Kanney Takes GNCC Upset at Unadilla

September 25, 2006 7:13am

The field was stacked to unprecedented levels for the Moose Racing Unadilla GNCC, but despite all the big names in the field, a local-based privateer pulled off a dramatic win. RER Motorcity’s Nathan Kanney showed heart and determination in extremely muddy conditions to defeat Juha Salminen and Charlie Mullins and win the Unadilla GNCC. It was an upset for the ages, but it didn’t upset one of the thousands of people on hand.

Nathan Kanney pulled off an upset privateer GNCC win in front of his home fans in NY.

David Scearce photo
“I wasn’t alone out there,” said Kanney. “I’m always the Yankee when I go to the other races, but here, even at times when people didn’t recognize me, I just gave a holler and people were showing me a good line. It didn’t always work that way but it helped. I had decided that the only way to beat Juha is to try to get ahead of him at the start and try to get away from him. Apparently that’s not really realistic! But I don’t know, I was able to work my way to the front without even breaking much of a sweat today. I just can’t believe it right now.”

Jimmy Jarrett took the Racer X Holeshot with motocross star Broc Hepler right behind him. But Hepler slid out in the second turn and went down, while another huge pileup claimed fellow motocrosser John Dowd, as well as GNCC contenders Barry Hawk and Glenn Kearney. Hepler rode valiantly from deep in the pack. While he wasn’t quite on pace with the leaders, he did take a creditable sixth in a muddy outing.

The mud made Hepler's time at Unadilla difficult.  Mud races are a lot different when they last  three hours!

David Scearce photo
“It was really difficult,” said Hepler. “My legs are really tired. It was good mud practice, and you could always use that. I had pretty much four wheels the whole time, with my legs out. It worked me over pretty good. At the end I was getting pretty comfortable, since the first time I had ridden my bike was heading down to the start. That’s probably why I spun at the start, a little bit too much power!”
Hepler was mounted on a works FMF/Suzuki RM250 instead of his RM-Z250 motocross bike.

Kanney’s win was hard-earned, as Salminen and Mullins also led at various stages. “It was pretty bad,” said Salminen. “The Wisp is pretty bad but this is something else. At the Wisp at least there is rocks. Here there is just mud. It was pretty nasty. We were in a field, and I took the inside line on every lap. But there was a deep rut under it, and I hit the rut and it just stopped me. I went over the handlebar and just went down face first! It was bad, my gloves were completely covered in mud. That was a really bad lap for me. I changed my goggles and gloves and hit the road again. Before that, I had passed those guys already. I feel I had good speed, but then you make a couple of mistakes. But whatever. Everybody makes mistakes, and I made my mistakes today.

Today we have a real muddy race in a difficult track. That’s the thing about GNCCs, you have to be fast everywhere, or at least decent everywhere in all conditions. Today, if somebody earned the win, it was Nathan.”

Mullins was once again in the hunt but again came up just short of his first win. “I made a few passes, but then I made a mistake and got stuck,” said Mullins. “Luckily I had a few people to help me out and we could get going. Me and Nate and Juha had a good race going, and the last lap, same spot, right after the start, one of the mud holes. I wasn’t stopped, I was just moving along and my bike just quit moving. I knew my clutch was burnt then. I just sat there and tried to let it cool down. Then I just unhooked it and tried to ride the track in second or third gear. It was tough but I wasn’t going to give up a podium. I’ve had two bad races and I was going to do what I could to be up here.”

Justin Williamson rode another solid race in the mud for fourth on the Williamsonracing.com Yamaha. Parts Unlimited/Moose Honda’s Paul Whibley was fifth, with Hepler sixth. Top amateur Scott Watkins was seventh on the Monster Energy/Pro Circuit Kawasaki. Hawk struggled after his early crash for eighth ahead of Robbie Jenks, with 250 A amateur Jesse Robinson tenth.

Kanney’s win was not only popular with the New York fans, it was a big win for privateers everywhere. “It feels good for me to do this, but it feels even better to share it with all of the other privateers back there and prove that it could be done,” said Kanney. “I always felt that it could be done. These guys have a lot of things that I don’t have, but then maybe they have some negatives, like a manager putting pressure on them. Every one of these people I have here is here for support not pressure. I have that advantage. The coolest thing about that is to be able to share that with all of these people who pay for their own bikes and buy their own stuff and drive to the races in a van.

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.