Henry Wins Florida GNCC

| March 9, 2005

The following is a release from GNCC Racing -The Moose Racing Orange Crush GNCC featured a stacked pack of talented riders, but one rider no one even knew was going to race ended up winning it all in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the series. Doug Henry, the three-time AMA National Motocross Champion who retired from full-time competition years ago, came to Florida on a riding vacation and decided to race the second round of the Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series. Three hours later he crossed the finish line first – and then collapsed of exhaustion. As has always been the Doug Henry way, the all-time fan favorite left everything he had on the track.”This was the toughest thing I ever did,” said Henry to the cheers of possibly the largest crowd ever gathered at a GNCC podium. “This makes two motos at Southwick look easy!”A couple of friends of mine wanted to come down to Florida to do some riding. And they wanted to come out and do the GNCC. I always wanted to try one, and everyone said this one in Florida would be a good one because it’s rough and sandy, and it suits my style. It would have been good if these guys didn’t push me. But this guy (Juha Salminen) just wouldn’t stop pushing me.”Henry battled to the death with Salminen, the 10-time World Enduro Champion who cleaned up at the GNCC opener in Texas. After passing and pushing back and forth for three hours on one of the roughest GNCC tracks ever, Salminen ended up second.”It was great to ride against Doug Henry,” said Salminen. “Early in the race the pace was too much, and I thought we might get tired. But we kept going. It was a hard race, and I was happy to almost win the hard race. He rode great.”Henry was so tired after the race that he couldn’t hold up his GNCC victory trophy on the podium, and had to get an IV from the trackside medics instead of shaking the champagne.But as hard-fought a win as it was, it didn’t match the emotion of the third-place rider, the embattled former GNCC Champion Shane Watts. Wattsy broke into tears on the podium, elated to finally get back toward the front of the GNCC pack. “It helps heaps to have people like this behind you,” said Watts of the huge crowd. “People just don’t know how far down I’ve been. Things have changed so much for me. I’m married now and we’re expecting a baby. Believe it or not I have to leave the track so I can go to class tonight. I’m in school now. Things have changed so much.”Watts is attending classes to earn a real estate license. He’s not even sure how much racing he will do in the future, but he was happy to have at least one more podium finish left in him.Fourth place went to KTM’s Kurt Caselli, with fellow KTM racers Mike Lafferty and Robbie Jenks taking fifth and sixth. In fact, if it weren’t for Henry’s amazing ride on a Honda CRF450, KTM would have swept the top five spots.Once again several GNCC favorites struggled. Barry Hawk looked strong early but faded back. Word is Hawk’s suspension settings were off, and the brutal track took its toll on the normally indefatigable 2003 GNCC Champ. Hawk’s equally tough teammate Jason Raines called it a day at the two-hour mark. His shoulder, recently repaired through surgery, just gave out after pounding the whoops. “It wasn’t injured or hurt or anything, I just lost all of my strength,” said Raines. “I couldn’t hang off the back of the bike anymore.”Team FMF Suzuki struggled as well. Defending GNCC Champion Rodney Smith was on hand as a spectator again with a broken leg, while his veteran teammate Fred Andrews crashed hard early and injured his groin. Australian Glenn Kearney, the runner-up at the GNCC opener in Texas, finished seventh.With Henry, Salminen and Watts on the podium, three continents were represented on the podium for the second time in as many races this year. All told, well over 1000 racers competed throughout the four-day race weekend.The Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series continues this weekend with the Maxxis General GNCC in Washington, Georgia.


Kit Palmer