GNCC Racing

Quick Fill #27: This Week in GNCC

Quick Fill #27: This Week in GNCC

Friday, October 13, 2023 | 4:30 PM
Friday, October 13, 2023 | 4:30 PM

Welcome to Quick Fill. 

The 2023 season begins to wind down as now just one single round remains before we close yet another chapter in the history of GNCC Racing. There’s no doubt that this season will be one that won’t be forgotten in quite some time. With some tight championship battles and arguably one of the oddest weather seasons in quite some time, it definitely seems like we’ll be comparing future seasons to 2023 for years to come. 

However, we still have one more chance to make the 2023 season even more memorable. The grand finale at Ironman is coming up next weekend and it’s already shaping up to be exactly that; a grand finale. While the majority of the ATV titles are already decided, the bike side has a lot of racing left to do, and things will ultimately be pretty intense after last weekend’s Buckwheat 100 GNCC. If by chance you haven’t already hear, the gist of things there is that Craig Delong came into Buckwheat in the second place position and left with the championship points lead. 

Delong put his head down and rode one of his best races of the season, leading the race wire to wire to take the overall win. Meanwhile, Steward Baylor came into round 11 with the points lead and would be buried in the pack on the opening laps. Coming from back around ninth place, Steward would work his way up to fifth place before suffering a broke shock bolt and lose a lot of time heading back to the pits, getting it replaced, then headed back to where he left the course. 

When that was all said and done, Baylor had dropped out of the top 20 overall with just a couple of laps remaining. Stu put on a charge to come back to end the day 19th place overall and still manage to score two points, but this would prove to be disastrous as Delong now holds a 23-point lead heading into Ironman. The GNCC National Championship is determined by the overall, so a racer must finish inside the top 20 to score points towards that title, so even though Stu was able to salvage a top ten in the XC1 class, the overall is what counts towards the title. 

While Delong holds a pretty comfortable lead, it’s not over until its over. Let’s say Baylor went to Ironman and came out with the race win. If Delong were to suffer some sort of issue and find himself in the 15th position, or worse overall, then Baylor would come away with the title. So, while Delong has consistently been one of the most consistent guys in the series throughout his entire career, all it takes is one freak issue to change the championship hunt in a hurry, and Stu’s race at the Buckwheat is a prime example of that. 

Speaking of Buckwheat, while Delong led that sucker wire to wire, there are a number of other guys who didn’t make it easy on him. Ricky Russell and Ryder Lafferty both challenged Delong throughout the entire race. Yes, Lafferty made the move up to the XC1 class at Buckwheat and made a real statement through the entire race. When the white flag flew, Lafferty was holding strong in the second-place spot just a few seconds behind Delong. However, he would suffer a pretty hard crash on the final lap and limp home to a seventh-place finish. But, he knows he can run with those guys so who knows what Lafferty will be capable of at Ironman, and what the 2024 season could bring! 

With Lafferty out of contention, Ricky Russell would move back into the second-place spot but it wasn’t as easy as just crusing in for a solid second place. He would find himself challenged late race by Josh Strang. While Josh is now the veteran of the XC1 class, and the guy who has been out there the longest, he stepped up to show that he can still run at the front of the pack and it will be pretty interesting to see what he does at Ironman. Strang had a few struggles throughout the 2023 season but there’s no doubt that he can still be a top contender and it would be no surprise to see him come back as strong as ever in 2024. 

What about the XC2 class? Wow those guys put on a race! Liam Draper was able to take the XC2 class win but Angus Riordan really made him work for it, and then Mason Semmens was able to pull up within a couple seconds of those guys by the end of the race as well. When it was all said and done, the top three were only around three seconds apart! Much like the XC1 guys, the XC2 class still has a battle down to the wire at Ironman. Draper holds a good lead, but Riordan still has a mathematical shot at the title and one little bit of misfortune from Draper could drastically change that championship hunt as well.

On top of all of this, the Ironman also promises to deliver more excitement off the track as it’s been officially announced that hit country band Parmalee will be headlining Saturday night’s concert. This is pretty cool as these guys have some pretty popular songs in country rotation, and it sounds like there’s quite a few people excited for this one, so expect a good crowd to catch some good music! 

