Mullins Wins Amsoil GNCC Series Opener in Florida
Charlie Mullins put his factory FMF/KTM atop the podium at the Mud Mucker season opener for the 2014 Amsoil GNCC Series in Bunnell, Florida.
Mullins held off Am-Pro Yamaha rider Paul Whibley of New Zealand for the win, finishing the three-hour, eight-lap race 1 minute, 28 seconds ahead of the New Zealander for the win at the series opener. Rounding out the podium was Whibley’s teammate Josh Strang, who earned the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 holeshot award. Strang earned third place over Shenandoah/USWE Honda’s Thad Duvall, with Strang narrowly edging out Duvall by .9 of a second.
It was a rough start to Kailub Russell’s 2013 title defense when a multi-bike pileup at the start of the race pushed him to the back of the pack. Out front, Strang grabbed the holeshot and was followed by teammate Paul Whibley to give the Yamaha riders the top two spots through the first lap. Whibley then passed Strang to move into the lead by the start of lap two. Behind the two Yamaha, Ryan Sipes ran in third, Thad Duvall fourth and Chris Bach fifth. Mullins and Russell both put in fast laps to run sixth and seventh respectively after their first-turn crash.
“It was good, but it didn’t start off too good,” Mullins said. “I didn’t really get a good jump, and a few guys went down and I just got tangled. I think my whole front was all tweaked, so I had to get that fixed. And I think my front rotor was bent because it felt weird and inconsistent all day. I just had to look past that and just kind of focus. It wasn’t hurting me too bad. I just rode and caught up to the guys.”
Mullins went on a tear, passing his way through the field to take the lead from Whibley just before the start of the third lap. This seemed to light a fire under Whibley, who then picked up the pace to run within a few seconds of Mullins. Strang and Duvall also ran closely, within about 1.5 seconds of each other, as they battled for third place. Sipes continued to put in a strong ride, running alone in fifth place. Russell was still mired in sixth place, ahead of Bel Ray Husqvarna factory rider Andrew DeLong.
Whibley and Mullins battled back and forth for the lead, with 2012 GNCC Champion taking the lead from Mullins halfway through the race. Mullins managed to regain the lead on lap six and he never looked back, as Whibley was unable to run at the same pace he did earlier in the race due to brake issues.
“It has been a pretty busy start to the season for me, but everything is going good," said Whibley, who celebrated the birth of his son just prior to the opening round. “The bike is great, and I am stoked to be here for another year. I was having a good race with Charlie, but I damaged my back brake in the last two laps, so he started to inch away. But everything is good.”
After a rough start, Russell was trying to get back into the race but was faced with more trouble, as his KTM went down with mechanical issues on lap seven and he lost 15 minutes to the leaders before getting back into the race. Russell finished 14th overall.
“I had some bad luck today,” Russell said. “I had a few crashes in the beginning of the race and then some trouble with my bike in that second pit. Luckily, I was able to salvage some points at this round. Now I just need to get some wins moving forward to close the point gap.”
Strang, who held off Duvall for the final podium spot by the slimmest of margins, said the track was muddy but fun.
“I just got in front of him there [Duvall] at the start of the last lap, and I figured if I could stay in front of him in the woods, I was pretty good here,” Strang said. “I felt comfortable in the grass section all day. The track was really fun. There were some mud holes, but it was fun. Unfortunately I lost the gap on these two boys early on, but I battled with Thad and managed a podium, I’ll take it. I was worn out with about two laps to go, and I was probably lucky I was riding with Thad. It was a good day.”
Mullins echoed Strang’s sentiments about the muddy track, but he said the course was more typical of GNCC conditions compared to a typical Florida race.
“Just mud everywhere,” Mullins said. “You had to be smart on your lines. I really didn’t make any mistakes today. I had two crashes in one lap, and one of them was actually in the field section. It was pretty high-speed, high-side get-off, but other than that I felt pretty good.”
The series next stop will be the General GNCC in Washington, Georgia, March 15 and 16.
Mud Mucker GNCC Results (Round 1 of 13)
1. Charlie Mullins-KTM
2. Paul Whibley-Yam
3. Josh Strang-Yam
4. Thad Duvall-Hon
5. Andrew DeLong-Hus
6. Steward Baylor-KTM
7. Jordan Ashburn-Yam
8. Rory Mead-KTM
9. Ricky Russell-Yam
10. Shane Hufford-KTM
Amsoil GNCC Championship Standings
1. Charlie Mullins-30/1 win
2. Paul Whibley-25
3. Josh Strang-21
4. Thad DuVall-18
5. Andrew Delong-16
6. Steward Baylor-15
7. Jordan Ashburn-14
8. Rory Mead-13
9. Ricky Russell-12
10. Shane Hufford-11