MotoAmerica’s youngest riders provided some of the most exciting racing action of the MotoAmerica Championship of Utah on Saturday and Sunday at Utah Motorsports Campus, with two races decided by a combined 0.186 seconds between budding young rivals Rocco Landers and Dallas Daniels.
On Saturday, it was 14-year-old phenom Landers picking up his sixth win in the first seven races of the 2019 Liqui Moly Junior Cup season, fending off a late challenge from Daniels. Twenty-four hours later, Daniels picked up his first victory of the season by the narrowest of margins — 0.044 seconds — three days before his 16th birthday.
This weekend’s results have Landers remaining 21 points ahead of Daniels for the season points lead, with Kevin Olmedo another 57 points behind after back-to-back third-place finishes.
“I was able to get the win and ‘finally’ is pretty much the way to put it,” said Daniels, from Mattoon, Illinois. “It feels really good.”
Daniels started from the pole position on his Kawasaki Ninja 400, and was off to a solid start before the race was halted by a crash involving Renzo Ferreira, who gingerly made his way to a waiting ambulance. Following a red flag, the race was restarted as a 10-lap shootout. Daniels and Landers battled wheel-to-wheel throughout the race before Daniels took the lead for good with four laps to go. However, there was no time for Daniels to relax, as Landers pushed him to the limit.
“I led the last four laps and when we got to the last lap, I knew he was right there because on the Jumbotron you could see him going into the left before the last two corners,” Daniels said. “So, I just tried to cut the best last two corners of the whole race. I was actually having some tire issues, kind of slipping a little bit.”
Behind Daniels, Landers and Olmedo were Marc Edwards and Benjamin Gloddy.
On Saturday, Landers piloted his own Kawasaki Ninja 400 to victory, handing Daniels his fifth runner-up finish of the season. Landers had to overcome a rough start, as well as the loss of a slider on the leg of his racing leathers on the first lap of the race. The slider had to be glued back onto his leathers for Sunday’s race, but it changed the way he rode on Saturday.
“I didn’t get the best start,” said Landers, from Burns, Oregon. “I kind of fell back to seventh or so. I was able to claw back to second, and Dallas probably had about a second and a half or so on me. I had to catch back up to him. Then on lap one my slider caught … the curbing and came off. So, I was basically riding the whole race with one slider, and I’m a big knee dragger so I had to adjust my style a little bit.”
Landers eventually caught up to Daniels and pulled into the lead as Saturday’s race went along, only to have the older rider start to close the gap over the final laps.
“I saw on the last lap he started reeling me in,” Landers said. “I looked back and he was right there. I was like, ‘whoa, he’s close.’”
Isaiah Burleson finished fourth in Saturday’s race, while Gauge Rees was fifth.
Rees, 18, is originally from Roy but now races out of Utica, Kentucky. He competes for Rickdiculous Racing — a team jointly based out of Kentucky and Utah Motorsports Campus.