Strang Wins Titan GNCC Dirt Bike Race
After opening the season with four-straight wins and building a relatively safe lead in the series standings, Strang struggled during the middle part of the season, failing to make the podium in four of the next six races. However, at the Titan GNCC - round 11 of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series - the FMF/Makita Suzuki rider was fast and relentless, holding off constant pressure from the Obermeyer/Am Pro/FMF Yamaha-backed Mullins for almost the entire distance of the race.
At the finish, Strang crossed the finish line with just one second to spare over Mullins, giving the Aussie his fifth win of the year.
"Charlie and I had an awesome race today and I think we both had fun," said Strang. "We were wheel to wheel for most of the race, and at one point I hit a lapper and Charlie got by me, but things worked in our favor and we moved a little closer to the championship."
Mullins still has a mathematical chance of wrestling the title away from Strang, but his chances got slimmer with Strang's win. Mullins has three wins to his credit this year and wanted nothing more than to add a fourth, and he pulled out all the stops in an effort to make it happen.
"I gave it everything I had at the end but Josh rode well," said Mullins. "He pegged a lapper and he ended up going down and I got around him. I tried to push and break away but he was able to catch me and he made a pass on me in one of the fields. I did everything I could on the last lap, trying to find places to get him, but it was pretty hard to pass out there and I just couldn't make it happen. He rode well and I think I did too so all in all it was a good day."
Behind the Strang/Mullins battle, an equally exciting and hard-fought skirmish took place between Am Pro/FMF Yamaha's Thad DuVall and FMF/KTM's Cory Buttrick over the final spot on the podium.
DuVall ran solo in third for mush of the race, but Buttrick moved into the picture as the three-hour race neared its end. Both riders ended up going down during the final two laps, but at the finish it was Buttrick sneaking across the line just ahead of DuVall.
"I was in third all by myself and then I had a big crash and Cory got around me," said DuVall. "Cory and I were running a pretty good pace and on the last lap, about halfway through, Cory took a pretty good crash and I was able to get back into third. I had it and then not far from the finish I went wide in a corner and got tangled up with a lapper and Cory got me for third."
Glenn Kearney had one of his best rides of the year to finish fifth, the factory Husqvarna rider taking advantage of a new 310cc kit for his 250 TXC.
"I got a really good start and I think I rode good," said Kearney. "I screwed up on a couple of hills and fell down in the dust a few times, but the new 310 worked really well, especially for the first race with it."
Sixth place went to GNCC legend Barry Hawk Jr., who looked fast and solid on his AM Pro/FMF Yamaha. Meanwhile, Paul Whibley, who claimed the $250 MotorcyceUSA.com Holeshot Award for getting the holeshot at the start of the race, finished seventh after re-injuring his thumb in a crash on the opening lap.
Clockwork/RidePG KTM's Chris Bach led part of the first lap, as well, but a spectacular crash on lap two slowed his pace and he eventually finished eighth.
KTM-mounted Shane Obabion was ninth, while former XC2 champion Justin Williamson rounded out the top 10 on a Kawasaki.
With just two rounds remaining, Strang holds a 29-point lead over Mullins in the title chase, with Buttrick sitting third another 19 points back.
The XC2 race, Kailub Russell claimed his seventh win of the season with a dominating performance at the Titan, despite starting the race nearly last.
"I just did what I had to do," said Russell, who at one point was in contention for the overall win. "I wasn't worried about the overall, I knew it would be tough to do that because the track was so gnarly today. I just couldn't get the power to the ground and the XC1 guys were pulling me."
Jason Thomas, riding a Monster Energy Andrews Cycles Husqvarna TXC 250, suffered engine problems and ran in second for most of the race, but gave that away on the final lap to KTM rider Jesse Robinson.
FMF/KTM's Steward Baylor narrowly missed the podium, taking fourth ahead of GEICO/JG Off Road/ Monster Energy Kawasaki's Scotty Watkins.
Sixth went to Dustin Gibson, while fellow KTM riders Nick Davis and Zach Nolan were seventh and eighth. John Maschino finished ninth on a Yamaha, and Brain Lawson, who won the $100 Motorcycle-USA.com Holeshot Award, finished 10th.
The Overall Amateur Award went to Kawasaki support rider Jordan Ashburn Kawasaki rider after finishing a respectable 14th overall against the XC1 and XC2 riders. Ashburn wrapped up the Overall Amateur title in addition to winning the Open A division.
The next highest placing amateur was AJ Stewart, who won the 4-stroke A Lites class with an 18th overall finish on his Yamaha.
In the morning race, Fort Smith, Arkansas rider Josh Weisenfels won the Sportsman A class on a Kawasaki, claiming the overall win as well. Josh beat out Sean Gentry of Cookeville, Tennessee, who was also riding a Kawasaki.
KTM's Maria Forsberg beat out Yamaha rider Mandi Mastin to win the Women's division and by doing so wrapped up the Women's title.
"It feels really good to win the title - less pressure now," Forsberg said. "I love the GNCC races. I love the trails and the people here are so nice. I have so many new friends now."
In the Youth race, KTM rider Layne Michaels beat out Grant Baylor to win the Super Mini (14-15) class, and was also the top Youth Overall finisher. Meanwhile, Jonathon Johnson won the 85 (12-13), while Christopher Williams won the 85 (14-15) class.
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Series will return on October 9th and 10th for the ITP Power Line Park GNCC, held in St. Clairsville, Ohio.
1. Josh Strang (Suz)
2. Charlie Mullins (Yam)
3. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
4. Thad Duvall (Yam)
5. Glenn Kearney (Hsq)
6. Barry Hawk Jr. (Yam)
7. Paul Whibley (Yam)
8. Chris Bach (KTM)
9. Shane Obabion (KTM)
10. Justin Williamson (Kaw)
1. Josh Strang (259/5 wins)
2. Charlie Mullins (230/3 wins)
3. Cory Buttrick (211/1 win)
4. Paul Whibley (190)
5. Chris Bach (184)
6. Nate Kanney (171)
7. Glenn Kearney (164)
8. Barry Hawk Jr. (138)
9. Kenneth Gilbert (120)
10. Jimmy Jarrett (113)
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Jesse Robinson (KTM)
3. Jason Thomas (Hsq)
4. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
5. Scott Watkins (Kaw)
6. Dustin Gibson (KTM)
7. Nick Davis (KTM)
8. Zach Nolan (KTM)
9. John Maschino (Yam)
10. Brian Lawson (Yam)
1. Kailub Russell (283/7 wins)
2. Jason Thomas (261/1 win)
3. Jesse Robinson (236/2 wins)
4. Scott Watkins (205)
5. Steward Baylor Jr. (180)
6. Brain Lawson (123)
7. David Snyder (114)
8. Mark Fortner (112)
9. Dustin Gibson (108)
10. Nicholas Hunter (94)
MotorcycleUSA.com $250 XC1 holeshot - Paul Whibley
MotorcycleUSA.com $100 XC2 holeshot - Brian Lawson
Overall Amateur Award - Jordan Ashburn