GNCC Racing

Quick Fill #39: This Week in GNCC

Quick Fill #39: This Week in GNCC

Friday, December 20, 2019 | 11:30 AM
Friday, December 20, 2019 | 11:30 AM

Welcome to Quick Fill. 

Another week of the off-season has ticked by and however you want to look at it right now, we’re either one week closer to Christmas, one week closer to New Year’s or one week closer to the beginning of the 2020 GNCC Racing season. No matter which of those you prefer to look at, they’re all very exciting and some are coming up quicker than others. This time next week Christmas will have come and gone and in two weeks time we’ll already be three days into 2020. 

This time of year is also exciting as it’s when the silly season rumors start to become silly season facts as many riders are beginning to make their official announcements of changes for the new season. This week was a huge week for that as we saw three pretty big announcements. We’ll break those down in this week’s edition of Quick Fill, and to show love to our four-wheeled crowd we’ll discuss some happenings on that side as well. Let’s get it going. 

The Baylor Brothers will be riding for Sherco in 2020!
The Baylor Brothers will be riding for Sherco in 2020! Darrin Chapman

The first announcement of the week either came as a total shock to some, or you had heard the buzz already and were just waiting for them to make it official. Well, either way the official word is that both Steward and Grant Baylor will be making the switch to the new FactoryONE Sherco team for 2020. While there have been quite a few Shercos around the GNCCs and a few guys give the XC2 and XC3 classes a whirl on a Sherco, this will be the first full-time GNCC effort for Sherco. 

This is definitely pretty cool to see but has left some people scratching their heads. Sherco is a bit unproven at that level of GNCC Racing, but the brand has been extremely successful in the Hard Enduro world, and there have been a number of amateur riders claim GNCC class championships on a Sherco as well. The transition into the XC1 ranks has to happen at some point, and if the Baylor Brothers weren’t confident they could make these machines work, then they likely would’ve put together a different deal. I’ve ridden several Shercos and actually owned a 300F and 450F for a period of time. While I’m nowhere on the level of a guy like Stu or Grant, I can say they are very capable motorcycles and just like any bike, with a little work to it’s stock form, they can definitely be competitive. 

Darrin Chapman

Another big announcement came from the folks at Coastal Racing who has inked a deal with Ricky Russell for 2020. Ricky came into the GNCC world in 2013 making a privateer Yamaha effort in the XC1 class that season. It led him to some support in the XC2 class for 2014 and 2015 where he claimed some XC2 wins but a couple of injuries ultimately took him out of championship contention. Ricky moved into the XC1 class in 2016 and eventually won Snowshoe in 2017 and has landed a number of podium finishes since then. 2019 was a pretty solid season for Ricky even after missing the first four rounds with injury. He landed a pair of second place finishes in 2019 and even challenge Kailub Russell down to the last turn at the Black Sky GNCC for the win. 

After a long career with Yamaha, minus the 2016 season aboard a Suzuki, Ricky will be on a Husqvarna backed by Coastal Racing. Sometimes a change of pace can be really good for a rider and switching over to a new bike on a new team could give Ricky that extra little boost he’s been looking for. This is definitely another interesting deal and it will be exciting to see how it all unfolds for Ricky. 

With Ricky out from underneath the AmPro Yamaha rig, that might leave you wondering who is taking his spot. Well, the good news there is we already have the answer! Layne Michael will be heading into AmPro Yamaha’s XC1 spot and they’re also bringing back an XC2 class effort with Mike Witkowski. You could say the same thing about these guys as you could Ricky; a little change of pace on a new machine could be really beneficial for both of these riders. 

Witkowski has put in some really great XC2 rides on the Beta 250 2-strokes the past few years. This was really cool to see because when they started, the Beta wasn’t exactly a proven GNCC machine either. Prior to this effort, Chris Bach had ridden a Beta to a few XC1 podiums but parted company with them mid-season in 2012. Witkowski’s rides really solidified Beta as a reputable brand and while their time together has come to a close, both Beta and Witkowski have to be proud of what they accomplished. Switching to the YZ250FX could be huge for Witkowski as the Yamaha is regarded as one of the best 250Fs on the market. 

As for Layne, he’s kind of spent the past couple of seasons putting together his own effort in the XC1 class and while he hasn’t really had the performances he’s hoped for, he’s still had some really good rides. The AmPro Yamaha deal should take some pressure off of Layne and allow him to focus more on just racing, and we very well could see him put in even more really good rides. 

On the ATV side, things are a little quiet. Since the majority of ATV racers put together their own efforts its pretty common to see these guys keep the same deal year after year after year. Look at Chris Borich, Suzuki hasn’t produced that LTR450 since 2009 and he can still win races on it! When you’ve got something that works, you stick with it and keep rolling. So with no real silly season news out of the ATV crowd, let’s just talk about what the 2020 season could hold for these riders. 

Coming into 2020, everyone will pick Walker Fowler as their favorite. With five straight titles, Walker is continuing the trend that GNCC ATV champions have done since the 1990s. In the last 27 season of GNCC Racing, there have only been four riders to claim championships. Beginning in 1993, Barry Hawk claimed his seven straight titles through 1999. Bill Ballance would take his nine titles from 2000-2008, then it was Chris Borich with his six titles from 2009-2014. Walker claimed his first in 2015 and now has five. The biggest question is, can anyone upset Walker? 

Brycen Neal has now finished runner-up to Walker two times, and as one of the next youngest riders, he stands out as one of the guys to be the toughest contender to upset Walker’s win streak. However, Chris Borich has claimed race wins in the past two seasons and shows that just because Walker’s on top right now doesn’t mean that Borich couldn’t possibly change the course of history. If Borich were able to claim title number seven amidst Fowler’s title run, it would be the first time since Bob Sloan’s 1992 title that an ATV champion’s run has been interrupted. 

These guys just might put on a heck of a show in 2020!
These guys just might put on a heck of a show in 2020! Ken Hill

Of course, these aren’t the only riders who could potentially play spoiler. Cole Richardson now has two overall wins to his credit and with this experience, he could very well begin to put it all together each race and not just contend for race wins, but the championship as well. Hunter Hart also claimed a race win 2019, and while it came in some pretty extreme conditions, Hunter now has that confidence and with a little more experience in the XC1 ranks, he could be one of the toughest contenders for the title. 

There are also all the perennial favorites such as Jarrod McClure and Adam McGill. Both of these guys probably aren’t super satisfied with their 2019 seasons. While they both rode really well, they’re both past race winners and want to keep these young guns at bay. With this type of motivation, these guys could return to the front of the field in 2020 and also be serious title contenders. It’s pretty cool to see this much talent contending for ATV race wins. Fowler has put together a killer run thus far, but these guys will ultimately be looking to end his run. Only time will tell what the 2020 season will bring, but it could be a really exciting season. 

That’s going to do it for this week’s edition of Quick Fill. We hope you have a great Christmas and Santa brings you tons of new bikes, new gear, new parts and more. Enjoy your week and Christmas and we’ll see you in the next edition of Quick Fill!