GNCC Racing

Quick Fill #12: This Week in GNCC

Quick Fill #12: This Week in GNCC

Thursday, March 24, 2016 | 1:30 PM
Thursday, March 24, 2016 | 1:30 PM

Welcome to Quick Fill.

Another week is in the books and while traditionally we’d be gearing up for round three this weekend, leap year and an early Easter have pushed the schedule back ever-so slightly, so we’ve got an extra weekend off before we go racing at Steele Creek. For some, it’s a nice break to find some extra seat time, make more adjustments to their machine, or just spend Easter Weekend with the family. Of course, there are others who are ultimately ready to get back to racing!

Although it’s still more than a week away, Steele Creek is always one of those unpredictable races. If we’ve learned anything about Steele Creek in the past, it’s that anything can, and will happen. We’ve seen overall wins slip away literally just a few feet away from the finish line at Steele Creek, and that’s happened more than once. I’ll have some more on later though.

Of course, many consider Steele Creek to be the first “normal” GNCC event of the year. Florida is unique because, well, it’s Florida and Georgia is always unique given that it’s immediately after Florida. Therefore, when we make it to round three at Steele Creek, things seem a little more normal. However, Steele Creek is also unique as it’s the first mountainous track of the year and always makes for a good teaser for the rest of the season.

This is also the first time this year that we’ll be seeing any true hillclimbs. Florida will always be flat and our new Cannonball GNCC in Georgia was relatively flat as well. We did have a little elevation change but nothing like the long, steep hills at Steele Creek.

One quick thing before we jump into the rest of this week’s Quick Fill, I chatted with Jerry Bernardo for a Red Bull Australia article about the opening rounds of GNCC Racing this season. For those who don’t know Jerry, you may remember him from MotoWorld 2 on ESPN years ago, or from some of the races he’s announced over the years, or maybe you know him as the man who started the famous FAH-Q Racing which backed Tommy Norton to his 1990 Blackwater 100 victory. Anyway, Jerry and I had a pretty cool little chat about the races and a little about what it takes to put them on. If you’re interested in reading an interview with me, and keep in mind I typically don’t get interviewed, check it out HERE.

We hope you have a wonderful Easter Weekend!
We hope you have a wonderful Easter Weekend! Photo: Ken Hill - Edit: Jared Bolton

Weekly Updates (Chelsea Taylor)

We’re only a week and half away from the Steele Creek GNCC, yikes! This past week has just flown by faster than Kailub Russell on Pro Row, but seriously I can’t believe it’s already the end of March.

Speaking of Steele Creek, just a reminder that the race will be taking place at an actual campground facility. With that being said you have two options: non-hookup and full-hookup camping. Full-hookup spots are first-come-first-served with a price of $40 per night, while primitive camping is $20 per night. These fees are in addition to the gate fee that you pay once you arrive at the track. 

Maybe your season hasn’t started off the way you would like, but it’s not too late to turn things around. DirtWise has a school coming up in Kittanning, PA on April 9 and 10. The DirtWise Two Day In-Depth School is exactly that: an in-depth analysis of all components a rider will encounter on the track or trail. This specific program has been in action for the past six years and is perfect for any level of rider. This school will allow even the most experienced rider to gain a better understanding of the “why” behind the “what” of trail obstacles, and to have a better understanding of how to increase their safety, conserve energy, and to ride faster on the trail if they so desire.

The updates might be short this week, but make sure to keep reading the other features below for more info on the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Ticket to Ride and Cody Gerhard. 

Traci (Cecco) Pickens was back to her winning ways at the Cannonball GNCC!
Traci (Cecco) Pickens was back to her winning ways at the Cannonball GNCC! Photo: "Digital" Dave Smith

The Not So New Kid In Town (Rodney Tomblin)

The 2016 season has already brought so much from a racing standpoint that it has been virtually impossible to cover all the angles. I mentioned a few weeks ago that in the big picture there are no real standout races because as great as each one is, the next start brings yet another. As great as it is, it makes it very difficult to even know where to start. There are so many stories developing and unfortunately many may get overlooked. However there is one new name reaching great strides in the morning ATV racing that if you have been around you may recognize but this name is new in the morning overall.

Bryan Hulsey is one of the mid western riders hailing from Missouri. Even though the state does not get as much credit, it does seem to be a bit of a hotbed for producing some fast off road racers. Hulsey is one of those names. He is not brand new to GNCC or even racing as far as that goes. He has raced a few other series and competed in the Best in the Desert before really making himself known in 2015 with a phenomenal challenge in the 4x4 A/B. Many may have thought that with the successes he saw on his Kawasaki KFX700, he may be looking to move into 4x4 Pro.

