Oakland,KY- Ballance Racing/Yamaha's Walker Fowler teamed up with fellow Yamaha riders Johnny Gallagher and Gabe Phillips to tackle the 2012 Heartland Challenge presented by GBC. The Heartland Challenge is a unique event in multiple aspects, mostly in that it runs for 10 hours straight. No breaks, no time-outs, 10 straight grueling hours of ATV endurance racing. The Heartland Challenge is a true test of how a team can work together to outlast both competition and nature’s elements. A Yamaha has won this event 3 out of 4 years and Team Yamaha was looking to make it 3 in a row and 4 total.
Fowler and Gallagher are veterans to this event being on different teams all 4 years, but this would be Gabe Phillips' Rookie voyage for such an event. "I was pumped I got to be a part of the team. I always wanted to race one just never had a team to go. I was nervous when the race started because I didn't know what to expect."
Fowler started the race 4th for Team Yamaha, and would pass Team DirtWorks (Lane, Burrows, Johnson) for the lead down pit road beginning of lap 2. Team Yamaha would remain in the lead with less than a minute to spare till just past the halfway point, when the 2nd mechanical failure occurred. Phillips put down some good laps in the dark and closed the gap to bumper to bumper. "I got on the bike I tried not to make any mistakes and just ride solid laps. As soon as we got a lead something on the bike would break. With 2 hours to go we finally started putting down awesome laps and working as a true team and opened up a lead!" Walker Fowler jumped on just beyond the 7-hour mark and laid down 4 laps all under the 17-minute mark and took advantage of Team DirtWorks’ late mechanical problems, building a 5-minute lead. Johnny Gallagher then got on the machine also had a great performance and showed the "old guy still has it" attitude and maintained the lead for his final 3 laps. Phillips was in charge of bringing home Team Yamaha's 3rd straight Heartland Challenge title, and he did just that building the gap to over 6 minutes and finishing at 10 hours 3 minutes. The Rookie stated, "It was pretty cool to get to cross the finish line my first time out. Winning a 10-hour race was awesome. It took a good team to get the job done!"
A relieved and tired Johnny G added, "I felt like we gelled instantly as a team both on the track and in the pits, this race always tests you mentally as well as physically but this year through a true team effort we aced the test!" Walker Fowler was very proud of his teammates afterwards saying, "A month ago I didn't have a team to come out and do this great event, but these two guys jumped on board with short notice and we all came through for the victory. It's such a taxing race but when you see those checkers flying you can't help but look forward to the next summer to race it!"
All 3 riders would like to personally thank Broc Booth and Danny Fowler as their rough and ready pit crew. They spent all 10 hours on their toes figuring strategies, tools, broken parts and how to make sure the team kept turning laps for 10 hours straight! You guys are awesome!
Walker would like to thank: Ballance Racing, Yamaha, Maxxis, Ohlins, FMF, Hiper Wheels, Moto Xperts, Fly racing, Lonestar Racing, Wiseco Pistons and Cams, Renegade Race Fuels, Vortex Ignitions, Rath Racing, Pro Taper, G4 Graphics, Scott Goggles, Cycra, IMS, Tire Balls, Works Connection, Yamalube, DP Brakes, Outerwears, Anti’Gravity Batteries, Fuel Customs Intakes, Gaerne Boots, and CV4
In the Youth division, Team Yamaha Youth were looking forward to a great race as the Heartland Challenge also offers a 3-hour youth endurance race. Just like the big guys, the youth are allowed three team members and 3 machines, but Team Yamaha Youth looked to do it with only 2!Ã Brady Kyner was on the search for a Yamaha teammate and found Kalab Hagan of the GNCC series. The duo was bound to be tough to beat!
Kalab started the event for Team Yamaha youth and found himself in the lead at the time of the switch. Brady Kyner kept it close in 2nd hot on the Heels of Team DirtWorks youth. The duo suffered what looked to be a 1st place ending mechanical failure but were able to jump on another machine and only be 6 minutes behind. They kept their heads down and continued charging into the final hour of the race, cutting the gap down to around 2 minutes when Team Dirt Works suffered a similar failure. Team Yamaha youth were right there to capitalize on the situation, regaining the lead into the final laps of the race. They kept making safe and consistent laps and took it all the way to the checkers for the overall win by over a full lap!
After the race, Kyner stated, "Kalab was a great teammate and we really appreciated him coming out to do this race. We raced hard for three hours and battled some problems but had a great time and got the win!" Hagan added, "It was an honor to come race the Heartland Challenge with Brady, he did a great job! The track was fast and fun with a lot of dust. The Yamaha raptor 125 custom motor from Ballance racing ran fast and strong eating up the Iowa woods."
Congratulations boys! Brady and Kalab would like to thank their dads and pit crew for all their hard work in the pits and The Heartland Challenge crew for a great track. Brady would like to thank his sponsors C&D Racing, Rath, Stadium Suspension, OMF, and GBC.Ã Kalab would like to thank his family, Justin and Grady Short at GRS Racing, and Broc at Ballance Racing.