Knighter Welcomed Back to GNCC with $10,000 Snowshoe Win

Snowshoe, W.Va. - The Snowshoe GNCC, round nine of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, yielded big surprises for some and heartbreak for others, as David Knight returned to the podium with a dominant win on his privateer Kawasaki KX450F, followed by GEICO/JG Racing Monster Energy Kawasaki's Paul Whibley taking a surprise second and Shock Doctor KTM's Nate Kanney's first appearance on the podium since round one.

Photo By: Matt Ware
Knight dominated the race winning by almost five minutes.

Defending GNCC champion Knight who just recently left a BMW ride in Europe to make this GNCC trip possible, took home the $10,000 overall win prize, as well as an additional $1000 for topping the XC1 class. The big-purse Snowshoe event, the only off-road race of its kind to take place at a ski resort, also paid a $5000 bonus to Whibley and $3000 to Kanney.

"The first thing is to have fun on the bike again," Knight said. "The track wasn't difficult. I just had to use my head a little bit."

Knight battled with FMF Makita Suzuki's Josh Strang for most of the race, until Strang crashed into a deer on the fifth lap, knocking the four-time race winner on the season out of the running in shocking fashion.

Photo By: Matt Ware
Whibley came back from a rough first few laps to grab second place.

Strang and his teammate Charlie Mullins, Whibley and his teammate Jarrett and Am-Pro Yamaha's Barry Hawk made up the first line to take off in the modified start, which took place on a blacktop road with a live-engine start next to the Snowshoe ski village. Hawk led the pack around the first corner and into the toughest track of the 2009 season, where mud bogs, almost verticle hills and even wildlife challenged the riders. The double loop course was more than 20 miles in its entirety and riders needed more than endurance to make it six laps.

Knight, who started four rows back, quickly caught up to the group, and by the end of the first lap, Knight and Strang were in a tight battle for first-place physically on the track, with Knight taking the overall lead with time adjustments. While Knight and Strang played cat and mouse, they began to increase the gap between themselves and the hard charging pack of Jarrett, Whibley, Kanney, Mullins and Hawk.

Strang kept his physical lead but in the second lap, Knight passed him. The two stuck close together throughout 5 laps of racing while the riders behind them started to spread out. Whibley and Hawk started their own heated battle but a lapper got in the middle of them going into lap four blocking Hawk out under the scoring tent. After exchanging a few words with the rider, Hawk was off into the woods, but more bad luck knocked him out of the race completely.. Hawk throttle over a drop and was unable to finish past the fourth lap.

Kanney battled with Mullins and Kearney in the next pack was able to move into fourth place behind Knight, Strang and Whibley.

Photo By: Matt Ware
The Snowshoe GNCC has a spectacular live engine start right in the resort village.

The race broke down to a Knight versus Strang battle for the win. In the fifth lap, disaster struck for Strang when he crashed into a deer in the woods of the course, leaving Whibley to make up significant time and climb into second place. The deer essentially allowed Whibley to extend his GNCC points lead over Strang.

"It was a long day for me," Whibley said. "I couldn't get up with them today. I managed to come in second and get some points. Jarrett and I got stuck in a mud hole for awhile and Josh passed us by. I never saw him again."

With Strang and Hawk out of the running for the podium, Knight significantly increased his lead, coming in five minutes ahead of Whibley who came in second and Kanney in third.

People looked out the windows of their hotel rooms, and poured out of the local eateries in a huge crowd to see the riders cross the finish line.

"The first lap was a bit dodgy in a few places," Knight said. "I didn't know where Strang was in the lead and I went the wrong way a few times. At the moment I'm happy to be doing my own thing again."

Photo By: Matt Ware
Jason Thomas also dominated his XC2 class with a wire-to-wire win.

Nate Kanney took third for the second time this year, moving him up in the point standings.

"It was one of those days where it felt like it was one step forward and two steps back," he said. "It seemed like it was like that for everyone. In the end it was just being consistent and getting to the finish. It's been an up and down year but it is what it is. In the end, this is what you get if you work hard."

