Colton Haaker Wins 2019 EnduroCross Opener in Prescott Valley

Just a few months ago, the Findlay Toyota Center was supposed to be vacant on Aug. 24. The indoor extreme racing series, EnduroCross had folded and canceled the season schedule which planned on racing at the Prescott Valley arena for the second year in a row. Almost as soon as it was gone, the dream was once again alive, founder of the original EnduroCross race, Eric Peronnard, joined forces with Kicker ArenaCross promoter, Tod Hammock, and acquired the rights to EnduroCross and rebooked the Center.

Saturday night held an electric three-moto round with only three races for this 2019 season, a victory in the season opener was crucial to getting a jump on the field. Colton Haaker and his Husqvarna team made the first step in defending his championship from 2018 by outlasting five-time champion Taddy Błażusiak in the third and final moto of the night to take the overall.

2019 marked the first time EnduroCross used a three-moto format using Olympic style points to score the winner of the race. A day of adversity for Haaker started by finding trouble in timed practice placing him twelfth overall going into the three motos. The Polish rider, Błażusiak, and his KTM proved to be Haaker’s main competitor getting the fastest time in practice.

EnduroCross motos start 16 riders with the top eight in the first row and second eight in a back row. Haaker was stuck in the back row from his poor qualifying time. Cory Graffunder got the championship race rolling in the 118 Yamaha scoring the moto one victory through capitalizing on other rider’s bad luck.

Haaker picked his way through the field, going down once in the moto, but still clawed his way into second ahead of Ty Cullins. Haaker saluted the crowd after the race gaining momentum into moto two.

Success in moto one led to some more adversity for Haaker to overcome in moto two. The field was inverted and Haaker’s second-place finish in the first race gave place him in the fifteenth position for the second gate drop.

The gate dropped and the field took the 180-degree turn to the holeshot and the crowd erupted as Haaker slid in front of the entire field to take the lead. Haaker dominated the rest of the moto and took the overall lead with Graffunder close behind after recovering from a wreck to finish fifth.

With the overall lead, Haaker started on the front row for the first time but still found resistance in the final race of the night. Błażusiak found the lead early looking for his first EnduroCross moto win in states since his last championship. Haaker put on a chase as the crowd jumped on the feet. The tandem raced side by side around the track until the intensity boiled over up the boulders when the two banged elbows stalling Haaker at the top of the hill. Błażusiak gapped Haaker with a minute plus one lap to go.

Two laps until the finish, Haaker raced back up to bang bars with Błażusiak again. The electricity boiled over once more as Haaker bumped the Polish rider off the track in the pro lane. Haaker completed the final two laps to win moto three and the overall with a 2-1-1 moto score.

Graffunder worked to finish second overall with a 1-5-3 scorecard. Błażusiak rounded out the podium with a 4-6-2 score. Arizona’s own Max Gerston finished one spot off the podium in fourth with a 5-4-4 moto score on his Beta bike.

Along with the SuperEnduro series, the event also ran support classes. Arizona’s own Destry Abbott won in the Veteran 35+ class over fellow Arizonan Nick McGowen. Nick Tolman found the top of the podium in the Intermediate. Both the Amateur class and Women’s class was won by Canadian Shelby Turner in dominating fashions.

The series drops the gate for the semi-final round in Denver, CO on Oct. 19 before crowing a champion on Oct. 26 in Boise, ID.

Arizona native, Devon Henry, joined the Sports360AZ crew in 2018 after graduating from Arizona State's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism & Mass Communication. Devon has avidly partaken in coverage of the Arizona high school sports scene since 2013 and has covered NASCAR and INDYCAR at Phoenix Raceway since 2017. Devon is also a play-by-play announcer, calling over a dozen different sports and hundreds of events.