XC1 rookie Cory Buttrick joined ranks with Josh Strang and Charlie Mullins as the only riders to have taken wins in this year's Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series with a scrappy performance at the Wiseco John Penton GNCC - round eight of the series in Millfield, Ohio, yesterday.
With a hometown crowd urging him on, the FMF/KTM factory rider claimed his first-ever XC1 win in one of the toughest races of the year.
After heavy morning rains left the course in less then desirable condition, GNCC officials made the call to move the race program back an hour to allow the water to drain. In addition, the afternoon race was shortened from three hours to two. By start time the sun had come out, which might in fact have made matters worse, because instead of having slippery Ohio mud, the riders had to deal with the kind of mud that sticks to fenders and wheels and everything else. However, Buttrick was undeterred by the adverse conditions, and kicked off the race by grabbing the $250 MotorcyceUSA.com Holeshot Award, leading Am Pro/FMF Yamaha riders Paul Whibley and Thad DuVall, Obermeyer/Am Pro/FMF Yamaha's Charlie Mullins, FMF/KTM's Nate Kanney and a host of others through a short section of the motocross course and into the woods. Meanwhile, series points leader FMF/Makita Suzuki's Josh Strang was near the back of the pack after getting off to a poor start.
DuVall pushed Buttrick through the first few deeply rutted sections, before Buttrick decided it would be better to follow instead of lead.
"On the first lap it was bad because all of the downhill's had all this water at the bottom of them and I was breaking all of this wet trail, so I let Thad go by," said Buttrick. The decision was a good one, since DuVall eventually got stuck in a deep mud hole and lost ground.
On lap two, Strang got into a rhythm and moved up into second place behind Buttrick, with Kanney, Mullins and Ohio native GEICO/JG Racing/Monster Kawasaki's Jimmy Jarrett not far behind. However, not long afterwards Mullins encountered problems and dropped out due to a derailed chain.
Strang took the lead on the third lap and held it until the fourth and final lap, when Buttrick retook the point on the motocross section of the course. The order seemed set until the two front-runners encountered a bottleneck near the end of the race.
"I got there and there we bikes everywhere - it was a bad situation," said Buttrick. "I got there about 30 seconds before Josh and I looked up one line and there we bikes all over and the other way didn't look any better. Then Josh pulled up and we were sitting there for a while and then we started trying to get through and I dropped into this deep rut and I thought I was done at that point. But then Josh helped me drag the bike out and gave me a shove up this hill to get me going. I stopped at the top of the hill and got off the bike to help him and then I saw Whibley go to the right of us and I saw Kanney go that way too, and then I saw Josh get going so I took off. I can't thank Josh enough for what he did - it was the best thing anyone has ever done for me during a race. Big thanks to Josh Strang, he's a class act."
The shove from Strang was enough to keep Buttrick in the lead and the Ohio native crossed the finish line with fists in the air, taking the win with over a minute to spare.
"I'm so happy. This is the best feeling in the world, but it sure was nerve-wracking," said Buttrick. "I passed Strang on the last lap and as soon as I did I put the hammer down, but then I started worrying I would burn up all my energy. I was worried about a thousand things. I was wondering if I was even going to make it back around, but then I pulled it all together."
Strang finished second in what he considered a battle of survival.
"It was only two hours but it seemed like forever," said Strang. "The track was kind of hard, with a couple of difficult hills and a few bog holes. I was in the back on the first lap and I got bogged down, but then I got going on the second lap and got up there with Cory. This event got real rutty and slippery and it was pretty gnarly, but a second was good today and I was able to stretch the points lead a little."
Whibley finished third for his fourth podium of the year.
"This was a tough race," said Whibley. "On the second lap I got stuck in a rut and it took me so long to lift it out that I lost a lot of time. But then I started picking off riders. I saw Charlie stuck out there, I think he lost a chain, so it was just one of those days. I was actually pretty happy that it rained. I don't like the dust and I had done well here before in the mud, so I just went out there and tried to pick good lines."
