Millfield, OH – The greatest domination streak in Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series history is over. Juha Salminen’s nine-race win streak – dating back to last fall - finally came to a close due to an inspired ride by Am Pro Yamaha’s Barry Hawk at the Wiseco John Penton GNCC. Hawk and his teammate Charlie Mullins battled Salminen all day in a spectacular three-hour race, and a deep mud hole trapped Salminen on the last lap and allowed Hawk to get around him and take a dramatic win.
Hawk’s mastery of the mud holes contrasted that of Salminen, who was strong all day but found himself stuck one too many times to keep his winning streak alive. He finished second. “Second is okay, but I’m really disappointed in my ride,” said the Finnish 10-Time World Enduro Champion. “I found every mud hole in the course! I was stuck three or four times, and it was really bad, not small ones. I was really stuck. I was half a minute behind, and I caught them, and I got stuck, and I would catch them and get stuck again. That was basically how my whole day went: go fast, go stuck, go fast, go stuck again. It was my fault. I was making the bad decisions.”
Mullins was in the hunt too, as the 20-year old rookie led the race halfway through until he crashed hard. “It was the most spectacular crash I’ve ever seen in my life,” said Hawk. “I figured if he wasn’t dead he would have multiple broken bones. For him to get up and finish third is pretty incredible.”
Indeed, Mullins held on for a podium finish despite literally getting knocked out of contention. “I don’t know, I don’t remember much,” said Mullins. “I just remember the start, and being around Barry on the motocross track.”
Hawk snared the Racer X Holeshot award off of the start, but Salminen quickly took the lead on the Sunday Creek Raceway motocross track. Then Salminen got lost and handed the lead back to the Yamaha riders. He would catch them, but each time mistakes led to his undoing. The trio swapped the lead countless times through out the day, until Mullins crashed out and reduced the battle down to two.
Salminen held a nine-second lead as the white flag came out, but his lead evaporated when another big hole swallowed him up. “I passed him one other time down there,” said Hawk. “He was in the lead both times. I think he tried to use the line we were using the lap before. I was in the right place at the right time – if I were in the lead I probably would have done what he did. But on that last lap I saw him getting stuck, and just as he was getting on the gas, a lapper fell down in front of him. I rode by and I was like, “‘Thanks, buddy!’”
“There were plenty of lines you had to take,” said Salminen. “There was a lot of support on the course, people showing me the good line. I let them down. One guy told me to go left and I went right. I got stuck really bad and went over the handlebar. I’m sorry I didn’t take them. But it’s okay. I remember why I’m here and what I am doing here. I think the next race will be much easier for me, and I have something to prove again.”
As for Hawk, his strategy was, as usual, to simply not give up. “He kind of got away from me a little bit, but there was a lot of stuff, a lot of mud holes out there,” said Hawk. “I had to just keep charging. First I needed to get up there and run with the guys and get a good start, and I was able to do that at the last two races. After those two races I said, if I put myself in position to do it on the last lap, I’ll get a win.”
Fourth went to Andrews’ Suzuki rider Jimmy Jarrett, who has been logging some solid results lately. “I’m tired of getting beat by everybody,” said Jarrett. “I’ve raced the last six weekends. That helps a lot – it helps my endurance, and that’s one of the things I’ve struggled with my whole career. I wasn’t having fun at the races before and I am now.”
Fifth went to Fun Mart KTM’s Shane Watts, who won an incredible duel with Monster Energy/Pro Circuit/Kawasaki’s Fred Andrews and Parts Unlimited/Moose Honda’s Paul Whibley. At one point on the last lap, all three riders were stuck together in the same mud hole, but Watts was able to get his 125SX out first and get the position.
RER Motorcity Yamaha’s Nate Kanney was eighth, FMF Suzuki’s Glenn Kearney ninth, and Justin Williamson was tenth.
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 three weeks with the Tire Balls Spartan GNCC in Sparta, Kentucky. 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.
Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series - Round 7
The Wiseco John Penton GNCC, May 21, 2006
Bike Top Twenty Overall
1. Barry Hawk, Jr. Smithfield, PA YAM 02:47:04
2. Juha Salminen Finland, KTM 02:47:55
3. Charles Mullins Hamilton, OH YAM 02:51:51
4. Jimmy Jarrett Beloit, OH SUZ 02:52:41
5. Shane Watts Australia, KTM 02:54:47
6. Fred Andrews Salem, OH KAW 02:54:51
7. Paul Whibley New Zealand HON 02:54:56
8. Nathan Kanney High Falls, NY YAM 02:55:51
9. Glenn Kearney Australia, SUZ 02:56:18
10. Justin Williamson Sanford, FL YAM 02:56:25
11. D R Atwood Millfield, OH SUZ 02:56:37
12. Robbie Jenks New Straitsville, OH KTM 02:56:49
13. Scott Watkins Leetonia, OH KAW 02:58:21
14. Jesse Robinson Connellys Spg, NC KAW 03:00:11
15. Rodney Smith Antioch, CA SUZ 03:00:28
16. Travis Green Vinton, OH KAW 03:03:34
17. Garrett Edmisten Vero Beach, FL KAW 03:07:28
18. Aaron Wegner Traverse City, MI YAM 03:08:31
19. Chris Gallt Eagle, MI KAW 03:09:09
20. Joshua Gaitten New Straitsville, OH KTM 03:10:42
Suzuki GNCC Series Overall Points Standings (after 7 of 13 rounds)
1. Juha Salminen (205/6 wins)
2. Barry Hawk (127/1 win)
3. Charles Mullins (117)
4. Glenn Kearney (108)
5. Fred Andrews (91)
6. Mike Lafferty (90)
7. Paul Whibley (89)
8. Shane Watts (79)
9. Jimmy Jarrett (77)
10. Garret Edmisten (59)