And of course, don’t forget that Ironman will be utilizing the altered weekend schedule. We’ll kick the weekend off with eMTB racing at 4pm on Friday, then the Youth ATV race will take place at 8am on Saturday morning. Then, on the separate racecourse across the street, the Micro Bikes will race first at 8:30am, followed by Micro ATVs at 9:15am. The Morning ATV race will take place at 10am, and the Afternoon ATV race will kick off at 1pm. And since that’s not enough racing for one day, the Youth Bike race will run at 4pm on Saturday afternoon in order to split the Morning Bike Race on Sunday. 

This means that the first Morning Bike Race on Sunday will take place at 8am, followed by the second Morning Bike Race at 10am and the Afternoon Bike Race at 1pm. Expect the class breakdown to be similar to what we did at Big Buck to kick off the 2023 season, and stay tuned to the event page HERE for the final class breakdown.

That’s actually going to do it for me this week. We’re going to use up a little downtime this weekend before heading out to Ironman early on Sunday in order to have a couple hours to just soak in some good times before hitting the trails and getting to work on Monday. Before we go, we’ve got something special… Ken Hill is back with a Quick Fill contribution! It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Ken, but he told me last weekend that he’s feeling a bit better than he has in a while and wants to get back into the swing of Quick Fill contributions. Excellent! 

Enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here next week for one more edition of Quick Fill before the season finale Ironman! 

The 4x4 Pro guys have quite the championship battle going on!
The 4x4 Pro guys have quite the championship battle going on! Ken Hill

Catching Up With Ken Hill

Holy cow, I’m back! Now I really didn’t go anywhere, however I’ve been missing in action when it comes to Quick Fill and with a good reason, I’m afraid. Let’s rewind to April, just a day after getting home from Tiger Run. I ventured out to check on things and took a limb to my right eye. I knew it hurt and figured it would heal up in a few days but that wasn’t the way things worked out. The injury just kept persisting and started to get worse. By early May, I was not able to see detail, just a growing blur so we began working with the insurance and started searching for a doctor to preform a lens replacement and remove a cataract. 

I didn’t understand fully how I had a cataract seeing I had an eye exam in January, yet here I was. The insurance was a joke and I ended up paying out of pocket the full amount simply because the specialist stated I had done insane damage and was at great risk of losing my sight, so off we went. The surgery worked well on the cataract; however the vision wasn’t all that great so I will be back soon to get final word and the next steps. So, there you have it, another obstacle set before me that I am slowly overcoming. I must say that driving had been sketchy especially at night, so I apologize to anyone I ran off the road! 

Also, seeing it’s been seven months since I’ve given the racing nation an update, I will catch everyone up on my liver disease while I am at it. Basically, no change good or bad, and the doctors are fine with that. Seeing I have a friend undergoing the same disease and he is going down hard; I am so thankful the diet and hard work seem to be the difference. I go every six months and if all is well, they kick me down the road until the next battery of tests. The continued support from all of you has remained incredibly positive including from our staff who know I am nowhere near 100%. 

Now on to the racing and boy howdy has it been a season to remember! I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a competitive or intense battle in 4x4 Pro. That type of fierce battle causes emotions that have more than once spilled off the track. Competition is a good thing, allowing your emotions to dictate your actions not so much! And it hasn’t been regulated to 4x4 Pro or any particular class as Sunday morning can get touchy in the youth bike races! I know many of you figure it doesn’t mean much but you are wrong! Sponsors can’t afford bad publicity and that fact gets ramped up as the economy gets rough. Don’t let things get off the rails and be mindful that video is always rolling! 

The afternoon races have been pretty good with Brycen Neal clinching another XC1 championship and of course with Fowler out, the conversation tends to gravitate to “what if” which is normal but don’t take a thing away from Brycen because he earned his wins and now two number one plates! The chatter right after Fowlers win at the Buckwheat 100 was “He’s back” and he was as he took the win, yet a mechanical issue kept a bar to bar battle off the table. Racing and especially championships don’t come easy and even if Fowler takes Ironman, 2024 is going to be an all-out war between these two! 

That’s it from me this week as there is a ton to discuss before the final round of the season. We have crowned champions in most of the premier classes so all eyes will be on the WXC on Saturday in a points fight that’s razor thin. And 4x4 Pro is still on the line and has probably been the most highly anticipated race of the weekend, so Ironman should be on fire!