GNCC Racing

Rnd 4 - Pirelli Big Buck Bikes: Knight, Gibson Conquer

Monday, April 14, 2008 | 12:00 AM

GNCC Race Report: Pirelli Big Buck GNCC

Photos by Jason Hooper

Union, SC (April 13, 2008) -- The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series offers up three-hour races, and that's a good thing if you're Red Bull KTM's David Knight or Monster Energy/Andrews Yamaha's Dustin Gibson. Both riders spent the early moments of the Pirelli Big Buck GNCC in South Carolina fighting through traffic, but both eventually emerged victorious.

David Knight had the lead at the halfway point and once again set a pace no one could match.

"I got the bad start again, you know, but I think it helps me, I have to put it down early and I can loosen up and ride hard," said Knight, the defending GNCC XC1 Class Champion from the Isle of Man. "I don't even know why I try to get good starts. I practice them and then it all goes wrong for the race."

Strang led a lap at the GNCCs for the first time, but
he was more comfortabe battling his teammate Mullins.

Knight's start wasn't as bad as at the previous race in North Carolina, where he started a good 20 seconds behind the field. Knight made up ground quickly when a few other XC1 Pro riders crashed in the first turn. Then he started making passes in the woods and fields surrounding the track.

"I had a great line at one of the river crossings, which no one else seemed to be using," said Knight. "I remembered it from last year and it worked for me again because I think I got past four riders on the first lap, which was important for me."

Up front, Red Bull KTM's Nathan Kanney took the Racer X holeshot award and battled with FMF Suzuki's Charlie Mullins and Josh Strang. Strang eventually fought his way into the lead at the end of the first lap, marking the first time the 19-year-old Australian has ever led a GNCC lap.

"It’s different up there," said Strang. "When I was behind Charlie and Nate, I felt good, and the pace felt a little slow. So I wanted to see if I could pass them and pull a little gap. When I got into the lead I was a little tight. When Charlie got back by I loosened up a bit."

Knight moved into the third-place position on lap two and then went for the lead, using his smart line through a mud hole to pass the two Suzuki riders.

"There was a mud hole we went through on the first lap, and the second lap we got pointed around it, and then I looked over, and I was like Hh no there goes Knight!" said Strang.

Strang and Mullins kept the big man honest for a few laps, but by mid-race Knight was running a pace no one else could match, and he pulled away steadily to the end.

Strang was happy to take his first podium of the season, and Mullins was happy to score podium points despite riding with a severly sprained wrist. "The track was super rough," said Mullins. "I felt pretty good, but my wrist got tender about halfway and the rough track didn't help. I could have ridden better if my wrist wasn't so bad!"

Riding with a wrist injury, Mullins was happy to be back on the box.

Yet another FMF Suzuki rider, Paul Whibley, took fourth. The New Zealander struggled with his customary amr pump in the early laps and dropped outside the top five, and then mounted a late race charge to finish 18 seconds behind Mullins. Kanney held on to take fifth. Australian Glenn Kearney turned in his best ride of the season with a sixth-place finish on his Husqvarna, with Am-Pro Yamaha's Jason Raines just behind in seventh. Kawasaki riders Jesse Robinson and Garrett Edmisten came in next, with FMF Suzuki's Jimmy Jarrett rounding out the top ten.

Gibson never stopped believing even when he crashed in the second turn.

For several laps, it looked to be Josh Weisenfels' day.

In the XC2 Pro Lites class, Am-Pro Yamaha's Thad DuVall came into the race with a four-race win streak dating back to last year, but he also caught the flu on Friday. Nevertheless, DuVall battled up front for most of the race, fighting Monster Energy/Andrews Yamaha rider Josh Weisenfels and Powersports GrafX KTM's Kailub Russell, who took the Holeshot Award. Midway through the race, though, Weisenfels took control of the race and looked headed for his first-ever GNCC win.

DuVall rode with the flu and still snagged second.

Gibson, meanwhile, was mounting his typical charge from the back of the pack. "I think falling in the second turn helped me, it fired me up," said Gibson. "There was a tight pine section early on, and that kept everyone close. By the time we got to gas, I could see the leaders in front of me. I passed Thad on a downhill, and then got by Kailub, and I never looked back. I just kept my head down."