Choosing to step into the 4x4 Pro class was not the case though for the now 45 year old Hulsey, as he chose to race sport quads over the rugged utility type machines. In doing so he not only put himself in a different genre of ATV racing but it also pitted him against the nations best in the Super Senior 45+ class. A surprise move to many, but one that seems to have fit him perfectly. It may also prove to be only the first of more to come in the overall win category too. His season opening class win yielded eighth place overall at Wild Boar GNCC and could have been the signal of bigger things to come.

The early round absences of class top dog for the past several years, Dave Simmons, may inspire the old dog to get back out real soon and hunt. But in the meantime it’s no surprise to see a Super Senior 45+ class rider on the podium or win for that matter. Dave has been doing it for years but it is always interesting to see someone new make the step. And the next fun thing will be to see the challenges Hulsey will meet in his bid to reign in his new realm.

Another name that has gotten a little more attention in the morning races is 9-Time WXC champion Traci (Cecco) Pickens. Traci retired a few years ago and began a family with her husband former XC1 Pro Jeff Pickens. The two may have went into more of a semi-retirement instead of retirement as Jeff now races the Vet A class. Traci had been racing more and more as the baby has grown and has always been competitive, but last seasons rides and the win in Georgia may be the first of many more to come. If you look at results from round one it looks like she may have not been in it at Wild Boar but she got lost on the first lap leading and played catch up the rest of the race to place seventh.

It is a long season and I have not heard anything official from Traci personally, but as we all know a number of people like to let their riding do the talking and right now it is saying so much. The championship is only two rounds in and so many things can and will happen. The resurgence of Traci may not have come at a better time in the grand scheme of things as she still plays a huge and monumental role in WXC racing. The competition field she faces is basically a totally different and even more challenging field she has ever faced in the class but this “not so new kid in town” is ready to face it head on.

The finish of the 2007 Steele Creek GNCC still stands out as one of the most epic moments in the history of GNCC Racing!
The finish of the 2007 Steele Creek GNCC still stands out as one of the most epic moments in the history of GNCC Racing! Photo: GNCC Archives

Looking Back at Steele Creek Part 1 (Jared Bolton)

Over the years Steele Creek has stood out as one of, if not THE most unpredictable GNCC event on the schedule. We’re not just talking about the racing either, it’s hard to know exactly what the weather is going to do as well. The western part of North Carolina brings incredibly unpredictable weather this time of the year and you never really know what you’re going to get. We’ve seen cold, rainy weather and even snow, but we’ve also seen hot and dry weather at Steele Creek. Oh and there was the windstorm back in 2005. 

On the track, Steele Creek can be equally hard to predict. There’s no clear favorite on either the ATV or Bike side when it comes to Steele Creek. Both have seen a number of different winners over the years, and both have seen wins slip away at the most inconvenient times. However, there are two stories that stand out in people’s minds when it comes to Steele Creek, and while they’re both distant memories, both stories are amazing moments in the history of GNCC Racing. 

I actually talked about these for a special edition of #ThrowbackThursday this past winter, but given that the race is just around the corner, now seems like a great time to bring it back up. While there are a number of amazing stories from the history of Steele Creek (Barry Hawk falling off the wooden bridge in 2004 is one of the most iconic photos I associate with Steele Creek) the two that always stand out are the battles for the bike overall wins in 2007 and 2011.

Both stories see two different sets of riders on two tracks that were laid out very different, but both have a very similar outcome. First, we’ll go back to 2007. The 2007 edition of Steele Creek saw a fairly warm day; actually it was a good bit warmer than the typical Steele Creek event, which seemed to catch a number of riders off-guard. 2007 was also a bit of a “comeback season” for Shane Watts, who actually won the opening round in Florida. After starting the season with a win, Watts was determined to make a go for the 2007 GNCC National Championship and that determination would carry over into Steele Creek. Wattsy would jump out to control the opening laps of the race, before Charlie Mullins would work his way into the lead on lap three. However, Mullins would begin to lose the pace of the front of the pack, while trouble would also come for eventual 2007 GNCC National Champion, David Knight, who would experience mechanical issues on and off throughout the day.

This would set the stage for a battle to the wire between Barry Hawk and Glenn Kearney. When the Hawk/Kearney battle took the white flag, the two would be separated by just one second, making it an all-out battle to the finish. After swapping the lead multiple times throughout the final lap, the battle would come down to the final turns of the race; through the large grass track section before the finish. However, it almost wasn’t a battle. As they came out of the woods, Hawk would have a slight bobble, giving Kearney an edge.