Jarrett finished the day in fourth, his best ride since injuring his shoulder earlier in the year. Meanwhile, fifth went to Clockwork/Ride PG/KTM rider Chris Bach, with Husqvarna factory rider Glenn Kearney taking sixth. Kanney ended up eighth after suffering a damaged radiator on the final lap. He was sandwiched between Kawasaki riders Kenneth Gilbert in seventh, and Matthew Miller and Eric Bailey in ninth and tenth.
Mullins was credited with 13th and trails Strang by 20 points in the series standings (196 points to 176). Buttrick moves into third overall with 154, followed by Whibley with 152 and Bach with 125.
In the XC2 division, another first-time winner stood at the center of the podium. KTM rider Jesse Robinson claimed his first XC2 win after battling all race with GEICO/JG Off Road/ Monster Energy Kawasaki's Scotty Watkins and Monster Energy Andrews Cycles' Jason Thomas.
"Me and Thomas rode together all day and I just let him be a guinea pig," said Robertson. "I followed him until the two-lap card and then I decided I needed to go on so I passed him."
Robertson held a big lead until he got stuck in the mud, which allowed Watkins to catch up.
"Scotty and I raced together until he got stuck and I just kept it going to the finish," added Robertson.
Watkins got unstuck quick enough to maintain second, matching his best finish of the year.
"Since I'm from Ohio, everyone in the pits said this was a good day for me since it was raining, so I just put my head down and just tried to get around out there with out getting too stuck," said Watkins. "As the laps went on I got going better and started making good decisions."
Thomas claimed the $100 Motorcycle-USA.com Holeshot Award and finished third despite losing a lot of time on one of the muddy hills.
"I was running up front until I came to this hill and it seemed like every lapper in the race was stuck there," said Thomas. "I decided to go up and maybe I should have waited because I got stuck and I dropped in this ravine and I didn't think I was going to get out. I set at the bottom and I lost five or six minutes. But then I just let the clutch out and the bike shot up the hill and I ran up and got it and got going again."
Husqvarna rider Mark Fortner took his best finish of the year with a fourth, just ahead of 2008 XC2 champ Justin Williamson on a Yamaha.
David Snyder (Yam) was sixth, while Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM), Nicholas Hunter (KTM) and Brian Lawson (Yam) where seventh, eighth, and ninth.
FMF/KTM rider Kailub Russell got wire wrapped around his rear wheel and lost an entire lap. Despite finishing the day in 10th, Russell still maintains the series points lead with 207 points, while Thomas sits second with 190.
1. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
2. Josh Strang (Suz)
3. Paul Whibley (Yam)
4. Jimmy Jarrett (Kaw)
5. Chris Bach (KTM)
6. Glenn Kearney (Hsq)
7. Kenneth Gilbert (Kaw)
8. Nate Kanney (KTM)
9. Matthew Miller (Kaw)
10. Eric Bailey (Kaw)
1. Josh Strang (196/4 wins)
2. Charlie Mullins (176/3 wins)
3. Cory Buttrick (154/1 win)
4. Paul Whibley (152)
5. Chris Bach (125)
6. Glenn Kearney (121)
7. Nate Kanney (112)
8. Barry Hawk Jr. (93)
9. Kenneth Gilbert (91)
10. Eric Bailey (76)
1. Jesse Robinson (KTM)
2. Scotty Watkins (Kaw)
3. Jason Thomas (Yam)
4. Mark Fortner (Hsq)
5. Justin Williamson (Yam)
6. David Snyder (Yam)
7. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
8. Nicholas Hunter (KTM)
9. Brian Lawson (Yam)
10. Kailub Russell (KTM)
1. Kailub Russell (207/5 wins)
2. Jason Thomas (190/2 wins)
3. Jesse Robinson (180/1 win)
4. Scotty Watkins (147)
5. Steward Baylor Jr. (132)
6. David Snyder (100)
7. Dustin Gibson (93)
8. Mark Fortner (90)
9. Brian Lawson (86)
10. Nicholas Hunter (80)