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Andre Ochs wins 2012 AMA Roadrace Horizon Award

October 22, 2012

Story by Steve Master
Photo by Jen Muecke

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Andre Ochs insists he didn’t put much thought into the possibility of winning the prestigious AMA Roadrace Horizon Award.

It’s not that the California 16-year-old didn’t covet the honor, awarded annually to the rider with the greatest prospect for professional success.

On the contrary. He wanted it too badly.

“The more I thought about it, the more I got nervous and shaky and I knew I couldn’t do that,” Ochs said. “So I just tried to put it in the back of my mind and run my races.”

Ochs ran his races, all right. And sure enough, when the dust settled at Daytona International Speedway Sunday afternoon, Ochs was gripping the trophy he worked so hard to erase from his consciousness.

“I’m so happy,” said the high school 10th grader from Fallbrook, Calif. “I’m speechless. I can’t put my thoughts into words.”

Ochs’ success highlighted two dynamic days of racing in the AMA Roadracing Grand Championships. Champions were crowned in 10 events. Annual AMA awards were presented to Ochs, James Cohrs, Brad Plemmons and Jordan Imrie.

Cohrs received the AMA Racing Vet/Senior Award, while Plemmons and Imrie shared the AMA Roadracing Top Novice Award.

Ochs’ honor came by virtue of impressive victories in both of his AMA races. He claimed a wire-to-wire win in the Expert AMA 600 SuperSport Saturday, and prevailed in the SuperBike 600 Sunday.

As opposed to his dominating triumph Saturday, Sunday’s victory did not come easily. He was passed by teammate Daytona Anderson midway through the race, regained the lead, but lost it again when Cohrs made an outside pass on the front stretch of the white-flag lap.

Ochs would not trail for long, however. Going into Turn 1, Cohrs wobbled and lost his line, allowing Ochs to regain the lead -- this time for good. Anderson made a hard charge out of Turn 4, but Ochs held to claim the win, and solidify his grip on the Horizon Award.

“I overshot it and started losing the front end,” said Cohrs, who had crashed in an earlier race. “And if I’d tried to throw it in I’d risk crashing again. So I just ran out wide.”

The performance continues a remarkable string of success for Ochs, only two years removed from a brutal crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway that left him in a coma and kept him away from racing for six months.

Last year he won the AMA Youth Roadrace Rider of the Year. And now, on the heels of the Horizon Award, he is already looking ahead to moving up to the AMA Pro Racing ranks and a return to Daytona.

“I’m going to ride AMA [Pro] next year and will definitely be back at Daytona, maybe as a privateer unless I get picked up by somebody,” he said. “My weekend was far better than the expectations I had.”

While Ochs was emerging as a future star, Cohrs, the Vet/Senior Award winner, was re-establishing his status as one of the more successful veterans.

Just prior to his three-way shootout with Ochs and Anderson in the 600 SuperBike, he raced to an impressive victory in the Expert F-40. And he placed third behind Ochs and Anderson in Saturday’s 600 SuperSport.

Not bad for a guy just seven months removed from a jarring accident in Savannah, Ga., where he suffered a broken back. This marked only his fourth weekend of racing since the accident.

“Pretty good weekend, I can’t complain,” said Cohrs, a 44-year-old from Suwanee, Ga. “I’m sore and stiff, but I’m trying to get it back again. But it will get there. I’ll just keep practicing. It’s not like starting over, but kind of is.”

The two recipients of the Top Novice Award -- Plemmons and Imrie -- looked nothing like novices during their victorious weekend performances.

Plemmons, from Union Mills, N.C., followed up his Saturday victory in the amateur SuperSport 1000 with a triumph Sunday in the SuperBike 1000. It was a far cry from his first appearance at Daytona a year ago, when he crashed at 170 mph in Turn 4.

“I wondered whether I even wanted to come back here, because that was scary,” said Plemmons, 38, who is in his first full year of racing. “But I figured I’d try it. You never succeed if you don’t try, so I jumped back on the horse, grabbed the bull by the horns, and hung on.

“My mother co-signed for my first Honda 600F2 when I was 16. I’ve been on these things for 22 years. I really wish I had gotten into racing a lot sooner.”

Imrie, a 27-year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba, won three AMA races at a speedway he’d seen repeatedly on television but had not visited until this weekend. He captured the amateur SuperSport 600 Saturday, and won the SuperBike 600 and SuperBike Twins Sunday.

“I was kind of nervous coming down here -- just because of the atmosphere and the fact that I’ve been watching this track on TV forever,” said Imrie, who had never raced a motorcycle until last year. “Apparently I’ve got some stiff competition at home, too, because I was just motoring.”

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