Hurricane Mills, TN – The Legendary Loretta Lynn’s Ranch hosted the best race of the year in the Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series, as four riders put a challenge to KTM’s defending series’ champion Juha Salminen. The challenge lasted to the last lap, when Am Pro Yamaha’s Barry Hawk finally ran out of steam and allowed Juha to pull away with his fifth-straight win.
Early in the race, Charles Mullins, Hawk, and FMF Suzuki’s Glenn Kearney and Rodney Smith chased the Fin around the track, and at the half-way point Mullins was able to get into the lead. Juha got it back, but Hawk shadowed him for most of the day, determined not to let Juha go.
“It was fun, I finally got a start,” said Hawk. “I knew I could run with him if I could get a start. I was right there, but on the last lap, I don’t know, I didn’t lose energy, but I just started getting tingly, and then I went to drink some water and I felt like I was going to throw up. I just hit the wall.”
Hawk rode his heart out trying to get to Juha, as he stayed on him until the beginning of the last lap before running out of steam. After the race, he had to be tended to by trackside medics as a precautionary measure due to dehydration.
Kearney was also in the hunt most of the day and ended up third. “I’m not sure what the difference was today, we were able to stay with Juha,” said Kearney. “It’s a lot easier when you can see him, because you get to see the lines and don’t second-guess yourself. There were a lot of lines out there and we got to see what he did. I worked really hard on my fitness lately, and at the halfway point I kind of faded and thought that maybe I had overdone it this week. I came back pretty strong though so I felt good about that.”
Kearney grabbed the Racer X Holeshot award, but Salminen and others shoved past in the first few corners. Soon, Salminen was in the lead, but Mullins was in hot pursuit. Each time Juha would pull away he would make a wrong turn and let the rest of the pack catch up. He made his biggest mistake on lap three and dropped to fourth, losing the lead for the first time all year. Mullins then held the point while Salminen charged back to second by the end of the lap. Then it was time for pit stops, and Salminen managed to get in and out quicker than Mullins, allowing him to take the lead back with Mullins and Hawk right behind him.
Unfortunately, Mullins tangled with a lapper and tweaked his wrist, and eventually dropped out of the race. Kearney also lost time at mid-race. But Hawk would not relent. Salminen had to pit on the last lap, so he turned it up to try to build a gap,
“I saw his pit board and it said “Need gas pull away,” so he tried to pull away, but I stayed with him,” said Hawk.
Salminen stopped for a gallon of gas, and he got out of the pits with Hawk right behind him. They would battle at the beginning of the last lap, until Hawk, near the three-hour mark, finally began to tire.
“It was good to race,” said Salminen. “Barry and Glenn rode well.”
With Mullins also scoring zero points, Kearney moves into a clear second in the series standings behind Salminen.
The Loretta Lynn’s GNCC drew over 1000 individual riders between the ATV and bike classes. The race was taped for an airing on the Outdoor Life Network as part of the Racer TV Series. GNCC TV airs every Saturday and Wednesday at 3 p.m.
The Suzuki GNCC Series continues in two weeks with the all-new Showtime! GNCC in Seymour, Missouri. For more information, log on to www.GNCCRacing.com.