward 300 proved to be some of the most competitive and surprising of the season. Warm temperatures early in the week quickly followed by freezing temps just prior to race time created a track filled with hidden ice trenches and pockets just below the churned upper layer. Race lines which looked smooth were quickly discovered to hold off-camber ruts and surprises resulting in unexpected "get-offs" and mechanical failures both of which played a roll in Sunday's main event.

The Semi Pro Super Stock action started off as expected, with top riders including Dan Ebert (Arctic Cat), Cory Davis (Arctic Cat) and Tim Tremblay (Ski-doo) each winning their respective qualifying rounds. And at the start of the Semi-Pro Super Stock final, Ebert nailed the holeshot, pulled out to an early lead and appeared to be well on his way to another national win. But suddenly at the mid-point of the race, he got tangled with challenger Colby Crapo (Polaris), who came into his own over the Hayward weekend, and was pressing for the lead. The incident injured Ebert forcing him to resign from the final and in the process created an opportunity for Davis to take over the lead.

With a clear track and visibility, Davis looked extremely strong, posting incredibly fast and consistent lap times. But just as it had all weekend, fate and a punishing track changed the make-up of the race. With just two laps to go, Davis began to fade due to mechanical issues. Tremblay and Christian Salemark (Arctic Cat), who had been tailing Davis, soon slipped around him followed by others in the field including Colby Crapo now running third. Davis eventually fell all the way back to 8th place at the checker while Tremblay, Salemark and Crapo crossed the finish line for the top three podium positions respectively.

The unfortunate fate of Davis and another win by Tremblay pulled the duo into a very tight race for the year-end championship with just one race to go. Davis holds a slim 4-point margin over Tremblay, while Dan Ebert sits in third, 31 points behind Davis.

Hayden Podiums for Yamaha; Bender Finds the Top Box Again
To date it had been a challenging season for the Factory Yamaha Snocross effort. While holeshots were becoming more and more common, the blue squadron had yet to find the set-up and consistency they needed to garner a box on the podium. But on Sunday, that appeared to be ancient history, as Iain Hayden (Yamaha) looked to not only put Yamaha on the podium, but also win it all.

Hayden grabbed a monster holeshot at the start of the showcase Pro Open final and started to open up a slight lead over challengers Robbie Malinoski (Ski-doo) and Brett Bender (Polaris). Further back in the pack, year-end championship contenders TJ Gulla (Polaris) and Levi LaVallee (Polaris) found themselves in a myriad of traffic. Meanwhile Hayden continued to lead and the crowd found themselves anticipating what could be history repeating itself as Yamaha was poised to put a four-stroke powered race sled on the top box in only the second time in history.

But then at the mid-race mark, with just a 2-second lead, Hayden bobbled and it was just enough for challenger Malinoski to sniff the lead. While Hayden and Malinoski vied for the front of the pack, young-gun Brett Bender who was running third had been calculating the ultimate pass. Suddenly Bender found "another gear" and slipped by both riders to move into the lead, shuffling Malinoski to second and Hayden to third. It was a running order that would stick till the checker and it gave Bender his second national win in as many weeks.

With just one race left on the season, Nielsen's Grand Finale in Lake Geneva, March 20-22, the year end point battle in both pro classes is extremely tight. In Pro Open, TJ Gulla holds a 13-point lead over teammate Levi LaVallee; while in Pro Super Stock Garth Kaufman (Arctic Cat) is tied for the lead with LaVallee.

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