After putting a halt to Josh Strang’s win streak at the Tennessee round of the series two weeks before, Charlie Mullins started a streak of his own by claiming his second-straight win at the MotorcycleUSA.com Yadkin Valley Stomp GNCC in Yadkinville, North Carolina – round six of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series.
The Obermeyer/Am Pro/FMF Yamaha rider capitalized on a good start, blazing speed and tidy woods riding, working his way from fourth after the start to first by the end of the second lap. From there, “Hotrod” needed only to keep it on two wheels and between the markers and the center step of the podium was his.
In the meantime, Strang was happy to be leaving North Carolina with the points lead intact after a frightening second-lap crash left him dazed and sore. At the time the FMF/Makita Suzuki rider was leading the race after grabbing the holeshot and the $250 Motorcycle-USA.com Holeshot Award that goes along with it.
“I got sideways over a little jump in the woods and I clipped a tree and my hand went off the bars and when I grabbed on again I got a handful of throttle and it shot me into a tree,” said Strang. “I went down pretty hard and it rang my bell.”
Mullins inherited the lead at that point, with Am Pro/FMF Yamaha’s Paul Whibley taking over second. At one point Mullins held as much as a minute lead over Whibley, while Glenn Kearney wrung out the little Husqvarna 250 TXC to move into third, nearly catching Whibs on the final lap.
At the finish, Mullins took the win with Whibley in second and Kearney in third.
“I’ve had two good weekends in GNCC and my confidence is high right now,” said Mullins. “I’m happy with how things went today and how I rode and I just want to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Whibley’s runner-up finish matched his best performance of the year and leaves him sitting third in points.
“I’m pretty happy with second,” said Whibley. “It was a good day; I was back up at the front and I was racing with the leaders. I got a good jump at the start and got bumped around a bit and came out third, but I moved into second right away. It was a bit dusty and I ended up going down near the end of the lap – I just spun out and Charlie got by me. Then when Josh went down I moved up into second and spent the rest of the race there.”
Kearney was pleased to be back on the podium after a long dry spell, especially after the week he had leading up to the race.
“Thursday we were testing suspension, and Ben (Kearney’s brother and mechanic) had an accident and broke his femur, so it was a long night Thursday night and then he had surgery on Friday,” said Kearney. “He had the bike all about ready, but we were waiting on some engine parts, that showed up on Friday morning, so I learned a little bit about putting a top end on a four-stroke and timing valves and that sort of stuff.”
Fourth place went to Clockwork/RidePG KTM’s Chris Bach, who got shuffled to the rear after getting off to a good start. Bach fell on the first lap and bent his clutch lever, but eventually picked up the pace when Am Pro/FMF Yamaha’s Barry Hawk Jr. passed him.
“I latched onto Barry and I was able to get into the groove,” said Bach. “I learned a lot just watching him pick lines and I was able to start moving up.”
Bach moved from ninth at one point to fourth, passing FMF/KTM’s Nate Kanney on the final lap.
Kanney finished fifth, just ahead of teammate Cory Buttrick and Hawk. Strang managed to get back in the race after a brief period in the pits and salvaged a ninth place finish, sandwiched between Kawasaki riders Jedediah Haines and Eric Bailey.
Despite the ninth place finish, Strang still holds a 19-point lead over Mullins after six rounds, 157 to 138, while Whibley sits in third with 113.
In the XC2 division, FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell took the win by almost four minutes over Monster Energy Andrews Cycles’ Jason Thomas, and moved far enough up into the XC1 ranks to finish second overall for the day. The defending class champ passed Kearney on the final lap and was catching Whibley when he ran out of time.
“I had the overall in the back of my mind, but I was mainly just trying to maintain my own race,” said Russell. “Once I got around Kanney and Buttrick I was just kind of by myself and I felt kind of lost out there. Then on the second to last lap I caught up to Glenn, and I just kind of slipped in behind him and he made a mistake and I moved around him. Right after that I saw Whibs, but I couldn’t get him.”
In the meantime, Thomas and KTM rider Jesse Robinson battled for much of the race over second.
“Jesse caught me at some point in the race, and I made a mistake and he went around me,” said Thomas. “All I could think about at that point was the championship and I dug deep and went after him. We were in the bottom along the creek and I was wide open and he turned around to see if I was there and I went around him. If he hadn’t looked back I probably wouldn’t have passed him. He stayed on me all the way to the finish and I knew I just needed to stay on two wheels to get second.”
In deed, Thomas stayed on two wheels to finish second, while Robinson ended up third.
KTM young-gun Steward Baylor Jr. ended the day in fourth, ahead of GEICO/JG Off Road/ Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Scotty Watkins. Mark Fortner was sixth on a Husaberg, and David Snyder, who won the $100 Motorcycle-USA.com Holeshot Award on his Yamaha, was seventh. Meanwhile, Bryan Lawson (Yam), Nicholas Hunter (KTM), and Chris Spear (Suz) rounded out the top 10.
1. Charlie Mullins (Yam)
2. Paul Whibley (Yam)
3. Glenn Kearney (Hsq)
4. Chris Bach (KTM)
5. Nate Kanney (KTM)
6. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
7. Barry Hawk Jr. (Yam)
8. Jedediah Haines (Kaw)
9. Josh Strang (Suz)
10. Eric Bailey (Kaw)
1. Josh Strang (157/4 wins)
2. Charlie Mullins (138/2 wins)
3. Paul Whibley (113)
4. Chris Bach (109)
5. Cory Buttrick (99)
6. Glann Kearney (91)
7. Nate Kanney (116)
8. Barry Hawk Jr. (66)
9. Eric Bailey (65)
10. Kenneth Gilbert (64)
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Jason Thomas (Yam)
3. Jsse Robinson (KTM)
4. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
5. Scotty Watkins (Kaw)
6. Mark Fortner (Hsb)
7. David Snyder (Yam)
8. Bryan Lawson (Yam)
9. Nicholas Hunter (KTM)
10. Chris Spear (Suz)
1. Kailub Russell (171/5 wins)
2. Jason Thomas (139/1 win)
3. Jesse Robinson (129)
4. Scotty Watkins (106)
5. Steward Baylor Jr. (100)
6. Dustin Gibson (78)
7. David Snyder (73)
8. Mark Fortner (64)
9. Brian Lawson (61)
10. Nicholas Hunter (60)