Weisenfels entered the last lap with a 13-second lead over Gibson. His bid for the win came undone when he got stuck in a mudhole. "I blew it," said a dejected Weisenfels on the podium. "One of these days, it's going to be my day. Today isn't that day."

Weisenfels dropped back to third, while DuVall picked up second. He decided to mount one last charge to try to catch Gibson. "I told everyone I wouldn't do this, but on the last lap, I brought back the old Bad Thad DuVall out of control style," said the West Virginian. "I caught up to Dustin, but then I crashed in a field, and I couldn't get to him again."

Russell held on for fourth, with Pennsylvania privateer Kevin Hoge rounding out the top five.

Knight and DuVall hold the points lead in the XC1 and XC2 classes, respectively.

GNCC Notebook:

Am-Pro Yamaha's Barry Hawk suffered through a hard crash on the first lap of the race, smacking a tree with his back and shoulder. Hawk had to be attended to by medical personel and took a ride to the hospital. The 2003 GNCC Champion was reported to have a broken shoulder, broken ribs, and a possible collapsed lung. He will have shoulder surgery once his breathing has come back to normal, which should keep the fan favorite out of action for some time.

GNCC legend Shane Watts returned to action in the XC1 pro class and showed plenty of speed early, running as high as fourth in the early laps. Watts eventually dropped off the pace a bit, since he spends more time running his Dirt Wise riding schools than training for racing. He finished 11th in the XC1 Pro Class.

The Monster Energy/Kawasaki team had a rough weekend in the XC2 Lites class, as both Andrew Matusek and Scott Watkins were returning from injuries. Matusek was riding with a broken foot and finished 15, while Scotty Watkins returned from a broken wrist and took 18th.

Powersports GrafX KTM's Cory Buttrick finished as top amateur by finishing in 15th overall and winning the Four-Stroke Lites A class. Brad Bakken won the 250 A class and Tony Joiner won the Open A division.

In the two-hour GNCC morning race, Travis Green topped Vance Earl and Robby Towery for the overall win. Tony Coffey snagged the $100 AXA Advisors Holeshot Award in the Vet C 30+ class.

KTM rider Steward Baylor held on to win his fourth-straight GNCC Youth Overall, making him four-for-four on the year. Kyle McDonald and AJ Stewart rounded out the top three, with over 120 youth riders competing.

The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series continues in two weeks with the Acerbis Loretta Lynn's GNCC in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, on April 26 and 27.

Pirelli Big Buck GNCC
April 13, 2008
Union, SC

XC1 Pro Class

1.David Knight (KTM) Isle of Man
2. Joshua Strang (Siuz) Australia
3. Charles Mullins (Suz) Hamilton, OH
4. Paul Whibley (Suz) New Zealand
5. Nathan Kanney (KTM) High Falls, NY
6. Glenn Kearney (HSQ) Australia
7. Jason Raines (Yam) Belfair, WA
8. Jesse Robinson (Kaw) Connelly's Spring, NC
9. Garrett Edmisten (Kaw) Vero Beach, FL
10. Jimmy Jarrett (Suz) Beloit, OH

XC1 Class Standings:

1. David Knight (111/3 wins)
2. Charles Mullins (77/1 win)
3. Paul Whibley (73)
4. Nathan Kanney (70)
5. Jimmy Jarrett (68)
6. Joshua Strang (58)
7. Barry Hawk (57)
8. Jesse Robinson (52)
9. Jason Raines (49)
10. Garrett Edmisten (45)

XC2 Pro Lites Class

1. Dustin Gibson (Yam) Cumberland Furnance, TN
2. Thad DuVall (Yam) Williamstown, WV
3. Josh Weisenfels (Yam) Fort Smith, AR
4. Kailub Russell (KTM) Kingston, OH
5. Kevin Hoge (Suz) Pittsburgh, PA
6. John Barber (KTM) Rome, GA
7. Brian Lawson (Yam) Adams, MA
8. Andy Shea (KTM) Oxford, OH
9. Justin Williamson (KTM) Sanford, FL
10. Eric Bailey (KTM) King George, VA

XC2 Class Standings

1. Thad DuVall (115/3 wins)
2. Dustin Gibson (93/1 win)
3. Josh Weisenfels (78)
4. Kailub Russell (63)
5. Andrew Matusek (59)
6. John Barber (50)
7. Brian Lawson (48)
8. Justin Williamson (47)
9. Wally Palmer (43)
10. Nick Gentry (35)