GNCC Racers Celebrate at 2005 Banquet
Salminen Named Rider of the Year; over 1200 attend over two weekends
Morgantown, WV – A grand season of Suzuki Grand National Cross Country racing concluded in grand fashion – with the annual GNCC Banquet at Lakeview Resort and Spa in Morgantown, WV. Over 600 racers, friends, relatives and fans attended the banquet, matching the 600 who attended the GNCC ATV banquet the previous weekend.
The top ten riders in each GNCC class were honored with plaques and a chance to thank their sponsors on stage, and the top five received lucrative contingency prizes from GNCC sponsors.
There were also special awards voted on by the racers. Highlights included Juha Salminen collecting the Rider of the Year Award for collecting the 2005 Suzuki GNCC Title. Salminen also received a diamond-encrusted GNCC Championship Ring, a trophy, a number-one plate and a fist full of cash for his accomplishment.
“The banquet was really like the spirit of GNCC, everyone was like a big family, but it’s not so official, so everyone is free and can have fun,” said Salminen, who flew in from his home in Finland to be at the banquet. “I really liked it. It really shows you the GNCC spirit.”
Salminen also collected the AMA Sports Athlete of the Year Award two weeks ago in Las Vegas. He missed that banquet, but he elected to attend the GNCC Banquet to receive his championship accolades.
Other special awards included the Most Improved Rider Award to Charles Mullins, who dominated the 250 A class and finished fourth overall in the series. Barry Hawk’s mechanic Doug Whitmer won the Hard Luck Award after breaking his femur while suspension testing with Hawk in Florida. Senior A Champion Dennis Decker won the Sportsmanship Award for his great attitude at the races, while Super Senior A Champion Terry Mealer won the Swamp Fox Award for his heart and determination.
The coveted Rough and Ready Pit Crew Award went to Dave Simcock Sr., who wrenches for his sons, top amateurs Dave and Adam Simcock, as well as plenty of their friends from New England. Simcock shed tears in appreciation of the award. The Good Samaritan Award went to Rodney Smith’s wife Lori, who helped pull a rider she didn’t even know from a mud bog, covering herself in muck, when she could have been hanging out on the FMF Suzuki factory pits all day. The less-coveted Knucklehead Award went to Jerry Sode, who wrenches for his son Justin in a 65cc class. Unfortunately, Justin suffered from a rash of mechanic woes throughout the year.
The GNCC Sport Ambassador Award went to Randy Hawkins, who, after developing the careers of GNCC stars Barry Hawk and Jason Raines, has done it again by bringing two new stars, Charlie Mullins and Thad DuVall to the forefront of racing.
Suzuki won the Sponsor of the Year Award for their heavy backing of the series, including the necessary boost to put the series back on television with Outdoor Life Network. KTM won the GNCC Manufacturer’s Cup for collecting the most points in the overall standings, and Jack Penton, the original importer of the KTM motorcycle, was on hand to collect the award.
Also, GNCC Racing asked for moments of silence in remembrance of three members of the GNCC family who were lost in 2005: Rod Bush, Jim Lovas, and Jim Mitrowitz. Special teardrop memorial plaques were made in honor of their memory.
After everyone had thanked their friends, family and sponsors, the GNCC Family celebrated late into the night while a band played.
Salminen wasn’t done though. The next day he attended his first NFL football game at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, along with KTM Motorsports Manager Ron Heben and mechanic Anti Kallonen.
“It was crazy,” said Salminen of the Steelers versus Bengals showdown . “I have never seen that many people; 63,400 spectators. And the people, they are fanatics. They have all kinds of funny equipment, towels, and jackets and shirts or whatever.”
The AMA-sanctioned Suzuki Grand National Cross Country series is America’s premier off-road racing series. The 13-round series is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. Cross-country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The nearly three-hour long GNCC races lead as many as 1800 riders through tracks ranging from eight to twelve miles in length. With varied terrain including hills, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed. GNCC featured sponsors include Parts Unlimited, Moose, Maxxis, Pirelli, Wiseco, Klotz, FMF and ITP, and riders compete for over $2.4 million in series prizes and contingency money. Associate sponsors include Moose Utility Division, Scott, Alpinestars, Öhlins, Cometic, Outerwears, Race Tools, Twin Air, SFB Racing, Thor, Motion Pro, MotoTee’s, Warrior and Laeger’s. Media Sponsors include Dirt Rider Magazine, ATV Sport Magazine and Racer X Illustrated. For more information log on to GNCCRacing.com.