2022 AMA National Enduro: Steward Baylor Wins Sumter NEPG Rnd1
Steward Baylor started the 2022 Kenda AMA National Enduro Series in the best possible way by winning the opening round of the series in Sumter, South Carolina.
Rain leading up to the opening weekend’s action in the AMA National Enduro series left Sumter’s sandy soil in prime condition for nearly 1000 riders who took to the 62-mile course, despite frigid temperatures and brisk-winds.
After winning test one, AmPro Yamaha’s Baylor went on to take three of six tests in total but struggled with lappers during the second, third and fourth tests. But the reigning champion finished the event with two strong test wins to seal the victory 32 seconds ahead.
“I feel really comfortable in these conditions. We had a really good set-up for the conditions and I had very few mistakes,” said the five-time National Enduro Champion. “The only frustrating thing was dealing with lappers. I think it was tough for everybody. When you catch somebody at the wrong time it could go your way or the opposite way.”
Steward turned in a mostly mistake-free race, except for back-to-back mishaps in test two.
“That was probably the most I struggled all day,” added Baylor. “Aside from that, it was just a really smooth day. I picked up the pace a bit in the last two tests and just nailed my marks and tried to do everything that I knew that I need to do to win. That’s what we did.”
Ryder Lafferty on the box
Ryder Lafferty turned a few heads with his runner-up finish on his Coastal Racing GASGAS at the Sumter. The New Jersey-native won the third test of the day after finishing second in the previous test, although he ran mostly under the radar since he started on row 41, and it was test four before Baylor and the rest of the top five even knew he was in the mix.
“I’ve been in Florida training, and it’s been going good, so the sand riding paid off for me,” said Lafferty. “I got into it with some lappers a couple times and lost some time in the fourth test, I believe. Other than that, it was a pretty good day.”
FMF KTM’s Josh Toth suffered injuries at the opening rounds of the series in 2020 and 2021, so he couldn’t be faulted for riding with some caution at this year’s season opener. Despite playing it somewhat safe, the Connecticut rider still landed on the podium with a third-place finish.
“I came in healthy and got out healthy, so, I’m stoked on it,” said Toth. “Overall, the day was good. The track was much rougher than last year, but overall, a typical Sumter. A bit rougher, but it was a good day. Get out of here healthy with a third.”
Craig DeLong led a Husqvarna conga line in fourth, fifth and sixth, with teammates Thad DuVall and Trevor Bollinger finishing fifth and sixth, respectively.
“I started slow and it took me two tests to make a few changes back to what I ended the year with. I did that, and then I started to kind of get in the mix,” said DeLong. “As the day went on, I felt better and better. Happy how it ended, but a little disappointed how it started.”
Despite having an issue with his rear brakes in the first test, Duvall looked solid on route to fifth.
“I’m just excited to be back in the National Enduros,” said DuVall. “I had a lot of fun. I enjoy getting a little sketchy between some tight trees. It’s fun. I feel like the National Enduros make me a little better rider. Keep me really crisp and get that sprint speed. I felt good all day.”
Bollinger struggled early but won a test and finished second in another for sixth overallb ahead of FMF KTM’s Ben Kelley who wasn’t on his normal pace and collected a couple of trees on his way to seventh.“The National Enduros are always rough on the body, smashing off the trees when you don’t know what’s coming, so I’m happy to come away unscathed, though just a little beat up,” said Kelley. “I’m just happy and excited to be back racing. I enjoyed it and that’s what I was trying to do, have some fun and do the best I could.”
Grant Baylor back
Grant Baylor returned to the racing after a long injury lay-off on an FXR-backed GASGAS and finished eighth, while AmPro Yamaha’s Mike Witkowski made a rare National Enduro appearance and finished ninth.
Five-time National Enduro Champion Russell Bobbitt made a surprise appearance at Sumter and came away with 10th overall on his Gnarly Routes KTM. Russ came out of retirement in 2019 and won the Sumter event, so no one was counting him out of this year’s race.
Pro 2 win for Nelko
Despite a few crashes in the last three tests, Ben Nelko took the win in the NE Pro 2 class on a Honda sponsored by Steel City Men’s Clinic. The former pro motocrosser won three of the six tests on route to his victory.
“The first three tests I was good. I didn’t crash at all,” said Nelko. “Then in the fourth test I crashed twice. Ripped off both my levers at the beginning of the test. Then test five, I hit a tree pretty good. The sixth test, it was really bad. I almost knocked myself out there. I was only 30 seconds up at that point, so I got up quick and just sprinted until the end.”
Magna1 Motorsports Husqvarna’s Brody Johnson took two test wins on his way to second in the NE Pro 2 class, while his brother, Jonathon Johnson, was third in class on a factory Beta with one test win.
Nelko, Brody and Jonathon were 13th, 14th and 15th overall. Jack Edmondson meanwhile, making his racing debut after switching from the EnduroGP World Championship, was ninth in the Pro2 class onboard the Magna1Motorsports Husqvarna.
Rachel Archer takes Women’s class win
AmPro Yamaha’s Rachel Archer topped the Women’s Elite class, edging out Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Kori Steede by 18 seconds. Archer won the first four tests, with Steede steeling away the win in the final test.
“I stayed off the ground all day, apart from the last test,” said Archer. “I crashed right coming through the timing. But other than that, it was a great day. I got a new mechanic this year and everything has been going really well. That thing is fast. I’m stoked to be on that bike this year.”
Enduro Engineering/Fly Racing KTM’s Mackenzie Tricker, the defending series champ, finished third behind Kori Steede.
Coby Davis (Hon) was top AA rider, ahead of Nicolas Haftl (Hsq) and Cameron Sisk (Hon).
Chase Landers took the win in the 250A division, beating out Grady Faint (KTM) and Zach Toth (KTM).
2022 Sumter National Enduro overall results (top 20):
The Kenda AMA National Enduro Series resumes on May 1 for the Dragon’s Back Enduro in Arrington, Virginia. More information: www.nationalenduro.com
Words and Photo Credit: Shan Moore