GNCC Racing

Quick Fill #13: This Week in GNCC

Quick Fill #13: This Week in GNCC

Friday, April 19, 2024 | 10:50 AM
Friday, April 19, 2024 | 10:50 AM

Welcome to Quick Fill. 

Well, the first-ever Old Gray GNCC is officially in the books and other than the few issues leading into the race weekend, the event itself really turned out to be a good one. The racecourse was a bit more on the old school side with tighter trail, some technical spots, and nearly all in the woods. We heard from a lot of people who really enjoyed this, and we do too. We wish this was possible on a more regular basis, but The Old Gray was a bit of a perfect storm for creating something like this. 

For starters, the venue had never hosted any sort of racing in the past. While there’s been some riding done on the property, this was always limited to some grass track and a few smaller woods sections. In order to make a full-blown racecourse, landowner Chris Landers worked to secure additional acreage for the track crew to utilize on some neighboring property. That neighbor, Deloy Thompson, actually really enjoyed the event and spent the weekend watching racers make their way around his property. So big thanks to Deloy for not only letting us come ride around the woods, but for helping shape up some additional roads into the property. 

Another reason The Old Gray had that old school, tighter feel is that the trees just generally grow that close together. Some places we visit, the trees get so large up top that they’re not able to grow close together so it’s not exactly easy to have a bunch of tighter trails. At some of the venues we’ve utilized for many years, it was once the standard to try to make new trails as frequently as possible. This led to many trails overlapping, and when this happens those who like to use “creative” lines ended up making these trails wider and wider. 

Over the last few years, we’ve focused more on establishing a primary trail system to utilize and focus more on dozing and reclaiming them better when the race is finished. The upside to this, and the copious amounts of course markings we’ve been using is that eventually this allows some of that old undergrowth to begin making its way back and several years down the road it can tighten some of these trails back up. So, next time you’re biking the track and looking at all the ways you can straighten out the racecourse (which you shouldn’t really be doing anyway!) think more about how staying on the main course can make things more fun in the future… Yeah, I know, easier said than done. 

With The Old Gray behind us, the southern swing of the series comes to a close as we head to Ironman Raceway next for the Hoosier GNCC. While Ironman Raceway plays host to this and the season-finale Ironman, the Hoosier really has its own unique feel. We stopped by after leaving Tennessee and Ironman Raceway’s leaves are already looking pretty green. With some warm weather this week, you could see one of the greenest GNCC events at Ironman. 

The exact Hoosier racecourse is yet to be determined, but as usual you can expect it to be a bit different than the traditional Ironman event. Farm season is kicking off, so the fields are typically already planted, and this requires several sections of the course to be routed differently. If you’ve been coming to Ironman for multiple years, you know there’s a local construction company who essentially rents some space out by the front cornfields by highway 47 for some of their materials. That “gravel pit” as we call it has grown over the years and there appears to be some more changes out on that front portion of the property. We’ll have more details on that next week as we begin work on the Hoosier layout. 

As we progress through the 2024 season and are now into events holding eMTB events, we do want to give a few reminders. First off, the eMTB events will all be held on Friday afternoons beginning at 4pm. Additionally, Mason-Dixon and The Mountaineer will be double header eMTB events with races on both Friday and Saturday. Remember, you are NOT allowed to ride your bicycle on the course during the eMTB races and there are absolutely no exceptions to this. Please show these racers the same kind of courtesy you would expect while you are racing. 

Additionally, bicycles are not permitted on the racecourse during the Micro OR Youth races as well. So please adhere to these rules as you are potentially impeding these racers, and you’re also subjecting yourself to a penalty before your race even begins. Finally, a little bit of housekeeping for everyone riding bicycles out on the course or the tow roads at any time, always give staff and racers motorized vehicles plenty of room. I’ve seen a few people this year stop right in the middle of the trail and just watch the final racer on track have to go around them. You wouldn’t want this to happen to you when you’re racing, so please just pull to the side of the trail. 

Speaking of progressing through the season, we’re beginning to approach the halfway point of the season, and this is when championship battles begin to take shape. On the ATV side, Brycen Neal has been the man to beat all season long as he is now five for five on race wins in 2024. With back-to-back championships under his belt, Brycen is on the hunt for title number three and thus far seems to be the favorite. However, it’s not uncommon to see someone go on an early season tear like this, then another racer steps up to tighten that battle right back up. Walker Fowler is poised to be the guy to do exactly that. While Walker missed the majority of the 2023 season with injury, he rebounded to snag a win before the season ended and currently sits second place in the 2024 standings with four consecutive second place finishes to his credit. 

Josh Merritt has also upped his game in 2024. After snagging his first-ever career podium in 2023, Josh kicked off the 2024 season with a bang by landing a second-place finish at the opening round. Josh followed this up with a fourth place in Florida, before a still very respectable seventh place in the Georgia mud. From there, Josh now has back-to-back podium finishes after two third place finishes in the past two rounds and holds down the third-place overall position in the point standings. It seems as if Josh is like a fine wine and just gets better with age. It’s only a matter of time now before he turns those podium challenges into an overall win. 

On the bike side, Johnny Girroir took two consecutive overall wins in the first two rounds, and then two consecutive second place overall finishes, followed by a third-place finish in Tennessee after reportedly being a little on the sick side coming into the race. Johnny still holds a 19-point lead over Steward Baylor, who snagged his first win of the 2024 season at The Old Gray. Stu has also been a consistent threat thus far and now that he’s got a win under his belt on the new Kawasaki, he could be pretty tough in the coming rounds. Stu is flat out good in all types of terrain, and with some motivation to tighten up the points gap, he could be a real force as the series continues. 

The Old Gray was a home race for Jordan Ashburn, who lives just up the road. Jordan put together a very solid ride to end the day in second place, right on Steward Baylor’s rear wheel. Jordan has a few overall wins and a championship to his credit and is also really good in various types of terrain, but the gnarlier the better for Jordan and if it’s muddy; watch out for this guy! Needless to say, there are a number of challengers looking to snag race wins through the rest of the 2024 season and it’s going to be exciting to watch it all unfold. 

That’s going to do it for this week’s edition of Quick Fill. Enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here next week for a little teaser of what to expect at the Hoosier.