FMF Suzuki's Josh Strang finally scored his breakthrough win in the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, coming from behind to take the Elka Yadkin Valley Stomp GNCC on a dry day in North Carolina. Strang got emotional on the podium after topping his teammate Charlie Mullins and defending GNCC Champion David Knight for the win.
"My mom and dad, back home, they made so many sacrifices to get me here," said Strang, 20, overcome with emotion after taking his first win. "I wish they could be here to see it. This is such a great feeling."
Strang notched three seconds and a third in the last four GNCC races. This time he overcame a bad start to win, which wasn't supposed to be possible on a dusty track. Mullins grabbed the Racer X Holeshot Award and tried to check out, but Knight ended up in the lead after accidentally missing a section of the course. The GNCC crew made Knight rerun that missed section on the next lap, which dropped him back to fourth. Mullins held the lead again, but Strang put on a charge from about seventh place to get into second. When Mullins crashed on the banks of a water crossing, Strang rolled past.
"I wanted to get a win," said Mullins, who has struggled in the last few races. "I knew Josh was coming, and then I clipped something coming out of that water and went flying. I wasn't even close to my bike once I landed, and I was totally under water."
"It was a shame to see Charlie down in there, but I guess we've all had bad luck," said Strang. "I was able to make up ground in the bottom sections, where they had big motocross type bumps. I was comfortable there."
As for Knight, the Red Bull KTM rider was just happy to end up third after a strange day. "Feels like a win after all of that," said Knight. "I tried making up some time, but in the dust, I had a couple of close calls and I decided to just hang back and score some points."
Fourth went to Paul Whibley, who had won the last two GNCCs but admitted he had an "off-day." Husqvarna's Glenn Kearney rounded out the top five. Next came Red Bull KTM's Nathan Kanney, Am-Pro Yamaha's Jason Raines, Walpole Trucking Kawasaki rider Garrett Edmisten, and FMF Suzuki's Jimmy Jarrett.
WORCS Champion Kurt Caselli rounded out the top ten. "I crashed a lot, I was slow and I sucked," joked Caselli after the race.
In the XC2 Pro Lites Class, Welsh, U.K. rider Jason Thomas scored his own breakthrough with a win. "I've been back home for the last 11 months getting my Visa sorted," said Thomas. "All I've been doing was trying to prepare for this, coming back and doing this. I don't have any sponsors, and I spent my money getting the Visa, so I hope to get some help." Not long after the race, Thomas was spotted talking to several team managers.
Red Bull KTM's Justin Williamson, the defending XC2 Champion, returned to the podium for the first time this year with second. "I've just been struggling to get comfortable," said Williamson. "I'm back on my old program. I got the lead from Jason, but then I crashed in a creek and gave it back to him. But it's a relief just to get back up here."
Monster Energy/Andrews Yamaha's Dustin Gibson rounded out the podium. "I never thought I would get up here," said Gibson. "I was riding so bad, I was so tight, I was scared for my life. I can't believe I made it back up here."
Points leader Thad DuVall notched fourth after several hard crashes. Scott Watkins was fifth on his Monster Energy Kawasaki. The rest of the top ten featured Kailub Russell, Eric Bailey, Brian Lawson, Kevin Korn and David Snyder.
Without any rain in the area for weeks, dust was the theme of the day, although the sections deeper in the woods weren't as bad as the open fields. The track featured the signature Yadkinville obstacles, including the creek jump and a run through a house.
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series continues in two weeks with the GEICO Mountain Ridge GNCC in Somerset, Pennsylvania.