GNCC Racing

Quick Fill #9: This Week in GNCC

Quick Fill #9: This Week in GNCC

Thursday, March 14, 2024 | 4:30 PM
Thursday, March 14, 2024 | 4:30 PM

Welcome to Quick Fill. 

What a weekend. If you made it through The General, then hats off to you. That was a pretty tough and nasty weekend of racing for just about everyone. While conditions continued to improve throughout the weekend, portions of the course continued to stay pretty nasty all the way through the end. Coming just after Florida’s Wild Boar course had a few muddy areas as well, a lot of folks are probably a bit tired of the mud for a while and will be crossing their fingers for dry conditions next weekend at Camp Coker. 

Aonia Pass MX, which plays host to The General, has had its fair share of mud races over the years. GNCC made its maiden voyage to Aonia in 2003 and The General has been a big part of the series, mostly ever since. Perry Gunter was the original owner of Aonia and helped to make sure the GNCC event was a mainstay of the venue for many years. Mr. Perry, as he was known to pretty much everyone who knew him, passed away back in 2015 and his family decided to try their hand at farming the property. This, along with the highway construction that split off the Tractor Pull area of the property, led the series down to Sparta, Georgia for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. 

Eventually the road construction would come along pretty well, and the Gunter family figured out there was room for both a GNCC and some farming opportunities and we returned to the property in 2018. Things have continued to evolve at Aonia Pass and while the logging that was done to the property at the end of 2022 has significantly changed the facility, this will continue to grow back over the coming years. Here’s to hoping that maybe we can also find some better weather at The General than what we’ve seen the last two years.

One guy that probably didn’t have too many complaints was Josh Toth. If by chance you’ve missed the info, Toth made history at The General by breaking through to become the first ever XC2 racer to win a GNCC overall on a motorcycle. This happened before on the ATV side as Brian Wolf and Walker Fowler both claimed overall wins out of XC2, as well as guys like Chad Duvall, Brandon Ballance and William Yokley who claimed overall wins back in the old Pro Production class days. 

However, since the inception of the XC2 class in 2007, it has never happened on a motorcycle. There have been a few riders come very close including Toth back in 2017 at Snowshoe who won XC2 and finished just under eight seconds off of the lead. Grant Baylor did the same thing at The General in 2014, coming up just around four seconds off the overall win, while Jesse Robinson was about 20 seconds off from winning Snowshoe in 2010. The first time someone came up just a little short was back in 2008 when Thad Duvall was only around three seconds out of the overall lead at the end of the second annual Snowshoe GNCC. There have been other instances and a number of times XC2 has found their way onto the overall podium, but these are a few of those standout rides that came up just a bit short. 

Now that it’s been done, its been proven that it’s possible. It may have taken 17 years of XC2 competition, but now there are questions of who will be the next to do it, and when? Maybe it will be another 17 years before it happens again, or maybe it can happen again next week. That’s one of the cool things about GNCC Racing; just when you think you’ve seen it all, something else happens and you’re left wondering if and when it will happen again. 

Of course, let’s not take anything away from Johnny Girroir here. This guy has been on fire thus far through 2024, claiming two overall wins in the first two rounds and then the XC1 win at The General. It’s obvious he’s put in the work over the off-season and has come into the 2024 season as an all-new guy, and it’s pretty cool to see. In a day and age where some racers are groomed to be GNCC professionals from an early age, Johnny’s rise to GNCC stardom definitely hasn’t been the same rise as others. 

Hailing from Southwick, Massachusetts it almost seems like Johnny G would be thrown more towards a motocross career with The Wick 338, home of the Southwick National, taking place in his hometown. Johnny really made a name for himself in the JDay Offroad Series in New England and made a big splash in the GNCC world when he showed up for Unadilla back in 2013, signed up for XC1 and promptly ran in podium contention for the early stages of the race eventually ending the day with a solid sixth place finish in XC1. 

Johnny would continue dabbling in a few GNCC events while focusing on claiming J Day titles through 2018 when he started making some full-time GNCC efforts. He started landing some XC2 podiums in 2019, but an injury would sideline him after three rounds. Coming back in 2020, he won five XC2 races and ended the year in third place after a close title battle. He’d rebound from that with the XC2 title in 2021 but suffer an injury at the opening round in 2022 that would eliminate his hopes for a second XC2 title. 

2023 would mark Johnny’s first full XC1 season, which included a win at the Hoosier and now he’s on track to be the biggest title contender in 2024. Of course, he can’t sit back and cruise to a championship just yet. Steward Baylor has still been incredibly fast through these opening rounds and with a few minor setbacks, there’s no doubt that Stu will be incredibly motivated and hungry for race wins in the coming rounds. 2022 champ, Jordan Ashburn has also been really good through these opening rounds and he’s going to be ready to find the center step of the podium as well. 

The ATV side has been dominated by Brycen Neal through the first three rounds and the two-time champ is now three for three and has his eyes set on win number four next weekend. Brycen could really be considered a veteran of the XC1 class at this point as he’s been chipping away in the XC1 ATV ranks for a decade now, after claiming the XC2 title back in 2013. Brycen seems to just get better with age as his first XC1 season was pretty good with him landing several top fives and a podium. 

The next few years would see a bit of the same as those top fives become more consistent and the podium finishes grew to be even more consistent by 2017. Brycen would snag his first overall win at The General in 2018, then another at The Penton in 2019. By late 2020, Brycen had become a pretty consistent threat to Walker Fowler for frequent race wins, even challenging for the points lead in early 2021. Brycen would then suffer through and injury leaving him sidelined for the latter part of 2021, but this would end up serving as the kind of motivation he needed as he would come back better than ever in 2022, snagging an impressive eight overall wins and wrestling the ATV National Championship away from Walker Fowler. 

With Fowler out with an injury coming into the 2023 season, Brycen would dominate once again winning seven rounds on his way to his second straight title. He’s picked up 2024 exactly where he ended 2023, but with Walker Fowler back in the mix a third title might not come as easy as he’s hoped. Even with three race wins, Fowler has still remained in the mix and is motivated to take back the ATV National Championship. Walker has two second place finishes in the last two rounds and will ultimately be ready for a win at some point soon. 

Josh Merritt has a similar story as well. Josh worked his way all the way through the youth ranks and into XC1 competition beginning back in 2014, becoming a mainstay in the XC1 class ever since. Josh finally snagged his first XC1 podium in 2023 at The John Penton, finishing a career best fifth overall in the final points. Josh kicked off the 2024 season with a solid second place finish at Big Buck, followed by a fourth and seventh in rounds two and three, which has left him sitting third place overall at the moment. Josh has undoubtedly found some new speed and will be motivated to continue with these kinds of results while he works to find himself on the podium more often. 

There’s no doubt that there’s a slew of top XC1 and XC2 talent in both the bike and ATV ranks who have serious shots at the podium. This means we could see some of the best racing the series has ever seen, and with results sort of all over the place through these first few rounds, it really seems like the rest of the season is going to be a great one. That’s all we’ve got for this week’s edition of Quick Fill but be sure to check back for all the latest on what to expect out of Camp Coker in next week’s entry. 

Until then, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here next week!