GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox with Bryan Buckhannon

Tuesday, May 6, 2008 | 12:00 AM

Bryan Buckhannon remains one of the few undefeated riders five rounds into the 2008 Can-Am GNCC campaign. After finishing second in last year’s hard-fought Open 4x4 title fight, he has come back stronger than ever this season. Just who is he? Let's find out.

Photos by Jason Hooper


Well Bryan, what a great year you're having so far?

It’s been good. Last year we just weren’t quite up to speed, and we made some adjustments, we switched tires, we trained hard, and it seems like it worked out for us.


Last year you established yourself. But you thought you could go to another level.

I sure did. And the biggest reason is that Can-Am stepped in with their X-Team package and gave me more help. Last year, my old Can-Am was obviously good enough to get me second place, but it wasn’t nearly the machine I have this year. That’s the biggest difference. Also the Super Grip tires that Modern Tire supplied me with, it really freed up the handling. It made a huge difference, which I wouldn’t have expected. They’ve been around for awhile, I don’t think many people run them, but one of my friends told me to try them out, and it was way more to my liking.


Bryan Buckhannon.

When you got second last year, is that what motivated you?

Yeah. That’s what it was. It all started to turn for me at Yadkinville last year. It was a dry track, and I single handedly passed Cecco and Kilby. That gave me a lot of confidence. I have nothing but respect for those guys, and I was more of a follower than a leader with them at that point. After that race, it gave me the confidence to try to go out there and lead. When the trail would split, I would try a different way and see if I could make a pass. The confidence is the biggest part, and the off-season training helped, too.


Well how is a West Virginia guy able to train in the winter?

A lot of jumping rope, and a lot of riding in freezing cold weather. I have to thank my friends that go riding with me. These are big machines, and it’s just not safe to go riding by yourself. So these guys come out and ride with me and it helps so much. It’s a security blanket, and safety always comes first.


What’s the riding like down there?

Beckley is kind of set up like you guys have it there in Morgantown, and I know because I went to college up there at WVU. Everything is laid out around the city, and then you can find places to ride outside of that. Let’s put it this way: I could ride 100 miles out of my house. I have a 10 mile practice loop set up, and it has every type of terrain you would find on a GNCC track. Rocks, roots, mud, hills, the only thing it doesn’t have is sand. You can’t bring the beach out here!


So yeah, how did you go so fast in Florida?

Yeah that was the one race that worried me. I know the Warnert guys and the LTE guys had done some testing down there. So I figured as long as I was in good shape, I could take care of myself. It worked out. I got the pre-season jitters worked out of me. I had turned my key off on the start to save some battery, and when they waved the flag, I still had the key off and I was stuck there! It was just one of those deals that, though, from there we were on a roll.


Okay, I’ve always wondered this. In these sand races, are you really blitzing whoops and stuff on a 600 pound ATV? Are you really jumping the whoops?

Yes, we are.


No way!

It takes commitment. Really, Jason, that’s what it is, just like motocross and supercross. I was a motocross guy, so I know you have to hit them wide open and stay on top. Otherwise, you go slow and ride down in them, and that’s not going to work. Once you’re on top of them it’s not that bad, but it’s harder to recover on these than it is on a sport quad, which is a lot lighter. If you get out of shape on a sport quad, you can just double something to get back going. Michael Swift and I, we ran a few laps together this year, and that’s what we did, just stayed on top. This year wasn’t as rough as in past years, I want to thank Elka, their shocks made a huge difference. They’re the same shocks I had on last year. I just bolted them back on and went for it.


So what’s your background? You raced motocross?

Yeah, when I was younger I raced the ATVA Series and followed that, and the Mega Series. I went to college and started my own business, and that kind of took me out of it. But I had some buddies down here who wanted me to try a GNCC. I had a stock Honda Rincon, so I took it to the Mountaineer GNCC at the Good Evening Ranch in West Virginia. It was the last year they had that one (2005). I said I was going to go and beat Mike Penland! I went there and got third place, and I had all kinds of trouble. I got stuck on trees and everything else. I learned a lot and got better, but unfortunately I still didn’t win! We were chasing it until last year. But I loved the challenge, and now the hard work is paying off for us.


Now you’re crossing your fingers to keep this streak together.

Yeah, I never dreamed it would be going like this. At the beginning of the season I thought it would be good to get out and get some wins, because I could get a cushion in the points. But now, I want to keep this streak going so it’s more pressure than ever! I just want to keep going and keep my name out there, so I can keep my sponsors and keep going.


How exactly have the races gone this year?

Well, Scott (Kilby) has gotten every holeshot on me this year. At the beginning of the year I had a worn-out motor, but now I have a new one and it’s a good motor, but still not quite what Scott has. I’ve been back as far as fifth and sixth. Hats off to Scott, he’s an excellent rider and he has done his homework. I look at him every week to try to figure out what he does at the start. So I have to follow, wait for the right opportunity to get around, and then try to check out.


What about the overall?

It’s starting to become a goal. I never even thought of it before. We had a bunch of Can-Ams in the top ten in Florida, and I figured if it can be done in the sand, it could be done somewhere else. The better you do in the overall, the better it is for the sponsors. It doesn’t really mean anything to me, but they want a return on their investment and it’s important to them.

Scott Kilby (Right) has gotten the starts this year, but Buckhannon (Left) has gotten the finishes so far.


And who are some of your sponsors?

Definitely Can-Am, and Super Grip tires, along with Modern Tire, the tire distributor. Also Spider Grips, Looney Tuned Exhaust, Flexx Bars from Fasst Company, Precision Steering Dampers, which I didn’t have last year and has made a big difference. And finally, ATV Parts Plus. That’s my shop down here. All of the employees back here, it’s a huge team effort. They all let me do what I need to do to succeed at this, and I can’t thank them enough for that.


Finally, how modified is a top machine in Open 4x4?

Well, we get to run Tire Balls, which is a big help. Besides the start, with Kilby getting all the holeshots, I can’t think of any situation where you need more power. The stock Can-Am produces so much power. I’ve had stock motors this year up until Loretta’s, where I had a modified motor. The big difference is suspension. You put Elka’s on there, and it lowers the quad, and that’s the biggest difference as far as I can tell.


So no special a-arms or anything yet for the 4x4s?

Not yet. I’ve heard some companies may be making a-arms soon, so that’s something I may have to look at. For now, we just reinforce a few things, put on the better shocks and tires and make a few motor modifications, some Tire Balls, and go. It’s something anyone can do. You can just look at Michael Swift in the Limited Class, and he’s basically running the same motor I was, and he’s riding very well. The stock power is fine.


Well it’s impressive that you’ve been able to step up this year.

Yeah, and I respect everyone over at Warnert. I’m not on that team, but they do help me out.


Okay well good luck this weekend in Ohio.

Thanks a lot, Jason. Every little bit of coverage helps, especially being a privateer.