New Berlin, NY - Before the 2009 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series commenced its summer break in June, a heated battle raged between FMF Makita Suzuki's Josh Strang and GEICO/JG Racing Monster Kawasaki's Paul Whibley. The former teammates have traded the points lead since round six when Whibley broke Strang's three win streak. But Strang stayed close behind, regained the lead again with a win, and then lost it again as Whibley won another round. Then Whibley inched further away at the Snowshoe GNCC, the final round before summer break.
But at that round, Strang spent most of the race in front of Whibley, engaging in a full-out wheel-to-wheel battle with Defending GNCC Champion David Knight for the physical lead on the track. Strang would have taken the championship lead back from Whibley had he not crashed into a deer, putting him out of the running for that win at least, but finishing in sixth.
"I think these tracks suit me better than the other guys," Strang said. "Making a comeback, winning the championship is my goal. My confidence is very high. I'm definitely ready to go."
" I will definitely have to go out there and put in some good results," Whibley said. "It's hardly sewn up. I've been training hard. I'm confident I'm in good as shape if I have been but I'm sure they've been doing the same. It's going to be close right down to the final round."
Right behind Strang is his teammate Charlie Mullins, who has stayed on the podium almost the entire season, and sits just four points behind Strang. The three have fought together throughout the season, and it looks as though a clear winner will not be defined until the final round in October.
But now, after a two-month break the three will face again at this weekend's Unadilla GNCC in New Berlin, NY.
Behind the "Big Three" sits Whibley's teammate Jimmy Jarrett, Nathan Kanney on his Shock Doctor KTM, GNCC legend, Am-Pro Yamaha's Barry Hawk and Kurt Casselli, also part of the Shock Doctor KTM team. While Jarrett has a good 20 point lead on those behind him, he's still in limbo, with almost 40 points separating him from Mullins. Jarrett will return to GNCC racing after breaking his wrist over the summer.
New York'sKanney is the home-state favorite at Unadilla, and he took his first career victory on the familiar terrain back in 2006, and also grabbed podium finishes there at each of his other visits. He's exceptionally strong on this track. Kanney was expected to challenge for the title this year but has been held out of victory lane so far. Unadilla could signal the start of his comeback.
At Snowshoe, Hawk ran into bad luck again, crashing into a tree after putting in a dedicated charge after Whibley. He hopes to find himself battling with the series' leader again this weekend. Casselli has stayed in the top 10 but hasn't seen the success he hoped for this season. Husaberg's Jesse Robinson is eighth in the points standings, followed by Husqvarna's Glenn Kearney and Kenneth Gilbert.
In XC2 action, Shock Doctor KTM's Kailub Russell is still in command of the points lead after finishing third at Snowshoe, and is a substantial 54 points ahead of teammate Cory Buttrick. Monster Energy/FAR Racing's Jason Thomas took home his first win at Snowshoe and sits in third. Buttrick and Thomas are only two points apart and while they may not be able to catch Russell in the championship, it will be an exciting battle to see who might take home the number 2 plate.
The Unadilla racing facility has been hosting national and international-level competitions for 40 years, and this event routinely draws the largest crowd of the 13-race GNCC series. Over 1700 competitors and several thousand more spectators are expected. Riders will race on a custom-built track, which includes both motocross and woods racing. The combination of the two makes Unadilla a test of both survival and speed. Racers include top international talent, such as U.S. National Champions and World Champions from Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
Spectator passes run $12 for the full weekend, with pro pit access and pro autographs at no additional charge. On both Saturday and Sunday, youth riders race at 8 a.m., beginner riders race at 10 a.m., and the top amateurs and the pros race at 1 p.m.
For more information, check out the official series website at www.GNCCRacing.com or call 304-284-0084.
The Unadilla Valley Sports Center is located in New Berlin, New York, on State Highway 8, five miles north of New Berlin, New York. From the north take NYS Thruway (RT. #90) to exit 31 (Utica). After the tollbooth, begin following signs for Route #8 SOUTH. Turn right after the tollbooth and make another right at the first light. You will go about 50 feet and exit to your right. Continue about 1-Â½ miles and you will exit again on Route #8 south. Approximately four miles later, you will exit one more time at "Route #8 South - New Hartford." Once you exit here, you will stay on this road right to the racetrack.
About GNCC Racing
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series is America's premier off-road racing series. Founded in 1973, the 13-round championship is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. Cross country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The grueling three-hour GNCC races lead as many as 1,800 riders through tracks ranging in length from eight to 12 miles, competing for more than $3 million in prizes. With varied terrain, including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed. For more information, please visit www.gnccracing.com.
About Racer Productions
A West Virginia-based motorcycle and ATV event production company, Racer Productions has been a leader in the off-road racing industry for more than 30 years. It's repertoire of facilities and events includes the 13-round Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, since 1973; professional and amateur national events at High Point Raceway in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania, since 1977; and professional and amateur ATV events at Loretta Lynn's Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. For more information, please visit www.racerproductions.com.