Kendall Norman Nabs Second Hare & Hound Title After Eight-Year Hiatus
Eight years between championships isn’t very common, but privateer Honda rider Kendall Norman made it a reality after finishing a safe fifth overall at the 51st Annual End of the Trail National Hare & Hound hosted by the 100s Motorcycle Club near Ridgecrest, California, the seventh and final round of the Kenda/SRT AMA National Hare & Hound (H&H) Championship Series, presented by FMF. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing Off-Road Team’s Dalton Shirey took the win—his first National triumph on big bikes after a stellar youth H&H career—followed by Beta’s Joe Wasson and Purvines Racing Yamaha’s Nick Burson, the only competitor at the finale with a mathematical chance of stealing the title from Norman.
Due to several of the top runners missing a section of course and gaining an advantage—whether intentional or not—the physical finish order wasn’t the final official finish order. After a post-race powwow between the affected riders and officials, everyone came to an agreement that the final order would have to reflect as best as possible any time gained or lost in the section. So, while Chidester Transport Racing Yamaha’s Jacob Argubright was physically first to the finish, the official results will read: Shirey, Wasson, Burson, Argubright, and Norman.
Going into the race, Norman claimed to have the same strategy as always, but a comfortable point lead allowed him the luxury of not having to take undue chances.
“Obviously, my plan is always the same: Just to do the best I can and try to get the holeshot to be out of the dust and be in a safer position to try to ride my own race,” he explained later. “But I’m not going to lie—I was definitely nervous! There’s a lot more riding on this race than normal; if you’re just starting the season, you can take a little more risk. I kind of figured it wasn’t really my day to get a win in or anything like that, so I just tried to do my best to not make a mistake.”
And looking beyond the championship, there was that idea that he’d be going to Chile next week to represent the US at the International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) for the first time and he certainly didn’t want to go into that injured.
“[Prepping for Six Days has been] like managing your own business—setting everything up and getting everything ready to go,” Norman declared. “I’ve worked really hard and invested a lot, and people have invested in me too, and helped support the cause, so I definitely didn’t want to go down and risk that because I’m super excited to go over there and find my groove after the first couple days and try to do good.”
As for his second H&H title, Norman treasures it on the same level as his first in 2010. “They’re both very meaningful,” he noted. “The first one took so long to try to achieve—I think I spent five years trying for it—and this one means a lot because of my break from racing and coming back and having to kind of start from scratch and the amount of work and effort it took on my end. I felt like certain races I couldn’t be the best I could be just because of how hard I had to work on the other end. I don’t know—[this championship is] very meaningful, for sure.”
Shirey will also have fond memories of the End of the Trail National, his first big-bike victory not an easy one by any means.
“I felt I rode pretty good,” he said. “The first loop I rode a little tight; I had to adapt and get used to [hare & hounds] again then the second loop. I just hammered down.”
Regarding riders missing a section, Shirey voiced the sentiment of several of those affected, saying, “I got passed by two guys that I never saw.”
Likewise, Wasson was ecstatic: “It was an awesome feeling [to be fighting for the lead so long]; my equipment’s working great—my bike, my body, my wrist feels awesome, so I’m just trying to come back.”
As for Burson, his strategy was simple: “I was going to try to win—that was my goal—I wanted to win. It’s my backyard.”
But after dicing for the lead over the first fast 40-mile loop, his chance at the championship evaporated heading out onto the more technical second 40-mile loop.
“Heading out onto loop two, I hit something and it folded my ankle,” he explained. “Instant pain all the way up to my knee, like my whole leg! I contemplated turning around and just riding back. I couldn’t even reach the rear brake. I just sat down and just rode the rest of the race like that, basically with one [good] leg.”
Looking back at the season, Burson summarized it as, “consistent. Just had some bad luck. I didn’t get any wins this year; a couple wins and I would’ve had the championship. I rode really good; I got good starts all year.
“We’ll try again next year.”