The 2020 Buckwheat GNCC results were clouded with a little controversy. For Steward Baylor and Ben Kelley, the Buckwheat GNCC in Newburg, West Virginia, November 8, may seem a bit like kissing your sister, so the saying goes.
After three hours of spectacular racing, and a final two laps that saw multiple lead changes between the two (four on the final lap), Kelley crossed the finish line first, but was docked a position for going outside of a boundary—an innocent mistake.
Kelley, as you might imagine, was not pleased because he missed out on his first GNCC win of 2020, and Baylor was also not pleased because he didn’t want to win a race in that manner.
But all’s well that ends well, and Kelley was finally okay with the situation, knowing he had given it his all and left it all on the racetrack. And on the podium, Baylor told the enthusiastic crowd that Kelley had indeed outridden him and knows the FMF/KTM rider is not a cheater, saying he didn’t think Kelley did anything to warrant such a severe penalty.
But rules are rules, and the GNCC series doesn’t play favorites and hands out penalties equally to all. In all, seven riders were guilty of similar infractions on this day.
The win was Baylor’s fourth in the last five races. “Ben has been hungry,” said the AmPro Yamaha-supported Baylor. “He’s been riding well. While I was leading, I felt like I could control the pace and relax and chill out. Then we stopped. He made a pass in the fields. We stopped for gas and then just a rough next-to-last lap with lappers. I ended up giving up about 28 seconds at one point. On the last lap, I reeled him back in and was able to make the pass when he made a mistake. It came down right to the finish again, one second apart. He actually had the upper hand. It’s tough. We’ve talked about it a lot. I’ve talked about it a lot. It’s very difficult to police these lines. It’s definitely not Ben’s fault, but it’s a tough call for GNCC, for everybody. I definitely don’t enjoy winning like this. Ben definitely out-rode me all day long. I want everybody to know that we’re going to have to watch for these lines and mark them off or do a better job with the track, because it makes it tough for us. None of us want to be known as cheaters. I can promise Ben is not a cheater. He’s one of the most honest racers out there. So, hats off to him. I got out-ridden and just shit happens.”
Kelley has been oh so close to getting his first win of the season, and, at least for a moment, it looked as though he had done it.
“I’m super bummed,” Kelley said. “Just mad at myself. I got up to the lead and was doing good and it just so happens I didn’t see that line walking the track. I was staying on the course the first lap, but people ahead of me I saw took it. So, I figured, maybe it’s a better line. I went to try it and the second I got into it I knew it was too far off the trail, but it was going up a hill. I guess I should have turned around and went backwards and fixed it, but in the heat of the moment I didn’t really know.
“The track was pretty one-lined,” Kelley said. “It was rough and technical and Stew is really good in that stuff. So, I’d show a wheel here and there, but couldn’t make it stick. Just got up onto him on those fields in the second-to-last lap and was just squaring him up. I was able to charge by him and pulled a good lead on that second-to-last lap. Then my arms were getting pumped up and I was just not riding the bike good with the clutch and was just having wheel spin everywhere. I made a mistake on an uphill and he passed me. It was four miles from the finish, if that. So, I just put my head down, charged, and caught up to him in those fields again and went for it. I was able to pass him in the same spot again, just squared him up and just held the gas on through some muddy ruts. Just leaned back and wheelied through. Then he was just pressuring me the whole way to the finish. It was all I could do to hang on. Happy to finish the race in first, at least.”
Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Team Green Kawasaki’s Jordan Ashburn not only grabbed the holeshot to start the race but turned in his best finish of the season with a third.
FactoryOne Sherco’s Grant Baylor was next to last off the line at the start, but managed to work his way into fourth by the end of the race, even though he was trying his best to stay off the ground so he would be healthy for next weekend’s AMA National Enduro finale, which Grant leads.
AmPro Yamaha’s Layne Michael continues his run of top finishes, placing fifth in West Virginia. After getting off to a great start, Michael led at one point but tightened up and dropped off the pace, only to settle in and work his way back through the pack.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Craig DeLong finished sixth overall and by doing so won the XC2 250 Pro crown.
AmPro Yamaha’s Mike Witkowski was also in the hunt for the XC2 250 Pro crown, and pushed DeLong the entire distance, finishing seventh overall and second in class less than a second behind DeLong.
Craig DeLong’s older brother and 2014 National Enduro Champion Andrew DeLong had a good day, finishing eighth overall on a Phoenix Honda.
Beta USA’s Cody Barnes was ninth overall and third in the XC2 250 Pro division, while Phoenix Honda’s Jonathon Johnson rounded out the top 10, fourth in XC2 250 Pro.
Zack Hayes won the KTM FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class on a Coppersmith-sponsored KTM, finishing nearly a minute and a half ahead of Beta rider Max Fernandez. Pennsylvania’s Michael Delosa (KTM) was third.
In the Women’s WXC race, Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish got her first GNCC win, beating out BABB’s Racing’s Becca Sheets, who wrapped up the title earlier in the year.
“It feels amazing,” said Gutish. “It’s nine years in the making. I’ve been doing this longer than anyone except Shelby. I’ve done a lot. I’ve got an X Games medal. I’ve got a Six Days medal. I’ve won the Tennessee Knockout. But this has always been the monkey on my back, and I finally got it off. It feels amazing.”
Korrie Steede was third on a TM.
2020 Buckwheat GNCC overall Results
- Steward Baylor (Yam)
- Ben Kelley (KTM)
- Jordan Ashburn (Kaw)
- Grant Baylor (She)
- Layne Michael (Yam)
- Craig DeLong (Hus)
- Mike Witkowski (Yam)
- Andrew DeLong (Hon)
- Cody Barnes (Bet)
- Johnathon Johnson (Hon)
Full results are available here.
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