by: Jared Bolton
Friday, March 17, 2023 | 2:00 PM
Welcome to Quick Fill.
Wow. Three rounds in the books. First off, apologies for missing last week’s edition of Quick Fill. That fast turnaround from Florida to Georgia is a grind for everyone, and with the logging that took place on the property since we were there last, we were out until dark most days trying to get the course set up and ready to go. So, things got a little hectic and Quick Fill had to take a bye week. But, we’re back this week and we’ll shoot to be back next week as well, but next week is a little hectic too. More on that later.
Before we jump into the Quick Fill goodies, we were saddened this week to learn of the passing of Robert Parker. Robert was a fantastic 4x4 racer from North Carolina who finished second in the 4x4 A class back in 2019 and frequently snagged some 4x4 Pro class holeshots after making the move there in 2020. But, Robert was also a truly great guy. He stands out to me as always being very friendly, respectful and someone you always liked to see come around and say hi. He leaves behind a wife, two daughters and one son, plus many, many friends. So keep his family and friends in your prayers.
Now let’s talk racing. Three rounds are done and nine remain. If the rest of these tick by as fast as the first three then we’ll be staring straight at the season finale Ironman before we know what happened. Regardless, there’s still a lot of racing to be done between now and then and a lot can happen in those nine rounds as there’s already a lot that has happened just in those first three rounds.
We’re in a bit of a unique scenario this year. On the ATV front, Walker Fowler is still sidelined due to a pre-season injury he suffered and defending champion Brycen Neal has ran away with the win at all three of the opening rounds. It sounds like Walker will be back at some point, but nobody has given a solid answer exactly when, and even so it’s never easy to come right back exactly where you were before. So, the question on the ATV side is; “how many of these things is Brycen Neal going to win?”.
The other question would be “who will be the first to beat him?” as there are a number of challengers capable of winning races, as they’ve done it in the past. All three rounds have seen the same three riders on the podium as Brycen has swept those three with Cole Richardson and Hunter Hart swapping the second and third place spots. The guy who is looking to step up next challenge these three is actually one of the “old guys” now in the form of Adam McGill. Adam has been through some struggles the last couple of seasons, but with a fourth and fifth place in the second and third rounds, he’s really trying to rebound and run back up at the front of the pack.
You also have to give a lot of credit to Jay Shadron. Jay was a long-time fixture in GNCC from his youth days on up, then took a few years off. He came back a couple of years ago and worked his way back up through the A and XC2 classes and into XC1. He’s been inside the top ten all season and it’s only a matter of time until he’s battling for podiums, and possibly even a race win. Chris Borich is still at it as well. The six-time GNCC champ may not be running away with wins like he used to, but he’s still putting in some really solid rides and with Johnny Gallagher officially ‘retired’ from professional competition, Chris is officially the “old guy” of the XC1 pack and still keeping it inside the top ten.
Moving over to the bike side, the story is actually a bit different. In three rounds there have been three different winners, including a first timer! Steward Baylor snagged the opening round win at Big Buck, then struggled in the early portions of the Florida round. However, Stu would work his way through the pack to finish Florida in the second place position behind Ben Kelley. Ben’s performance would be pretty impressive as well as word on the street is that Ben’s leg injury from last season is still nagging him a bit, and just frankly hurts. Regardless, he didn’t show it in Florida as he rode to the win the roughest and most brutal (dry) conditions the serious sees all season long. Then, when we picked things back up in Georgia it would be Craig Delong taking his first-ever overall win.
Craig actually led the early stages of the race in Florida before ultimately ending the day in third place, then backed that up leading wire to wire in the nasty Georgia mud to claim that win. This could be a bit dangerous for everyone else as now that Craig has put one race all together, he very well could do it again, and again, and again. On top of that, Craig has been one of the most consistent riders this series has ever seen. From being a consistent top five threat in XC2, to a consistent podium threat, then a consistent race win threat on the way to the XC2 title, Craig’s rookie XC1 season in 2022 was also very consistent. He only finished outside the top five three times in 2022, and two of those were sixth place finishes!
Of course, it doesn’t end with these three guys. Jordan Ashburn claimed last season’s GNCC title by also being incredibly consistent (and staying injury free helped!) and this year he’s still putting in some good rides. Grant Baylor and Ricky Russell made team changes in the off-season and their first few rides on the new machines have gone pretty well with Russell claiming a third place at round one and Grant snagging a pair of sixth place finishes so far. There’s also the savvy veteran in the form of Josh Strang who can still run in the mix with these top championship contenders. Josh started the season with a couple of issues but rebounded to snag his first podium of 2023 with a second place in Georgia. I imagine you’ll see him snag a race win at some point this season, he’s still really fast.
Next week is still another weekend off from GNCC, and it will actually be the motorcycle portion of the Rocky Mountain Ticket to Ride giveaway that happens each year at the GNCC banquet. This year I’m lucky enough to tag along for a bit of riding out in Moab, Utah and I’m pretty darn excited! I’ve been out west for several rounds of Pro Motocross and have ridden motorcycles around the water truck roads of those motocross tracks, but believe it or not this will actually be my first time truly riding out there. Everyone I know who’s ever done it have raved big time about how much fun it is, so I can’t wait to “just ride” a little bit.
That’s actually going to do it for this week’s edition of Quick Fill. We’ll get a pre-Moab edition coming next week, and the following week should be full of some of those happenings from out in Moab plus the latest on what to expect out on the racetrack for the Tiger Run. Until next time, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here next week!