Rochester Hills, MI (May 31, 2011) History was made this Memorial Day weekend when two past champions made their return to motocross racing after years of struggle and hardship. Both paralyzed from the chest down, Doug Henry and Justin Weeks mounted their custom-fitted motorcycles and raced against some of the fastest amputee and paraplegic racers in the world at a challenging Baja Acres Motocross track in Millington, MI for the 6th annual Extremity Games on May 28, 2011.
For the racers and fans in attendance, Extremity Games was incredible sight to say the least. In spite of their "disabilities", athletes like Justin Weeks and Doug Henry put down some of the fastest and most exciting laps the Baja Acres track had ever seen. Families and fans, young and old, lined the fences to cheer on their favorite riders as they battled a sandy and rutted Baja Acres track that received a considerable amount of rain the week leading up to the event.
"With heavy rainfall earlier this week, some racers were reasonably concerned," said Jim Wazny, director of Motocross for Extremity Games and amputee racer. "In spite of the weather, Baja Acres groomed out an awesome track, and everyone had a great time."
With two exhibition motos, and another two Extremity Games motos, the Limb-Loss (i.e. amputee) and Limb-Difference (i.e. paraplegic) riders had a full day of racing ahead of them. The 1st moto had both classes dropping together, with newcomer Nick Mardis grabbing the holeshot, followed by Mike Schultz, Doug Henry, and the rest of the field in tow. With the green flag out, Schultz had the lead, closely followed by Mardis, and then Wazny and Henry close behind. Meanwhile, Weeks was beginning to learn some fast lines and started closing quickly. In the end, Schultz finished 1st, followed by Henry, Weeks, and the rest of the field.
With the 1st exhibition moto in the books, and all the racers comfortable with the track, both classes lined up for their first Extremity Games race. The Limb-Loss class dropped first with Nick Mardis grabbing another holeshot and Joseph Abbott close behind, and then Mike Schultz and Chris Ridgway. In the second drop, Justin Weeks came through the first corner on the inside, securing the holeshot and the lead. He was followed by Doug Henry, Nick Pappas, and the rest of the Limb-Difference class. The rest of the race saw Schultz in the lead with Ridgway only several bike-lengths behind. Weeks and Henry gapped their field considerably, with Weeks securing the win after Henry went down late in the race. Henry was helped back up by a fast-acting Baja Acres track crew, who proceeded to finish second in spite of his fall.
After the first moto, a happy Justin Weeks reflected on his win over motocross legend Doug Henry. "I knew that Doug Henry was going to be here, and I knew that he was probably going to be my main competition," says Weeks. "I used to watch him when I was 5 years old!"
While some riders opted out of the second exhibition moto, the final Extremity Games moto had everyone gunning for top positions. Off the start of the second Limb-Loss moto Schultz grabbed too much front break and dumped his bike in the first corner while Ridgway and the rest of the class raced off into the distance. Schultz remounted and, with a 15 second deficit, began to chase after the rest of the field. Meanwhile, the Limb-Difference class motored into the first corner with Weeks grabbing another holeshot, only to be passed by Henry a few sections later. The two swapped positions over the next two laps until Henry fell while in the lead. After being helped up and going again, Henry made an incredible charge and in the last lap closed in on an unsuspecting Weeks. At the finish line, Henry swept the outside and nearly passed Weeks for the finish, coming up short by only half a bike length. In a similar fashion, the Limb-Loss class saw a surprise finish as Schultz charged back to the lead while a disappointed Ridgway was forced to concede with a mechanical failure. With the win, "Monster" Mike Schultz ended an impressive 4-year gold medal streak for Ridgway.
In the end, the overall went to Schultz in the Limb-Loss class with a 1-1, followed by Nick Mardis in second and Jim Wazny in 3rd. Justin Weeks took the overall win in the Limb-Difference class with a 1-1, followed by Doug Henry in second and Nick Pappas in 3rd.
To find out more on Extremity Games, please visit http://www.extremitygames.com or http://bajaacres.com/events/extremity-games-baja-blast/.
For more photos, please visit www.facebook.com/extremitygames.