For the second race in a row, Josh Strang put his FMF Makita Suzuki on the top step of the podium, declaring himself the man to beat in this year's Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series. The 21-year-old Australian's latest win came at the Maxxis General GNCC, round two of the 13-round series in Washington, Georgia, and gives him a 14-point lead in the series standings.
"I've worked hard for this and it feels good," said Strang. "And to get two wins is great. I got a good start, perhaps the best start I've ever got on the 450, and I rode well. I think I was better prepared for this race than I was in last week's race in the sand and my bike worked awesome, so it was a good day for us."
Early on in the three-hour race, Strang trailed Am-Pro Yamaha's Thad DuVall, who threatened to run away and hide during the first two laps. However, DuVall's day came to an end when he crashed heavily at about the midway point of the race.
"I rode kind of steady on the first lap and then Thad passed me and he simply checked out," said Strang. "But then I came around and DuVall was on the side of the track - I guess he crashed - and I stopped to see if he was okay. He got going again and he passed me and then he crashed again - he just freakin' ate it."
After DuVall dropped out, Strang cruised to an easy victory, crossing the finish line with two minutes to spare over Am-Pro Yamaha's Paul Whibley, who was happy to be on the podium after running out of gas at the opening round in Florida.
"I was actually racing with Josh [Strang] during the middle part of the race, but I tangled with a lapper and stalled my bike and lost maybe half a minute," said Whibley. "After that, Josh got away and I could never catch him. That's pretty much my race."
Chris Bach rebounded from a poor start to finish third, his second-straight podium finish.
"The first lap was chaos," said Bach. "I just stayed safe for a while and then started moving up. I caught up to Whibley and I thought if I latched onto to him we would ended up in the top five, which is where I wanted to be."
Indeed, Bach followed Whibley into the top five, and then when DuVall crashed out and FMF KTM's Nate Kanney got stuck in a rut, Bach inherited third.
"This is great, having back to back rides like this," said Bach. "I want to keep it going all year."
Fourth went to AM-Pro Yamaha's Charlie Mullins, who came from last place, after getting caught up in a first turn crash. Meanwhile, fifth went to FMF KTM's Nate Kanney. Kanney ran as high as second place on the opening lap, but was taken out two different times by lappers, moving him back down the order. During the final hour, Kanney made his way back towards the front but got stuck in one of the many mud holes and dropped back to fifth.
Cory Buttrick finished sixth, ahead of three-time AMA National Enduro Champion Russell Bobbitt, who also claimed the holeshot at the start of the race, collecting the $250 Motorcycle-USA.com Holeshot Award. Bobbitt managed the holeshot on perhaps the only 250 two-stroke in the XC1 class.
Mexican national enduro champ Homero Diaz was eighth on a KTM, while Kawasaki riders Ken Gaffney and Eric Bailey rounded out the top 10.
FMF KTM's Kailub Russell got back to his winning ways, taking a hard-earned win in the XC2 class. The defending XC2 champ battled for most of the race with Monster Energy/FAR Racing/ Andrews Cycles-backed Jason Thomas and Ride PG's KTM-mounted Jesse Robinson, before making his move on the final lap to take the win.
"I felt like I rode horrible today, but I was able to get it done," said Russell. "The first few laps I had arm pump like crazy and I couldn't do anything. But I finally got in a groove and things started clicking."
Thomas earned the $100 Motocycle-USA.com Holeshot Award to kick off the race, and then fell in behind Robinson to check out the lines.
"Jesse had awesome lines so I followed him for a while," said Thomas, who is recovering from a dislocated wrist. "He had smoother lines and I was able to pick up on them. Then I managed to pass him on the last lap to take second."
Robinson was pleased with second, and even more pleased to have led part of the race.
"This is probably the best ride I've ever had here," said Robinson. "I passed Kailub and pulled a little bit of a lead, but then I had to pit for gas and they caught up."
KTM riders Steward Baylor and Dustin Gibson rounded out the top five.
For the second race in a row, Open A rider Jordan Ashburn claimed the Top Amateur Award.
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series resumes on March 20-21 with the FMF Steele Creek GNCC in Morganton, North Carolina.
1. Josh Strang (Suz)
2. Paul Whibley (Yam)
3. Chris Bach (KTM)
4. Charlie Mullins (Yam)
5. Nate Kanney (KTM)
6. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
7. Russell Bobbitt (KTM)
8. Homero Diaz (KTM)
9. Ken Gaffney (Kaw)
10. Eric Bailey (Kaw)
1. Josh Strang (60/2 wins)
2. Chris Bach (46)
3. Charlie Mullins (39)
4. Paul Whibley (36)
5. Cory Buttrick (28)
6. Homero Diaz (25)
7. Glenn Kearney (24)
8. Kenneth Gilbert (22)
9. Eric Bailey (20)
10. Nate Kanney (18)
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Jason Thomas (Yam)
3. Jesse Robinson (KTM)
4. Steward Baylor (KTM)
5. Dustin Gibson (KTM)
6. Scott Watkins (Kaw)
7. Jake Korn (KTM)
8. Brad Bakken (KTM)
9. Josh Weisenfels (Kaw)
10. Robby Norwood (Kaw)
1. Jason Thomas (55/1 win)
2. Kailub Russell (51/1 win)
3. Jesse Robsinson (46)
4. Steward Baylor (32)
5. Dustin Gibson (31)
6. Jake Korn (30)
7. Josh Weisenfels (30)
8. Scott Watkins (28)
9 Robby Norwood (21)
10. David Snyder (17)