St. Clairsville, Ohio - With two rounds left in the 2009 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, the XC1 bike class championship is still undecided. While GEICO/JG Racing/ Monster Energy Kawasaki's Paul Whibley has a 32 point lead over his nearest competitor, FMF Makita Suzuki's Josh Strang, if Strang takes the next two rounds and Whibley finishes seventh or worse in each, the championship goes to Strang.
Strang will at least need to beat Whibley at this weekend's ITP Power Line Park GNCC to prevent Whibley from wrapping the title up early. But Whibley has had a solid year so far, finishing on the podium all but two races, and in those two races he finished seventh due to mechanical issues. Whibley, veteran threat from New Zealand, isn't prone to making rider errors while Strang, the younger rider, has confessed to making little mistakes that have cost him places on the podium.
At the Yadkin Valley Stomp, Whibley got the holeshot and was challenged early by Husqvarna's Glenn Kearney. Soon, the cards were shuffled and the familiar trio of Whibley, Strang and Charlie Mullins were in the top three on the track. Mullins had a rough start in seventh, but by the fourth lap, he had moved to third on the track with Kearney and Shock Doctor KTM's Nate Kanney right behind.
Whibley finished with an easy first, and Strang checked in about 42 seconds behind, with his head shaking in disgust. His teammate Mullins finished more than four minutes behind to mark the trio's third time on the podium together.
If Whibley wins again this weekend, he wraps up the title. But some riders could still pull surprise finishes for the year. Strang and Mullins themselves aren't far apart in the point standings. Mullins has had the most consistent year of the two, staying fourth or better in each race. But Strang has four wins to Mullins' one. Mullins hopes to pull off his second win of the season before the year is over. Mullins sits only six points behind Strang in the battle for second.
While the season is winding down, the riders are pulling apart in the point standings, creating duels in the ranks between groups of two riders. GEICO/JG Racing Monster Energy Kawasaki's Jimmy Jarret and Kanney are also only six points apart. While it would be hard for them to catch the leaders, they will have their own battle for year-end finishes. And Am-Pro Yamaha's Barry Hawk and Shock Doctor KTM's Kurt Caselli are in the same bind another position back.
Husqvarana's Glenn Kearney, Kawasaki rider Kenneth Gilbert and Husaberg's Jesse Robinson round out the top 10. Last week the three were tied in the points. And Am-Pro Yamaha rookie Thad DuVall has had a terrible year looking at the points, but his speed and talent are not in question. If he gets luck on his side, he would win this weekend and throw a wrench in Whibley's championship plans.
In the XC2 class, Kailub Russell has locked up the title for the Shock Doctor KTM team, but he will remain on his 250F this weekend. Look for a challenge from his teammate Cory Buttrick, Monster Energy/FAR Yamaha's Jason Thomas, and GEICO JG Racing Kawasaki's Scott Watkins.
The cards could shuffle again after the 12th round, the ITP Power Line Park, in St. Clairsville, Ohio, as each duel could come out with a new winner on top. The pro classes race for three hours beginning at 1 p.m.
Spectator passes run $15 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.
The track is located at Exit 213 off Ohio I-70. Take Route 331 N. just a few yards and make a right onto Hammond Rd for approximately 1 mile. Then left at Lee Road for another one-half mile. Track is on the right. Track is roughly 15 miles west of Wheeling, WV.
For more information, check out the official series website at www.GNCCRacing.com or call 304-284-0084.
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.