The first ever Bluegrass Brawl

December 14, 2020

The first ever Bluegrass Brawl

After the Pastranaland Pit Bike World Championship, the goal was that the event would be enough of a success with ESPN that funding would be provided to do more of these chaotic and entertaining pit bike races.  When we got word that another event would be happening we were stoked and couldn't wait to be a part of what was being labeled, the Bluegrass Brawl.  

The Bluegrass Brawl would be taking place on the property of both Ryan and Justin Sipes near Radcliffe, Kentucky.  While the event location wouldn't have the allure that legendary Pastranaland has, the event itself looked to be trying to 'one up' the first event entirely.  The Bluegrass Brawl would not consist of just one event, but four!  Racing would cover Supercross, 'Almost' Straight Rhythm, Flat Track, and a Hare Scramble.  Shortly after learning that the event would cover four disciplines instead of just one, we got a call from Travis asking if we'd be interested in having him ride for us, and of course, we said yes!  Later, we learned that Travis was told by Ryan Sipes he didn't want him on his team because 'Travis stinks in the woods.'  Even with Travis's woods riding skills being questioned, we were thrilled to have him on board with us.  Travis also brought in the co-team sponsor in Wienerschnitzel and another one of their main stay athletes, long time Team EVS athlete Phil 'Smagical' Smage.  The Team EVS Wienerschnitzel squad was born and ready to take on all of the chaos and fun with the Bluegrass Brawl.  

 

Travis Pastrana and Phil 'Smagical' Smage racing for Team EVS Wienerschnitzel squad for the first ever Bluegrass Brawl
Arriving to the event  for the event Friday morning, we were greeted with some troubling news.  The Sipes property in the beautiful Kentucky countryside had received heavy rains in the weeks leading up to the event and the venue was a mud fest.  Ryan and Justin 'Pooh' Sipes were already hard at work removing tarps covering parts of the track and doing track work as needed.  With the first day of the event essentially being a media and setup day, the track would have time to dry out.  The sun came out halfway through the first day and really helped dry everything out, making the dirt and the track nearly perfect by the time racing got underway the following day. 
 

Day 2 of the event started out with 'Almost' Straight Rhythm practice and as riders really got a feel for the track for the first time, things were already shaping up for it to be spectacular racing.  Both the rhythm section and final whoops section were prepped meticulously and purposefully as there were multiple different rhythms available, without one way being the 'fastest' line.  It made for great racing as the head to head matchups began.  Both Travis and Phil made it through the first round cleanly, but Phil would lose in his second matchup to Justin 'Pooh' Sipes.  Travis was looking good throughout 'Almost' Straight Rhythm and made it to the final race against Justin 'Pooh' Sipes, who had been looking extremely fast all day.  The gate dropped and 'Pooh' Sipes immediately had the advantage and before they were even halfway through the race, it looked like Justin had it in the bag.  But then Justin's bike bogged, allowing Travis to catch up and eventually take the lead!  Things had quickly changed and now it was looking like Travis would win easily, but Travis being Travis decided to unleash a backflip over the final 'wall' jump before the whoops section.  The harsh landing caused Travis to lose all his momentum, allowing Justin 'Pooh' Sipes to make the pass and cruise through the whoops section to take the win.  While it wasn't a win, both Travis and Phil were happy with how they rode and were looking forward to flat track later on that day.  

 

Travis Pastrana mid backflip during the 'Almost' Straight Rhythm event at the Bluegrass Brawl
The second event of Day 2 was Flat Track.  The Sipes family and friends had been tamping and packing in a near perfect oval that all the racers had been drooling over since we had first arrived on site.  Riders were allowed a brief 5 minute general practice session to get a feel of the surface and it was very apparent who had experience riding flat track and who did not almost immediately.  Riders like AJ Catanzaro and Justin Rodbell, both fantastic motocross racers, struggled with the technique and skills needed for the specific discipline, while Tyler Bereman and both the Sipes brothers clearly had Flat Track experience and were ones to beat out on the track.  Once practice concluded, the field would be broken up into two heat races, with the top 3 advancing straight to the main and an LCQ where only the top 2 would advance.  The heat races and the LCQ had all the racers competing on their normal 110cc pit bikes, but the making the main event meant that you got to race the true flat track Sunday pit bike. 

As racing got underway in the heats, to say it was action packed was an understatement.  With such a tight oval and so many riders jockeying for position and searching for traction, it was tense for much of the racing and there was constant passing back and forth.  Unfortunately, neither Phil or Travis made it out of their heat races or LCQ to make it to the main event, which after watching briefly, it was understandable why.  Bereman, Ryan Sipes, Justin 'Pooh' Sipes and Caleb Carter, aka Joe Dirt, were just on another level and quickly separated themselves from the rest of the field in the main event.  Justin 'Pooh' Sipes ended up taking the win and went 2/2 on the first day of racing. 
 
