Morganton, NC (March 27, 2011) - After three hours of intense action, the FMF Steele Creek GNCC was decided in the final turn. And it couldn't have been a crazier finish.
With spectators crowding the barriers to get a better view, Charlie Mullins led Josh Strang into the final stretch of winding trail that led to the finish. As the two riders got closer to the checkered flag the intensity picked up, with Strang showing Mullins a wheel at every turn. Mullins guarded his lines and held Strang at bay, looking clearly to have his second win of the season in the bag. That is until the final turn when the FMF/KTM rider fell down. At that point a stunned Strang cruised across the finish line to take his first win of the year. The win was the FMF/Makita Suzuki rider's third straight at Steele Creek and it gave him the series points lead to boot. To top things off, Strang also won the $250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award to start the race.
"I got pretty lucky there when Charlie went down," said Strang. "It was unfortunate for him but I'll take the win for sure. I went down myself on the last lap so I had to ride hard to catch him. When I caught him I had to try to get by him as quick as I could because we were close to the finish. I tried to go inside him in a corner and after that I was ready to settle for second, but then he went down. I was shocked and a little bit relieved."
Until that point, Mullins had ridden a mistake-free race.
"It was a great race and I felt like I rode a good race," said Mullins. "The only mistake I made all day was right there at the finish and it was a big one. I'm kind of disappointed in myself and I don't know what to say. I've never thrown away a race like that."
Cory Buttrick rode his strongest race of the year and battled early on with Mullins, Strang and Am Pro Yamaha's Thad DuVall. At mid-race the FMF/KTM factory rider settled into his own private race in third, after Mullins and Strang picked up the pace and DuVall crashed out of contention.
"I got a pretty good start, which I'm happy about, and I was right behind Strang and Mullins," said Buttrick. "I made one little mistake and DuVall got around me, but then he went down and I moved back into third. After a while, Charlie dropped the hammer and then Strang started inching away. After DuVall went down I just rode hard to stay where I was."
Kailub Russell finally put things together after suffering problems at the first two rounds of the series. The FMF/KTM rider finished fourth despite taking a couple of laps to find his rhythm on the rough North Carolina course.
Round-two winner Paul Whibley had what he called an "off day", finishing fifth on his Am Pro/FMF/Yamaha. The 2009 series champ got a bad start and was last into the first turn, but managed to work his way back into the top five.
Meanwhile, Finland's Simo Kirssi is gradually acclimating to the series and had his best finish to date with a sixth on his FAR Husqvarna.
Jimmy Jarrett put his JG Off-Road/GEICO Powersports/Honda into seventh, finishing ahead of FMF/KTM's Russell Bobbitt and WMR/Planet Fitness/KTM's Nate Kanney.
Eight-time National Enduro Champion Michael Lafferty rounded out the top 10 on his factory Husaberg.
1. Josh Strang (Suz)
2. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
3. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
4. Kailub Russell (KTM)
5. Paul Whibley (Yam)
6. Simo Kirssi (Hsq)
7. Jimmy Jarrett (Hon)
8. Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
9. Nate Kanney (KTM)
10. Michael Lafferty (Hsb)