MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — The 2018 Amsoil Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) series, an AMA National Championship continues this weekend, May 26 and 27, with the 29th Annual Wiseco John Penton GNCC in Millfield, Ohio. Not only is this event the longest-running GNCC race of the series, but it also pays homage to the legendary John Penton, who pioneered numerous modern advancements in the world of off-road racing.
FMF/KTM Factory Racing's Kailub Russell comes into his hometown round with five overall wins and currently leads the way in the National Championship standings. K. Russell will look to extend his points lead while he continues his quest to earn his sixth consecutive GNCC title.
As the 13-round circuit reaches its halfway point, the previous race just two weeks ago made it evident that the racing action is far from reaching its climax. The battle for the lead between K. Russell and Rockstar Energy/Factory Husqvarna Racing's Thad Duvall has been close at almost every event this season, and one thing that will be certain this weekend is no matter the outcome, we are promised a great race.
Tely Energy Racing/KTM's Steward Baylor Jr. comes into this weekend's GNCC third in the championship standings, along with a handful of top-five finishes in the first six rounds. Baylor Jr. will be aiming to battle through the XC1 Open Pro pack for his first overall win of the year. Baylor Jr.'s teammate and brother Grant Baylor had a breakthrough performance at the previous round, finishing third overall. G. Baylor will shoot to keep his momentum rolling and battle for the lead on Sunday afternoon.
Coming into this weekend fourth in points is JCR/Honda's Trevor Bollinger. With one podium finish at his hometown race this season, Bollinger is eager to make his way onto the box once again. Bollinger has had a consistent season thus fa, and is looking to put his Honda machine up in the front of the pack as the GNCC circuit reaches its halfway point.
Rockstar Energy/Factory Husqvarna Racing's Josh Strang is looking to advance himself in the championship points standings after this weekend's race. Strang has been steadily improving throughout the year and is aiming for another top-five finish this Sunday.
One rider that had a rough start to the season is AmPro Yamaha's Ricky Russell. The first couple rounds R. Russell found himself battling at the front of the pack, but misfortune would strike and he would suffer from a mechanical issue. However, heading into this weekend, R. Russell is looking to return to the front of the XC1 Open Pro class and battle for his second podium finish of the season.
Looking to turn his luck around is KR4/Husqvarna's Layne Michael. The past two events have proven to be an obstacle for Michael, as he finished outside of the overall top 20. One year ago, Michael took the win in the XC2 250 Pro class and finished seventh overall at The John Penton GNCC, and even though he has moved up to the premier XC1 class, he is hoping to battle with the top runners this weekend.
Beta USA's Jordan Ashburn and KR4/Husqvarna's Cory Buttrick round out the top ten in XC1 Open Pro heading into round seven. Ashburn and Buttrick have both had a handful of top-ten finishes this season, but are hoping for a breakthrough race this Sunday.
The XC2 250 Pro racing action has showcased several battles this year between Trail Jesters/KTM-backed rider Ben Kelley and FMF/KTM Factory Racing's Josh Toth. Kelley currently leads the way, 25 points ahead of Toth, as we make our way to round seven. Kelley has finished second at the past two rounds and is eager to make his way to the top spot once again. It won't be easy, though; Toth has seemed to recover from his hand injury, winning the past two events, and has his sights on defending his XC2 250 Pro National Championship.
Coastal Racing/Husqvarna's Pascal Rauchenecker is currently third, 16 points ahead of teammate Craig Delong. Rauchenecker suffered a hand injury, which caused him to travel back home to Austria and have surgery before round six. After finishing ninth at the previous two races, he is looking to head back to the front and battle for a podium finish. C. Delong had his first podium finish at the X-Factor Whitetails GNCC just two weeks ago, and he is hoping to keep that Husqvarna machine on the box this round.
Coming into round seven, FMF/Maxxis/RPM KTM's Jesse Ansley is leading the way in the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class. Raines Riding University/Yamaha's Jason Raines holds the second-place position after earning his first class win of the season. MCS Racing/Kenda Tire/Moose Racing's Cody Barnes rounds out the top three and is looking to earn his second win of the season as we reach the halfway mark.
KTM Motorsports will also be celebrating the 14th Annual KTM Youth Day on Sunday, May 27. Every youth motorcycle racer who enters the John Penton GNCC will receive a commemorative Youth Day t-shirt. Youth racers will receive a ticket at GNCC Registration, which they can redeem for a free t-shirt at the KTM semi.
Friday at 6 p.m., the Fantic eMTB racing will take place at The John Penton GNCC. There are seven classes available and no pre-qualifying necessary. You must wear a bicycle helmet and eye protection and register at Rider Registration. Class 1 Pedal Assist Bicycles with a motor powered speed of 20 mph and motor wattage of <=750 watts eligible only. Classes offered: Pro, Schoolboy (12-18), Junior (19-29), Vet (30-39), Senior (40-49), Masters (50+) and Women. Read more about the Fantic eMTB Racing by clicking here.
Sunday's race schedule is as follows: youth bike racing begins at 8 a.m., followed by amateurs and women at 10 a.m. and pros and top amateurs at 1 p.m.
Adult (12+) gate admission is $20 for the full weekend and $10 for kids (6-11), with kids five and under free. Gate admission includes pro pit access and pro autographs at no additional charge.
The event is co-sanctioned with WEXCR, a series that produces local racing events across Eastern Ohio and West Virginia, and will ultimately bring out a full slate of local racers. All local riders are invited and encouraged to compete in the event, as GNCC
Local racers expected to compete this Sunday will be Tanner Curfman (200 B), Nathan Alering (Vet A 30+), Jacob Barnes (Open B), Ben Conaway (Vet B 30+), Dakoda Devore (250 A), Nick Barnes (Super Senior B 45+), Cope Beckert (Open A), Nathan Ziklo (Junior A/B 25+), Mike Downs (Senior C 40+), Leon Witiver (Senior B 40+), Cain Blackwood (Silver Masters B 55+), Aden Burt (Open C Jr. 25+), Brad Burt (Masters C 50+), Cory Buttrick (XC1 Open Pro), Levi Keller (Open A), Tanner Collins (YXC1 Super Mini Sr 14-15), Dakota Cunningham (85cc 7-11), Joseph Cunningham (YXC2 Super Mini Jr. 12-13), Jim Douglas (Silver Masters B 55+), Devan Welch (FMF XC3 Pro-Am), Noah Stewart (250 A) and Nicholas Thompson (85cc 7-11).
Racing offers classes for riders of all skill and experience levels. The amateur race entry fee is $50 if racers pre-enter or sign up at the track. To learn more about GNCC Racing, refer to the GNCC 101 webpage.
For more information on the GNCC series, visit the official website at www.gnccracing.com or call (304) 284-0084. Join the conversation on the series' social media channels, along with receiving the most up-to-date news and exclusive content.