KTM's Shane Watts just completed the comeback many thought he never would. At the Power Line Park GNCC in St. Clairsville, Ohio, Watts took his first AMA Grand National Cross Country Series win in almost two years, battling past new series champion Barry Hawk in the final mile.
"I'm so stoked!" said Watts. "Two years ago I was jerking around and wasn't putting any effort into my racing. Then I got hurt, and it was so hard to come back. I never lost faith in myself, but there were times when it was pretty hard. But I want to thank KTM and MSR for sticking with me, and all the fans for being behind me."
The fans roared with approval over Wattsy's return to the GNCC podium, and he rewarded them with a burn out that lasted several minutes and left shards of rubber everywhere. He also attempted to surf his bike by standing on the seat as he crossed the finish line, crashing in a heap and pumping his fists for the fans.
Hawk led most of the race and ended up second by just seconds, but he was still not happy. "He rode good," said Hawk. "He's definitely faster on the grass track, not by much, but just enough. I think there were some sections in the woods where I felt faster than him, though. Hopefully at the next race in Indiana, I'll be in first and he'll be in second."
Hawk's teammate Jason Raines was third, just holding off the advances of five-time GNCC Champion Scott Summers, who is also making a comeback. Summers debuted his CRF450R, parking his old XR650, and put in his best finish yet during his return to the series.
KTM's Mike Lafferty was fifth. He grabbed the holeshot, but was quickly challenged by Hawk. Watts, Raines, Rodney Smith and Steve Hatch were all forced to start backwards on the GNCC start grid after attempting to jump the start. But they all charged to the front immediately. Raines and Smith would later lose ground getting stuck on a steep hill climb, while Hatch would move all the way into the lead.
Watts caught Hatch and tried to put pressure on, and then Hatch lost the front end of his FMF Suzuki and crashed hard. Then Hawk battled Watts and took the lead when the KTM rider tagged a lapper.
Watts followed Hawk for the final lap and a half, and then made his move on the grass track section that leads to the finish. "I saw him right there, and that just gives you the extra motivation to go out and push that much harder over the edge," said Watts.
1. Shane Watts (KTM)
2. Barry Hawk (Yam)
3. Jason Raines (Yam)
4. Scott Summers (Hon)
5. Mike Lafferty (KTM)
6. Steve Hatch (Suz)
7. Robbie Jenks (Yam)
8. Jim Jarrett (Yam)
9. Brian Garrahan (KTM)
10. Ryan Rodgers (Yam)