Hawk would put his head down, swapping the lead back and forth with Kearney through the next few turns. Just feet before the finish line was a small ditch, which Kearney would wheelie across. Hawk had a line scoped out that he admits, he never thought he would have to use. However, Barry did use that line. It was a small mound of dirt, which helped him to jump the ditch, passing Kearney just feet before the finish. Kearney would collapse from exhaustion at the finish and never even make it to the podium. Shane Watts would end up third, but also exhausted he visited the podium briefly, said his thanks, and made his way back to his truck. 

To this day, that event still stands out as one of the wildest finishes in the history of GNCC Racing. What seems even wilder in retrospect is that Glenn Kearney was never able to claim a GNCC overall win. GK claimed a number of podium finishes and stands out as one of the best all-around racers the series has ever seen, and also stands out as one of the greatest racers to never claim a GNCC overall win.


The Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Ticket to Ride winners are having a blast in Moab, Utah!
The Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Ticket to Ride winners are having a blast in Moab, Utah! Photo: Courtesy Rocky Mountain ATV/MC

Ticket to Ride (Chelsea Taylor)

On Monday a few of our GNCC racers took off to Utah for the Rocky Mountain ATV/MC Ticket to Ride. One of our track crew workers, Mike LaFollette (otherwise known as Lollipop), tagged along to witness the fun firsthand. Mike has been sending us nightly updates and we want to take just a quick second to let you all in on his experience.

To begin with, Rocky Mountain ATV/MC picks two people each night of the season ending GNCC banquet. The ATV racers get to experience the trip on side-by-sides, while the bike guys get to go on motorcycles. This year Walter Schumacher, Samuel Stamper and Dustin Stanley were the lucky recipients, and each got to bring a guest.

After flying out to Salt Lake City on Monday, the guys headed to the RM ATV/MC Warehouse in Payson, Utah. Mike said it was unbelievable to see all the hard work that the RM ATV/MC staff puts in. They are currently in the expansion process and pushing the walls back just have more room for their inventory. Mike said he was surprised with just how friendly the whole staff was, and that’s just one thing that makes RM ATV/MC the best in the business!

Early Tuesday morning they took to the deserts of Utah at the White Wash riding area. Mike said the riding was just unbelievable from the moment they left the parking lot. In the words of Mike, “They gave us a first class ride to remember and it was only the first day.”

After a long day of riding they were back at it on Wednesday where they rode more technical trails at Chimney Rock. Trucking over winding river beds to riding single track on peaks Mike said that he couldn’t believe it, but the day was even better than the first! Toward the end of the day they parked the bikes and hiked to the Arches for an amazing end to the trip.

With two full days of riding, part of our GNCC Racing Nation got a dose of what it’s like out West all thanks to RM ATV/MC. Safe travels to the whole crew as they head back home today. We can’t wait to hear more about it at the next race! 

Can Walker Fowler continue the trend of multiple GNCC ATV championships in a row, or can Chris Borich return to his winning ways? The 2016 GNCC season could be one for the record books!
Can Walker Fowler continue the trend of multiple GNCC ATV championships in a row, or can Chris Borich return to his winning ways? The 2016 GNCC season could be one for the record books! Photo: Ken Hill

Writing History (Rodney Tomblin)

The Grand National Cross Country Championship history is as storied as any championship in any form of racing in the world. It may not have as much notoriety to the outside world but in it’s 42 seasons it has produced some of the greatest stories to ever be told. The history of ATV racing in GNCC is one a little different than the bikes but even though it took a little longer to get the form of racing to the forefront, it was still building its legends during that time.

Legends like Teddy Trey, Tom Tokay and of course Bob “The Ironman” Sloan. Sloan actually set a trend in GNCC ATV racing winning multiple championships. However, Barry Hawk may have been the one to set the standard in ATV championships as he won seven total before he moved into the bike side of things. One does have to wonder, how many more he may have won had he not made the switch? Barry is also one of the top riders on the most wins list and even held the top spot at 68 for a while before both his wins record and titles records were ever beaten.

Bill Ballance made his mark in GNCC history when he won nine total titles before retiring only a handful of years ago. Bill also had 67 total GNCC wins on the ATV which made him the all-time wins leader in ATV racing until Chris Borich was able to beat not only the most wins record of Ballance but also of Barry Hawk’s combined bike and ATV wins record. On his way to winning now 73 GNCC ATV race overalls, Chris Borich has captured six titles. Will there be a number seven? That is a question yet to be answered, but if he does, he will be the first ATV champion to lose a title after a string of championships, then come back to claim another title.