Smagical, AJ Catanzaro and TroySmallz duking it out in a heat race during Flat Track at the Bluegrass Brawl.

 

With the first two events in the books, things began to relax a little bit.  Ryan Sipes announced shortly after Flat Track concluded that there would be a band playing a short outdoor concert on site for the event staff, racers, teams, family and friends.  With it also being Halloween weekend, naturally there was also a contest for best costume underway with winner of that being Tyler Bereman as he had tracked down a retro Jeff Emig 'Fro' jersey and afro wig!

Supercross was the third event to start things off on the final day of the Bluegrass Brawl.  The majority of the SX track consisted of the straight rhythm course and as a result, it didn't take long for riders to get a feel for the track right away. 

Unlike Flat Track, more of the usual suspects like AJ Catanzaro and Justin Rodbell looked much more at home riding Supercross and looked fast right off the bat.  The Sipes brothers were once again looking good overall as well and even Jarryd McNeill was looking racey!  But throughout the heat races and eventual main event, one rider stood out in particular.  Joe Dirt was not going to be denied and absolutely crushed the competition in SX.  He ripped a holeshot and lead the main event from start to finish.  The Team EVS Wienershcnitzel squad of Travis and Phil didn't have the performances they were hoping for in Supercross.  Travis was able to make the main event but had an unfortunate DNF as he threw a chain on the last lap with just a few turns to go!  Despite a heroic effort in trying to push his bike to the finish, he wasn't able to push his 110 over the final finish line jump.  Phil struggled with his own issues and nearly crashed heavily several times.  Give Phil's remarkable story and comeback from being paralyzed, it's incredible that he was riding as fast as he was.  After a couple of near get offs, Phil backed off the pace and chose to ride smooth to the finish, looking to save himself for what he knew would be his best event, the Hare Scramble.  

 

Travis Pastrana airing it out over the finish line jump during the Supercross event of the Bluegrass Brawl

 

Heading into the Hare Scramble, overall points were tight amongst several riders, with it looking more and more like one of the Sipes brothers would be taking the overall win between all four events, particularly since woods racing was a strong point for both Justin and Ryan.  A quick track walk took place and the loop for the Hare Scramble was challenging!  Right off the start riders would funnel down to fairly tight singletrack through some serious uphills and rock sections through the Kentucky woods.  Later on in the loop there were multiple log crossings and a large pit that riders would have to enter and then ride out of.  The Hare Scramble was slated to be 20 minutes plus one lap and after track walk, it became very apparent that this was Ryan Sipes's event to lose given his incredible fitness and strong reputation as one of the best woods and enduro racers on the planet. 

The final event featured a true Hare Scramble start where riders would have to run from a set position to their parked pit bike, start it and begin the race.  Once the race started, Troy Smallz got out to an early lead while Travis Pastrana got a mid pack start.  Phil got off to about as poor of a start as possible as he had bogging issues before he even entered the woods on the first lap, leaving him dead last with a lot of ground to make up.  Hailing from Wisconsin and growing up riding in the woods, Phil was really looking forward to showing what he could do in the Hare Scramble, but with his dead last start, we fully expected Phil to finish in last, that's how far behind he was.  We were all shocked when Phil had already caught and passed multiple riders by the end of the first lap!  Phil's technique through the woods was really impressive and something to admire.  He rode smooth from start to finish and while he only ended up finishing just inside the top 10, it was a really impressive ride to watch.  While Phil progressed through the field and looked strong, it was apparent that Travis was not excited at all about the Hare Scramble as he was gobbled up by the field after his mid pack start.  

 

Phil Smage on the gas in the Hare Scramble at the Bluegrass Brawl

 

The battle up front raged on as Ryan Sipes eventually caught Troy Smallz.  Troy, also hailing from Wisconsin and having a background with woods riding, looked strong and maybe even up to the task of challenging Ryan Sipes for the win.  But in the end, Ryan wasn't going to be denied as he made the pass for the lead with 5 minutes left and rode on to take the win both in the event and in the overall as well. 

 

The racers gathered on the podium after the first ever Bluegrass Brawl 

The first ever Bluegrass Brawl was a success all around as riders, teams, support staff and crew all had a great time and enjoyed the racing.  We were happy to be a part of the small army of people that helped make it happen and we can't wait for the next pit bike extravaganza!  #TeamEVS #WeAreProtection

Photo credits - Nitro Circus

Written by Jackson Halsmer


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