GNCC Racing

Rnd 6 - Wiseco John Penton ATVs: Ballance's Battle

Wednesday, May 14, 2008 | 12:00 AM

Millfield, Ohio (May 10, 2008) ï¿Â½“ They say you lose flexibility as you get older, but Bill Ballance sure seems to be made of rubber. Knock the man down and he just bounces back up harder. Once again, the GNCC Champion has taken a bad start to the seasonï¿Â½” and rumors that his time had finally passedï¿Â½” and turned it around by building a win streak. Ballance is back, again, although surely he would like to remind everyone, again, that he was never really gone.

What will it take to keep this guy down?

In fact, Ballance is even back to his old attitude. Before the year began, Ballance said that now that the all-time GNCC title record is his, he was going back to the old days and going to start having fun again. He was indeed quite the comedian for a little while, but the morning before the Wiseco John Penton GNCC, Ballance said he was scrapping the fun mantra and going back to what works.

“I said I was going to have more fun this year, but I wasn’t winning and I wasn’t having fun, and I didn’t like that,” said Ballance.

But Ballance would have to go through some stiff competition to get his full mojo back, with KTM’s Adam McGill ready to win again following his heart-breaking DNF on the last lap of the previous race at Loretta Lynn’s, and Rockstar/Yoshimura Suzuki’s Chris Borich was ready to get after it after a few bad rounds.

The Penton would offer one heck of a showdown. Rain leading up to the race meant bad track conditions even though the sun was shining all day. GT Thunder Yamaha’s Brandon Sommers garnered the ITP Holeshot Award on his familiar #784, and the pack came flying through the first few turns at its typical ferocious rate. At the back, Team Excell Motorsports’ Bryan Cook, who finished second at the last race, was left last after a bad jump.

The field is deeper and the racing action closer than ever in the GNCCs this year, but this one eventually boiled down to four riders in a freight-train battle for the lead. McGill, Sommers and Ballance were joined by the other KTM rider, Taylor Kiser, in a knock-down drag out fight for the win. McGill led for awhile, then Ballance took the spot just past halfway. The track was muddy and it became hard to see who was who, and for riders who weren’t up front early, moving through the pack was tough.

McGill and rest had to battle the mud.

Cook, who had come from last earlier in the year to contend for a podium, wasn’t finding the going so easy this time. Neither was Borich, who continues to struggle in muddy races despite adding some ride height to his LT-R450.’s Jarrod McClure was struggling with some equipment troubles as well, while in the opposite vein, the factory Polaris pits next door saw Bryan Baker logging his best run of the year.

By the time the white flag came out, the battle had been reduced to two. Sommers got too aggressive passing lappers and ended up upside down going down a hill. Temporarily trapped under his machine, he eventually had to run to the top of a hill to get some help getting his YFZ450 back on all fours. Kiser lost time, too, and fell into the clutches of XCBob’s Matt Smiley. Smiley bobbled himself on the last lap, allowing Kiser to get back around for third.

Meanwhile, Ballance entered the last lap with a 16-second lead over McGill, so the West Virginia kid put his 450XC into maximum overdrive in an attempt to run down the champ. He came close, but Ballance stayed cool on the lap, kept the mistakes to a minimum, and held on for his second-straight win.

"It was a one of those days where you had to be smart and smooth," said Ballance. "Sometimes you didn't even want to be the guy up front, just because you knew people were going to be getting stuck, but at the same time, you didn't want to be getting roosted."

"If anyone said Bill doesn't have that fire anymore, forget it because he was going for it," said McGill. "We would catch a bottleneck and he would get away, and then we would hit another one and I would catch up to him. On the last lap, I knew I had a gap to make up, and you can talk about being consistent for points, but when you're second on the last lap, it's checkers or wreckers."

Kiser believed coming in that he could run with the lead pack, and he did that all day for his second podium of the season. "I've been putting in the hard work, riding here in the area to try to learn these conditions," said the second-year pro from Florida. "It's good to see that hard work paying off."

Smiley held on for fourth, and fifth went to The National Guard's William Yokley, ahead of Alba/DC Cycles' Ryan Lane. Bryan Baker was next on the factory Polaris, ahead of Yamaha/Cernic's/GT Thunder's Johnny Gallagher. Borich ended up ninth.

Tenth overall went to GT Thunder/Yamaha's Don Ockerman, who nailed down his fifth XC2 Pro Am win of the season. He had quite a challenge from The National Guard's Mark Notman and Baldwin Motorsports' Brian Wolfe, who took second and third. The $100 Rekluse Holeshot Award went to David Crane.

Kiser, Ballance and McGill along with some dedicated ATV fans.

GNCC Notebook

In the morning ATV race, a last-lap bottleneck opened up an opportunity for Montgomeryville Cycle Center's Stefanie Verkade to take her first-ever ATV morning overall win. Tom Clark Motorsports' Angel Atwell and Yamaha's Traci Cecco took second and third.

Verkade shed tears on the podium, completing a life-long dream by getting the class and overall win. "Today, I had luck on my side, for once," said Verkade, who collected the $100 ATV Morning Race Overall Win Award. "I've been racing my whole life, and this is just a dream come true to get up here."

The top Utility result came from Doug Henke on a Kawasaki KFX700 in the U2 class. Bryan Buckhannon (4x4 Open) and Cliffton Beasley (4x4 Lites) continued their perfect seasons, while Michael Swift got his fifth win in six races in the 4x4 Limited class.

The one-hour GNCC Youth race was postponed from morning until afternoon to give the track a chance to dry. An 11-year-old, Ryan Early, made history by becoming the youngest-ever overall race winner. Logan Fluharty and Jerry Welch rounded out the podium.