Series champion Pettis back on home turf

Number 1 is the most coveted plate in motocross.

It means you're the defending series champion from the year before.

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Jesse Pettis of Prince George earned that fair and square as top dog in the Rockstar Energy Triple Crown MX Tour championship 250cc pro class and the novelty of seeing that plate on his bike hasn't worn off.

"It blows me away every time I put my gear into my gear bag or look at my bike to go ride every day - to see that Number 1 on there is cool for sure and I definitely don't take that for granted," said Pettis, 22, a KTM-sponsored rider who gets to race his home course at Blackwater Motocross Park today when the Triple Crown series makes its return to Prince George.

"I feel like I work well under pressure and I have a good team behind me with all the KTM guys and a whole new team and mechanic. KTM is the biggest factory team in all of Canada and they have a great team, great bike, kind of a dream team to be on and I'm happy to be with those guys to try to defend my Number 1 plate."

Riding with an arm injury he sustained in practice a month ago, Pettis lined up in the gate for the season-opening race in the Triple Crown series last Saturday in Calgary and finished fifth in the first race and seventh in the second.

"Calgary didn't exactly go the way it went last year (when he won both motos) but I was super-happy with how it went, I got off to a great start and got a hole shot in both races and kept it on two wheels and got some good points for the championship,' said Pettis. "Considering my circumstance I was happy with how the whole day went. Calgary was pretty much my first day on my bike in about a month and there was about a 90 per cent chance I wasn't going to race, but I toughed it out and it was a good decision."

Pettis now ranks seventh in the points race, 14 behind series leader Josh Osby of Valparaiso, Ind.

Last year at Blackwater, Pettis was leading the first moto when his bike stalled on the final corner of the last lap. He ended up second in the second moto.

"Last year I had a couple DNFs and I was still able to get the championship, hopefully we can have a good day," said Pettis.

"I don't spend much time at home now, traveling all over the map and I don't take it for granted having a hometown race and sleeping in my own bed 20 minutes from the track. It would be nice if it was like that every weekend. It's definitely a cool atmosphere and and it will be fun to have friends and family out there. The whole sport up here is growing bigger and better every year and having it on live television with all the riders and all the teams is pretty cool to see."

Prince George Motocross Association director Kourtney Lloyd has known Pettis since he was starting out in the mini class and she knows how hard it's been for him to get to where he is now, making a living as a sponsored pro rider.

"He and his family have put their heart and soul into it I think the people who are rooting for him, we really do respect him so much," said Lloyd. "He's such a nice person, he's not just a talented rider, so it's really important for this town to back him and come up and cheer him on.

"Their family is so much closer because of this sport. You don't see many 18-, 19- or 20-year-old who want to be camping with their families every weekend like in motocross. They're not on their iPads for six hours a day, they're out weed-whacking, they're out testing or washing their bikes. It really builds a person and Jesse is such a prime example of that, he can speak to people, he's good with little kids and good with grown-ups, he's such a well-rounded kid."

Fresh from winning his first national series title, Pettis went south of the border and made an immediate impact on the Monster Energy AMA Supercross West series. He posted five top-12 finishes racing the NHL of motocross and likely would have continued on that path if not for a crash in practice Feb. 19, that sidelined him for the rest of the series.

"What Jess did in the States this year was incredible, he was in the top 10 in points, battling with the top guys in the world," said Troy Wilson, PGMA vice-president. "They all haul out of semis, they have the best equipment and Jess was doing it out of a sprinter van. It was really awesome to see."

Qualifying starts at 9 a.m. and racing begins at noon with the first 250cc pro moto, with the 450cc pros, women and pro-mix classes to follow. Colton Facciotti of Aldergrove is the 450 cc series leader. The 250s will be back in the gate at 2 p.m.

Showers are expected today with a high of 16 C under mainly cloudy skies.

Racing resumes Sunday morning with the Future West BC amateur races.

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