Team FMF/Makita Suzuki turned the Mountain Ridge round of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series into a private affair, with Josh Strang defeating his teammate Charlie Mullins after a dramatic three-hour battle in the rocks, mud, forests and fields of Somerset, Pennsylvania, May 17.
Am-Pro FMF Yamaha’s Barry Hawk finished third to collect his first podium of the season, while Shock Doctor KTM’s Kailub Russell won the XC2 Lites class ahead of Monster Energy/Andrews Yamaha’s Jason Thomas and Shock Doctor KTM’s Cory Buttrick.
Strang’s win marked his fourth in the last five GNCC races, and also the second time this season that he and Mullins finished 1-2. In contrast, championship rival Paul Whibley had a tough day. The New Zealander smashed a waterpump cover and put a hole in his radiator, but still dug out a seventh-place finish in the XC1 class. Strang now holds the points lead for the second time this year.
Mullins snagged the $250 MotorcycleUSA.com Holeshot Award, but Whibley grabbed the early lead and pulled a big gap early. Eventually Strang and Mullins hooked up, and along with Am-Pro FMF Yamaha rookie Thad DuVall, mounted a charge and caught Whibley. DuVall’s run of bad luck continued when his ignition failed, marking his fourth-straight race with mechanical troubles. The Suzuki teammates battled Whibley, and when Whibley began dropping back with his own mechanical issues, it boiled down to a Strang versus Mullins duel for the win. The duo kept the fans excited by going back and forth all the way down to the finish.
Hawk overcame pressure from Shock Doctor KTM’s Nathan Kanney to claim third.
Kanney took fourth ahead of Husqvarna’s Glenn Kearney. Kurt Caselli, Whibley, Jimmy Jarrett, Kenny Gilbert and Dustin Gibson rounded out the XC1 top ten.
Whibley came into the race leading the GNCC standings, but a slew of bad luck led to a tough day. Whibley settled into a battle with the Suzuki riders and Duvall, but then he crashed and hurt his shoulder, and later damaged his water pump and radiator. His GEICO/JG Racing Monster Kawasaki team worked to fix the problems in the pits on the last lap, and Whibley nursed it home for some points.
In XC2, Russell and Thomas battled so closely for the $100 Rekluse Holeshot Award that they decided to split the money between them. They passed each other a few times early, then Russell made a mistake, and then Thomas made another, allowing Buttrick into the battle. Russell put in a strong charge to get the lead back and open enough of a gap to hold it to the finish.
Thomas ended up way back after his first lap problems, but he never stopped charging and caught Buttrick on the last lap. They battled back and forth before Thomas nailed down the spot before the finish.
Russell’s win, his fifth of the year, helps him extend his points lead.
Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jordan Ashburn collected Top Amateur honors.
In the two-hour morning race, Super Senior A rider Randall Riggs collected the overall win, and Greg Vise of the Golden Masters class won the Coppersmith Suspension Holeshot Award.
The 2009 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series continues with the Wiseco John Penton GNCC in Millfield, Ohio, in three weeks, on June 6 and 7. GNCC racing airs in HD on Versus every Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
Mountain Ridge GNCC
1. Joshua Strang (Suz)
2. Charlie Mullins (Suz)
3. Barry Hawk (Yam)
4. Nathan Kanney (KTM)
5. Glenn Kearney (HSQ)
6. Kurt Caselli (KTM)
7. Paul Whibley (Kaw)
8. Jimmy Jarrett (Kaw)
9. Kenny Gilbert (Kaw)
10. Dustin Gibson (Kaw)
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Jason Thomas (Yam)
3. Cory Buttruck (KTM)
4. Scott Watkins (Kaw)
5. Jake Korn (KTM)
XC1 Point Standings: (After 7 of 13 races): 1. Josh Strang (165/4 wins); 2. Charles Mullins (161/1 win); 3. Paul Whibley (159/2 wins); 4. Jimmy Jarrett (119); 5. Nathan Kanney (107); 6. Barry Hawk (103); 7.Kurt Casselli (95); 8. Glenn Kearney (74); 9. Jesse Robinson (70); 10.Thad Duvall (63).