The Buckeye state can claim many top off-road racers of the past, present and future, and they'll all feel at home this weekend when the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series rolls into Sunday Creek Raceway in Millfield this weekend for the Wiseco John Penton GNCC. But of them all, the one who calls Ohio a temporary residence—Isle of Man's David Knight—is the favorite to grab a win.
Knight hails from Europe, but he's made several trips to Ohio to visit the headquarters of the Red Bull KTM off-road team he rides for. Many KTM VIPs will be on hand, including John Penton himself, the founder of the brand in the U.S. Knight hopes to win his third-straight GNCC race to make them happy, and he's taking some extra steps to further improve his performance. Normally Knight heads back to the UK between U.S. races, but he has stayed stateside in between the last two races in order to get even more comfortable through training, testing and practicing.
After back-to-back wins, Knight holds a two-point lead in the GNCC standings. A third-straight victory could send momentum permenantly in his direction, so the competition must step up now.
At the head of that list is Ohio's own Charlie Mullins, the sophomore pro sensation of the Am-Pro Yamaha team. After finishing second at the last two GNCC rounds, Mullins is as eager as ever to notch his first GNCC win. His teammate Barry Hawk hopes to bounce back from a poor finish at the previous GNCC at Loretta Lynn's, a bad result that was ultimately traced to a faulty suspension component. Hawk won The John Penton GNCC last year.
FMF/Suzuki's Glenn Kearney, like Mullins, is well overdue for a win. And then there's Shane Watts, riding on his own with help from Cycle Hutt and Yamaha. Watts is seriously confident about his chances of tracking Knight down this season, and he will be on the charge this weekend. Also, don't count out Garrett Edmisten, the surprise early-season points leader who is shocking the establishment with solid rides every week, or Parts Unlimited/Moose Honda's Paul Whibley, a winner earlier this year in Georgia.
The talented pack of XC2 Pro Lites riders will battle this weekend as well. Veteran Rodney Smith has put it to the pack this year, but his young competitors, riders like Monster/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki's Scott Watkins, Am-Pro Yamaha's Thad DuVall and Red Bull KTM's Justin Williamson, have gotten stronger each weekend. At the last event, DuVall and Smith were practically bumping bikes across the finish line after three hours of close racing.
It all adds up to another dramatic notch in one of the closest points races in the history of the series. The weekend begins with the chase for the GNCC ATV Championship on Saturday, as Yamaha's Bill Ballance and Honda's Chris Borich are staging an epic duel. ATV classes from Youth through Super Senior run Saturday as well, while bikes race on Sunday. Classes are available for nearly all levels and ages of riders on all sizes of machines.
Admission is $12 per person for the full weekend. To get to the track, rrom Athens, Ohio, take Rt. 33 W. 1 mile to 13N (Chauncey exit). Go 3 miles into Chauncey. Turn right—staying on Route 13 north. Continue for 10 miles to Jacksonville. Go right on Sixth St. for 2 miles, then turn left. For more information, log on to www.gnccracing.com.