While Tuesday Toolbox is traditionally a weekly interview with riders from across the ranks of GNCC Racing, sometimes we like to mix things up. This week we’ll take a look at our upcoming round, The John Penton GNCC in Millfield, Ohio with a bit of a history lesson on the event and the man it’s named after.
The John Penton GNCC serves as one of the longest running GNCC events. With its first event held in 1990, it has become a staple of the series. However, it hasn’t always been known as The Penton. The first years of the event, it was known as the Burr Oaks GNCC named for Ohio’s Burr Oak State Park which is a popular state park located nearby.
In 2002 the event was renamed The John Penton GNCC to pay tribute to one of the most innovative and influential figures to ever come through the motorcycle industry. After restoring their father’s 1914 Harley Davidson, John Penton and his brothers immediately became hooked on motorcycling. Upon returning from World War II, Penton set out to buy a new motorcycle and began racing enduros aboard the heavy Harley Davidson motorcycles that dominated the sport in the early years.
After seeing the success of other riders aboard the lighter European machines, John began riding a British made BSA which almost immediately brought him success. After the tragic loss of his wife, John went on a cross country motorcycle trip winning multiple events across the country. With the success of these events John was invited to visit Husqvarna’s factory in Sweden. While there, John attempted to talk the manufacturer into producing lightweight off-road specific motorcycles. After showing little interest, Penton paid a visit to an Austrian bicycle and moped manufacturer by the name of KTM.
With an investment of his own personal money, the KTM produced a prototype Penton Motorcycle. After racing it back home in the US, John had several other top riders of the time begin riding Penton Motorcycles, all of which found great success. This created a demand for these lightweight machines and Penton Motorcycles became one of the top brands. In the late 70s, KTM bought out the Penton distributorship and KTM Motorcycles as we know it today, in the US at least, was born.
John’s innovations didn’t stop there either. After seeing a lack of protection among the work boots that riders wore at the time, Penton partnered with Alpinestars, a ski boot manufacturer, to create Hi-Point boots. Hi-Point became the go-to brand for many years and after a title sponsorship fell through, Hi-Point boots are how High Point Raceway received its name.
Undoubtedly, with this kind of influence in the motorcycle industry, it was natural to name an event after Mr. Penton, and even more fitting to be in his home state of Ohio. The course can get tough at times, and the bikes always dive into “The John Penton Section”, a section of tight twisty woods that will test riders as much as the old style enduros tested John Penton who won the National Enduro Championship in 1970.
The inaugural bike winner of the Burr Oaks GNCC was Duane Conner while Chuck Dellulo took the ATV honors. When it was renamed The John Penton GNCC in 2002 Ohio’s own Chuck Woodford, took the bike win with the legendary Bill Balance taking the win on the ATV side. When it comes to the question of who has the most wins at The Penton, Bill Balance and Chris Borich tie for those honors with 6 overall wins each. If Borich continues with the success we’re so used to seeing, this weekend he could become The John Penton GNCC’s winningest rider.
On the bike side, Paul Whibley has the most overall wins coming in at 4 while Scott Plessinger, Scott Summers and Fred Andrews all tie for 2nd most wins with 3 each. Outside of these riders, none of the other overall winners have taken more than 1 overall win at The Penton! There is one rider to have taken the overall win on both the ATV and bike side, you guessed it, Barry Hawk.
So as we head to Ohio this weekend, keep in mind that this event pays tribute to a true pioneer of the sport, one who helped revolutionize the sport into how we know it today. Best of luck and we’ll see you this weekend!