The following is a release from GNCC Racing-
Am Pro Yamaha's Barry Hawk has won countless Suzuki Grand National Cross Country events, but few have ever felt as good as his latest victory at the series' most prestigious round: the Parts Unlimited Wisp GNCC.
"It feels so good, it's like I just won my first race," said Hawk, who has worked tirelessly to get back to the top after early-season struggles left him doubting himself. He also welcomed his first baby boy, Talon, into the world just 11 days ago. "On the last lap, I started thinking 'I really am going to win this race.' I started getting chills. I probably wasn't charging like I should have been. So I put my head back down and charged some more."
Hawk's win was made sweet by the arrival of his son, and also due to the amount of work he put in to get back to the spot. KTM's Juha Salminen has dominated GNCC racing this year, while Hawk struggled with set-up, crashes, bad starts and bad luck. But he kept fighting, and that will to fight carried him on a brutal course many said was the worst they had ever faced.
The rocky course even claimed Salminen, who crashed so many times he said, "When I would get up and start riding it was like I was just waiting for the next crash." Juha was unhurt, but it was the first GNCC he has ever raced where he failed to make the podium.
The Wisp runner-up was just as emotional as the winner.
FMF/Throttlehead.com/Kawasaki's Josh McLevy finally got to the GNCC podium after years of trying. Always fast but rarely consistent, McLevy had the speed to lead a good portion of the race, but also the stamina to hold on for three hours. In the end he would take second, his first-ever GNCC podium finish.
"I didn't think, I just rode my dirt bike today," said McLevy. "I didn't take any big chances. I would pass someone, and if I saw someone up ahead, I would just try to stay with them and go. It feels so good to finally get up here, and I want to thank my mom and dad for putting up with me for all of these years. I finally made it."
Am Pro Yamaha's Jason Raines put in a phenomenal comeback to make the Wisp podium for the third year in a row. "Today, I was okay off the start, but I went down at the second hill," said Raines. "I knew I had 29 guys in front of me, so I knew it was going to be a long day. I just kept plugging away, putting in good lap times and not making any mistakes. This is a really special race for me, a lot of stuff has gone down here and I'm glad to get it up here on the podium."
Fourth went to KTM's Mike Lafferty, who rode brilliantly all day and led early, before falling into the clutches of the super-fit Raines on the final lap. Fifth went to SCR/Jayco Suzuki privateer Doug Blackwell. Am Pro Yamaha's amateur sensation Charles Mullins logged another amazing ride for sixth overall, while Salminen was seventh - plenty enough to preserve his big points lead.
"It was so tough, there were many big stones," said Juha, who remained upbeat after the race. "I tried hard to catch up, but all of the crashes I had, they were big crashes. I have a big points lead, but I ride to win every race, so I am still disappointed."
R.E.R. Motorcity's Nathan Kanney logged another great race with eighth overall, with FMF/Throttlehead.com/Kawasaki's Steve Hatch in ninth and FMF Suzuki's Fred Andrews in 10th.
The Wisp is unlike any other race on the tour. A beautiful ski resort in Western Maryland, the race features huge hills and endless miles of big boulders. The track is tough and unrelenting, and only the strong survive. All told, well over 1300 racers braved the rugged track.
Hawk's comeback bid began at the previous race two weeks ago, where he shadowed Juha all day and nearly pulled off the win. Still fitting in practice time around the birth of his new baby, the second for he and his wife, Kristen, Hawk came into the Wisp determined - and lucky. "I had a close call on the last lap, maybe the closest call I've ever had," said Hawk. "I hit a deer. I cleaned off my front fender, but it never hit my front tire. How that happened is beyond me."
The Parts Unlimited Wisp GNCC was taped for an airing on the Outdoor Life Network, and GNCC races air Tuesdays at 5 p.m., Thursdays at 11 a.m. and Saturdays at 2 p.m. EST.
The Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series begins its annual summer break. Racing will continue with an all-new race in Yaccanville, North Carolina, on September 10 and 11.
Bike Overall Results
Parts Unlimited Wisp GNCC
1 Barry Hawk, Jr Smithfield, PA YAM 02:42:14
2 Joshua Mclevy Fairfield, CT KAW 02:43:15
3 Jason Raines Belfair, WA YAM 02:44:20
4 Michael Lafferty Estell Manor, NJ KTM 02:45:30
5 Doug Blackwell Parkerburg, WV SUZ 02:46:38
6 Charles Mullins Hamilton, OH YAM 02:47:00
7 Juha Salminen Finland, Pro KTM 02:47:26
8 Nathan Kanney High Falls, NY YAM 02:48:36
9 Steve Hatch Scottsdale, AZ KAW 02:48:39
10 Fred Andrews Salem, OH SUZ 02:49:31
11 Aaron Wegner Traverse Sity, MI YAM 02:49:55
12 Scott Watkins Leetonia, OH KAW 02:51:18
13 Travis Green Vinton, OH KAW 02:52:13
14 Justin Williamson Sanford, FL YAM 02:52:20
15 Robbie Jenks New Straitsville, OH KTM 02:52:35
16 Ryan Rodgers Dover, PA YAM 02:53:03
17 Scott Summers Petersburg, KY HON 02:53:23
18 Stephen Edmondson North Augusta, SC KTM 02:55:34
19 Ryan L Powell San Rafael, CA YAM 02:56:20
20 Kyle Chaney Pataskala, OH YAM 02:56:23
Suzuki GNCC Series Overall Point Standings (After 9 of 13 rounds)
1. Juha Salminen 240/6 wins
2. Barry Hawk, Jr. 178/2 wins
3. Glenn Kearney 137
4. Robbie Jenks 122
5. Steve Hatch 106
6. Charlie Mullins 104
7. Jason Raines 102
8. Brian Garrahan 80
9. Mike Lafferty 80
10. Shane Watts 72