The biggest competition that Chris Borich is facing to win title number seven is the current GNCC ATV champ, Walker Fowler. Fowler has shown great promise and speeds on his rise to stardom and fame but he has yet to win multiple championships. He has also performed well under the major pressures of the early season maintaining the calm and collecting wins like it is what he was born to do.

If you curious as to if the question looms in the back of Walker’s mind, I can tell you that it does. He has actually mentioned it on a couple of different occasions saying that he hopes he’s not the one to break the streak of multiple championships. He says he is confident in his abilities and feels at the top of his game but knows it won’t take much to put you in a position you don’t want to be. But as everyone knows, one generally creates their own luck and if he stays prepared as he has, luck should not be a factor but raw talent and overwhelming desire will be.

What would it mean to history “if” Walker doesn’t win his title back after this season and Chris Borich is able to reclaim his? Would it somehow mess up the history of GNCC ATV racing? The answer is obviously no but it would make for an interesting scenario certainly. The biggest thing that I get from all things right now though are that the “New Era” I have been speaking of for the last couple of years is finally making its impact and the history of strings of multiple championships may become more and more a thing of the past. And who knows only two rounds in either? We have focused a lot on the Fowler vs Borich end of things but we still cannot count out Adam McGill, Jarrod McClure and of course Brycen Neal who may be the game changer for it all.

GNCC history is ever changing and ever challenging. The stars created have been many, but to reach the status of legends there have been few. Each year brings a new challenge and opportunity for the pages of our sport and each year brings the element of unknown which is what drives us race to race each season until finally we can look back and say this is how it happened. There are 11 more rounds before chapter 42 comes to a close and what happens between now and then, no one knows, but I can guess we may all be surprised when it does.

Records are made to be broken, so one may say that streaks are too. If Walker wins another championship followed by another and another, the story will still have excitement. Something tells me though that things are changing and though he may begin a streak of titles it will never come easy and each one will meet more and new challenges and the history of GNCC writes on.

Here's another throwback to the 2007 Steele Creek GNCC with runner-up, Glenn Kearney!
Here's another throwback to the 2007 Steele Creek GNCC with runner-up, Glenn Kearney! Photo: GNCC Archives

Looking Back at Steele Creek Part 2 (Jared Bolton)

Earlier I discussed the epic battle down to the wire for the 2007 Steele Creek GNCC overall win. Since then, Steele Creek has continued to provide multiple infamous moments in the history of GNCC Racing. In 2010, one hill became so slick that nobody could make it up, well, except for Paul Whibley! Unfortunately for Whibs, the race was called off in the middle of that lap and the results were reverted to the previous lap.

However, it would be the next year that would provide us with a moment that bared so many striking similarities to the Hawk vs Kearney battle of 2007. This time it would be Josh Strang and Charlie Mullins fighting it out through the final portions of the race. In fact, those were going so incredibly fast on that final lap that there’s a moment in the race highlight video that will make just about anyone drop their jaw.

Just like 2007, the battle would come down to the final grass track section before the finish line. Mullins would control the lead through the majority of the grass track, but Strang would constantly be edging his way in, showing Mullins his front wheel everywhere he could. Mullins would stay strong, controlling the lead even against Strang’s challenge. In the next to last turn, Strang’s back end would step out and it looked as if the battle to the final turn was over.

Then the unthinkable happened. In the final corner, Mullins’ front end would wash out, leaving Mullins on the ground with Strang just simply riding around him to take the win. You could literally feel the disappointment coming off Mullins. To come so close and have the win slip away just feet from the finish had to make that year’s Steele Creek race be one of the toughest losses Mullins has even been handed. The similarities to the 2007 finish were so incredibly similar that everyone almost immediately began comparing the two.

With this sort of history at Steele Creek, one has to wonder, what will 2016 bring? This year sees a pretty unique story coming into the race as well. Josh Strang was on fire in the opening rounds, winning in both Florida and Georgia. As the series now heads back into familiar terrain, one must wonder exactly how confident and strong Strang is coming into Steele Creek. However, at this point there has to be a monster brewing inside of Kailub Russell. KR is not afraid to admit that he hates losing more than he enjoys winning. With two losses in two rounds thus far in 2016, one has to wonder what level of motivation this will bring to the number one machine when Steele Creek rolls around.

