By Joe Miller Montana XC

BIG SKY – The West Hare Scrambles Championship won’t be decided until the checkered flag waves Sunday afternoon, Aug. 26, at the fourth annual Big Sky XC.

Big Sky’s weekend long event is the final round of the Western Hare Scrambles, an off-road motorcycle racing series put on by the American Motorcycle Association. With 27 race classes competing, there will be plenty to watch all weekend.

Leading into pro race, Canada’s Cory Graffunder holds a slight points lead over California’s Justin Bonita. The recently crowned 2012 AMA East Hare Scrambles Champion, Jed Haines of Fairfield, Penn. also recently confirmed for the Big Sky XC Pro class.

That means this is the first time in four years that top-level pro racers from the Eastern and Western hare scramble divisions are competing against each other.

When the AMA split its Hare Scrambles Championship into two regions in 2008, it set up a “shootout” event that same year in Oklahoma, where racers from across the country could go head-to-head. But it only happened once, and since then, no hare scramble has hosted the top east and west racers.

Now, the Big Sky XC is filling that gap, having become an informal revival of the AMA East/West shootout.

Regardless of who’s leading the three-hour pro race, many eyes will be on Jaines, Graffunder and Bonita. Look for Haines’s—his bike will have a red number plate with 1E, signifying his East region championship.

The 2008 Shootout champion, Jason Raines of Travelers Rest, S.C. will also be in attendance. Raines won’t be racing, but instead will be focused on his duties as team manager for the Obermeyer Yamaha/Raines Racing University team, Haines’s sponsor.

And when the checkered flag flies, the champion from each class will decided—headed to the national championship ceremony at the year-end AMA awards banquet in Las Vegas.

Whoever finishes first will have bragging rights.