Mullins took fourth place, followed by Jarrett in fifth. Strang was able to recover to come in sixth place, with Jesse Robinson on a Husaberg coming in seventh. Kenny Gilbert was eighth, with visiting AMA Pro Motocross pilot Charles Summey ninth. The Shock Doctor KTM of Kurt Casselli rounded out the Top 10.

In XC2 action, Jason Thomas took a decisive victory, taking the lead from wire-to-wire for his first win of the year. Thomas spent most of the race so far ahead of the rest of the XC2 crowd, he spent most of his time on the track by himself, gunning to get up with the XC1 riders.

"The first lap was like riding at home," Thomas, who grew up outside of the Welsh forest, said. "I could swear I was at home. I didn't get arm pump, I didn't get tired. I pushed all day in the hopes I could get to the front. But those guys rode awesome."

Thomas and the Shock Doctor KTM's of Cory Buttrick and Kailub Russell have been the group to watch in XC2 action, but today, the KTM duo saw bad luck right from the beginning.

Photo By: Matt Ware
The XC1 podium had an enthusiastic crowd cheering them on.

"The first lap, a mile into it, my brakes locked up," Russell said. "Then they totally went out. I putted around kind of bummed but they came back and I started riding better and I started moving up."

In the first lap, Buttrick got stuck in a mud hole, taking fifteen minutes to get out of the quicksand like terrain and falling back to 13th place. Ryan Echols made a hard charge to stay in third place, but was out of running after the fourth lap. Buttrick and Russell started to make a recovery even though they couldn't catch up to Thomas.

"I was pretty happy with my riding," Russell said. "The first thing I thought was, 'Man, I'm not going to be on the podium. But I dug deep and rode pretty good."

With Thomas taking a decisive lead, Privateer Jake Korn, who has been finishing just off the podium this season, roared into third and then second place.

"I was off to a great start," Korn said. "I couldn't push too hard so I didn't get stuck. I just took my time and paced myself to just get through the track."

Photo By: Matt Ware
Korn,Thomas and Russell celebrate hard-fought wins.

Russell came in third, with GEICO/JG Racing Monster Kawasaki's Scottie Watkins in fourth. Eric Bailey made it through losing his seat midway through the race came in fifth. David Snyder came in sixth followed by Buttrick in seventh. Mat Herrington, Ryan Echols and Patrick Massie rounded out the top 10.

Top Amatuer Award went to Chris Bach.

The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series is now on a two month break and will return with the Can-Am Unadilla GNCC in New Berlin, NY on September 12-13.

XC1 Results

1. David Knight (KAW)

2. Paul Whibley (KAW)

3. Nathan Kanney (KTM)

4. Charles Mullins (SUZ)

5. Jim Jarrett (KAW)

6. Josh Strang (SUZ)

7. Jesse Robinson (HUS)

8. Kenny Gilbert (KAW)

9. Charles Summey (KTM)

10. Kurt Casselli (KTM)

XC1 Point Standings

1. Paul Whibley (214/3 wins) 2. Josh Strang (201/4 wins) 3. Charles Mullins (197/1 win) 4.Jim Jarrett (160) 5. Nathan Kanney (139) 6.Barry Hawk Jr. (123) 7. Kurt Casselli (121) 8.Jesse Robinson (92) 9. Glenn Kearney (91) 10.Kenneth Gilbert (87)

XC2 Results

1. Jason Thomas (YAM)

2. Jake Korn (KTM)

3. Kailub Russell (KTM)

4. Scott Watkins (KAW)

5. Eric Bailey (KTM)

6. David Snyder (YAM)

7. Cory Buttrick (KTM)

8. Mat Herrington (KAW)

9. Ryan Echols (KAW)

10. Patrick Massie (KAW)

XC2 Point Standings

1.Kailub Russell (247/6 wins) 2.Cory Buttrick (193/1 win) 3. Jason Thomas (191/1 win) 4. Scott Watkins (175) 5.Jake Korn (146) 6.Brian Lawson (108) 7.Robert Santheson (108) 8.Andrew Matusek (94) 9. Eric Bailey (90) 10. Mat Herrington (85)