Steele Creek has seen it’s fair share of incredible races, but with these two riders beginning to put together what is shaping up to be one of the greatest rivalries the series has ever seen, the 2016 edition of Steele Creek could be one for the record books. Of course, it doesn’t end there. Making his return to the series at Steele Creek will be none other than Charlie Mullins. We all know that Charlie is one of the most well-rounded riders this series has ever seen, and given the long wrist injuries he’s endured over the past few years, Mullins will ultimately not be standing out in people’s minds as a contender. This kind of doubt will serve as motivation for Mullins as well, and a motivated racer is a strong racer. 

What will happen at Steele Creek? Only time will tell, but we do know this… Steele Creek 2016 is heating up to not only be one of the best Steele Creek events in history, but will also be a precursor to what we can expect through the rest of the 2016 season. Hang on everyone, this is about to get interesting!

Cody Gerhard has spent the past few seasons attending college in Utah, but has found a way to manage school and racing. Read on to find out more!
Cody Gerhard has spent the past few seasons attending college in Utah, but has found a way to manage school and racing. Read on to find out more! Photo: Courtesy Cody's Facebook

Don’t Let Your Dreams Be Dreams (Chelsea Taylor)

GNCC Racing family. Chance are you’ve heard that once or twice around the track. Racing offers so much more than awards at the end of the race, it allows for people to connect who may have never met any other way. Every weekend people travel from all over the United States to come together to pursue their hobby of racing. It doesn’t take long for friends to connect and memories to be made, but what if you had to leave your chosen family? If you’ve ever had to stop racing you know that leaving your friends is one of the hardest parts.

Well Cody Gerhard did just that. In 2012 Cody Gerhard could be seen on his Yamaha buzzing along in the 4-Stroke B Lites class where he would eventually finish the season ranked sixth. But in 2013, Cody put racing on the backburner as he began to seriously focus on school. After making school and racing work throughout his associate degree, Cody made a big decision to seek higher education and earn his bachelor’s degree. After much thought and consideration Cody packed up his bags and was once again on the road, but this time it wasn’t to a race. He was on his way to the University of Utah to pursue a degree in Exercise Sports Science.

Of course like any racer it didn’t take Cody long to realize that his life just wasn’t right without racing. After a few short months in Utah he flew back to his home in Pennsylvania, bought a truck and headed out west with his dirt bike in tow. He didn’t have anywhere to store his bike so he just put it in his bedroom until he decided it was time to go racing again.

The night before his first race out West, Cody had a surprise when his dad showed up. Not only did he have his dad by his side for the big day, but he also got a call from the GNCC Pastor, Chuck Lemaster, who spent time to wish him luck and pray for his safety. Cody now races regularly, but he said the main thing he notices before the race starts is there isn’t Teeneage Wasteland (Baba O-Riley) playing!

If there’s anything you can gather from this article it’s that sometimes your dreams may change, and it’s okay if they do. Cody never gave up on racing, he just found a different way to fit it into his life. Cody is set to graduate this May, and has spent the past semester working on a sport specific study covering the different styles of training for off-road racing with racers such as Walker Fowler, Becca Sheets and Jordan Ashburn. After he graduates he plans on catering his degree to GNCC Racing by training other racers to exceed their fitness expectations.

It’s a beautiful thing when a hobby and work can come together, and I don’t think it will be long until we see Cody back on the East Coast training some of the top XC1 Pro guys. Oh, and if you happen to need to get an AMA card renewal while you’re at the track make sure to tell Cody’s parents, Donna and Bill, hello! The travel to every GNCC event to sell AMA cards onsite. 


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What's New on

Check out the GNCC LIVE races, and highlights shows online at After each race you can find the archived LIVE show as well as highlight shows from the Pro ATV and Pro Bike race. Check them out from the Moose Racing Wild Boar and Maxxis Cannonball GNCC's to get yourself prepared for the FMF Steele Creek GNCC coming up next weekend!

News from GNCC, Riders and Sponsors

Red Bull Australia: Five minutes with GNCC’s Jared Bolton
Since 1975 the AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series has been America's premier off-road racing series. GNCC employee Jared Bolton is a jack-of-all trades for the Coombs family’s legendary organization and has had a hand in many facets of the company’s daily efforts. At any given time, he could be writing a story for the GNCC Web site, designing some graphics or be completely bathed in brown slop while pulling a submerged quad out of a deep mud bog. After hearing the first two rounds of the 2016 GNCC season were pretty gruelling, we called the local donut shop in Morgantown, West Virginia, and caught “Bolt On” off-guard for this quick sugar-fueled five-minute catchup. Read the full story here.