Hawk, Mullins, Andrews, Kearney looking to strike
Millfield, OH– The top riders in the Suzuki Grand National Cross Country riders have picked up the trail on series’ leader and defending champion Juha Salminen, and they’re looking to end his undefeated streak this weekend at the Wiseco John Penton GNCC at Sunday Creek Raceway in Millfield, Ohio.
But Salminen doesn’t mind the challenge. In fact, the factory KTM rider relishes the opportunity to prove himself again this weekend.
“This is one of my favorite races. It’s the closest to where I stay here in the U.S.,” says Salminen, who lives next to the KTM headquarters in Amherst, Ohio. “It doesn’t really matter what happened at the last race, I was able to win, and it doesn’t really matter how you win, as long as you win. Every race and every weekend is different.”
Several of the KTM top brass from Austria will be in attendance for the race, which is named after John Penton, who originally imported the KTM motorcycle to the U.S.
A pair of Yamaha factory riders could spoil the party. At the previous GNCC, Am Pro Yamaha’s Charlie Mullins led Salminen on the final lap, and when they both faltered on a steep, muddy, rocky hill climb, Mullins’ teammate Barry Hawk jumped into the fray as well. Mullins crashed back to third, but Hawk stayed glued to Salminen’s fender until the final mile, when he washed out in a corner. Salminen beat Hawk by just 15 seconds after three hours of racing – the closest margin of the season.
Hawk then won a race in the OMA Series last weekend in Ohio, and he hopes to keep the momentum going at the GNCC.
As for Mullins, the 20-year-old rookie from Trenton, Ohio, may be the fastest young GNCC pilot ever – no one at his age has experienced such much success so soon. But he’s sick of merely finishing on the podium. “I’m getting tired of second and third,” says Mullins. “I’m still happy with that, but it seems like it’s pretty much time to pick it up now and … and win! And that’s where I’m at right now.”
And they’re not the only contenders. FMF Suzuki’s Glenn Kearney has logged a great season and was second in points coming into the Missouri race. He lost ground when he completely submerged his bike in a mud hole early on there, but there’s no doubt his speed and fitness are still on the mark heading to Ohio.
And speaking of Ohio, the Buckeye State’s most famous GNCC racer, Salem’s “Fast” Fred Andrews, can never be counted out at the John Penton. After logging consistent rides all year long, Andrews put his Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki at the front of the pack in Missouri and rode on rails, until a rock derailed his chain. No one knows the Ohio woods like Andrews, a multi-time AMA National Off-Road Champion, and no one will have more fans in the woods cheering him on. He could be the one to beat come Sunday afternoon.
The Wiseco John Penton GNCC begins Saturday, May 20, with four-wheeled ATV racing. Yamaha’s Bill Ballance and East Coast ATV’s Honda’s Chris Borich are locked in a torrid battle for the national ATV title. Pro racing begins at 1 p.m. Bikes race on Sunday, with the pro race beginning at 1 p.m.
Sunday Creek Raceway is located in South Eastern Ohio. From Athens, take Rt. 33 West for one mile to Rt. 13 North (Chauncey exit). Go three miles into Chauncey. Turn right—staying on Route 13 north. Continue for 10 miles to Jacksonville. Go right on Sixth St. for 2 miles, then follow signs to the track. For more information, log on to www.gnccracing.com.
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, woods, 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, ITP and Tire Balls, and riders compete for over $3 million in series prizes and contingency money. Associate sponsors include Moose Utility Division, Scott, Acerbis, Alpinestars, Cometic, Outerwears, Twin Air, Polisport Plastics, Thor, Motion Pro, Hyper Wheels, Elka Suspension, MotoTee’s, Weekend Warrior, Owens Motorsports, Tom’s Marina Polaris, EK Chain and Laeger’s. Media Sponsors include Dirt Rider Magazine, ATV Sport Magazine, www.ATVRiders.com and Racer X Illustrated. For more information log on to www.GNCCRacing.com.