MORGANTOWN, W.Va - The Second Annual Dunlop Tomahawk GNCC will take place this weekend, June 11 and 12, at the Seneca Highlands in Odessa, New York. This race serves as round eight of the 2016 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series presented by Maxxis, an AMA National Championship.
FMF/KTM Factory Racing's Kailub Russell heads into this weekend with a five-race winning streak behind him, and while he will strive to add another win to his resume the defending champion reports that he's never been able to get past a five-race streak.
"I've never made it six-in-a-row," said Russell. "Number five has always been the hump to get over and so I think the last three years I've won five-in-a-row but never six. It's time we go home and do some homework and come out prepared."
One rider who will attempt to capitalize on Russell's comment is Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing/Bel-Ray's Josh Strang. Although Strang only completed one lap at the inaugural Tomahawk GNCC, the 2010 champion is eager to earn valuable points toward this year's National Championship where he sits ranked second.
"Unfortunately I was only able to do one lap at the Tomahawk GNCC last year," said Strang. "It was pretty dry but still pretty fun. I'm not sure what the weather will be like, but we'll see how it is and it would be good to get a win there considering I didn't really get to race it last year."
Rocky Mountain ATV*MC/KR4 Arrive-N-Ride Team's Thad Duvall travels to New York sitting ninth in points, but Duvall has slowly been climbing up the points scale after having a rough start to his season. With three podiums behind him, the West Virginia native is eager to earn his first win of the season.
"We're heading into New York this weekend and I really like the track last year," said Duvall. "I actually led over half of the race last year until I lost my brakes. It's somewhat gnarly and rocky there and those are conditions I excel in so it should be a good race."
Westfield Powersports KTM Presented by Moose Racing's Jordan Ashburn moves into this round ranked fifth in points with SRT/KTM/Kenda Tires' Steward Baylor Jr. behind him by only nine points. Both riders will be aiming for a podium finish, and their recent results prove that they will be top contenders on Saturday.
After a three-round hiatus Coastal Racing/Rockstar/Husqvarna's Ryan Sipes will be making his return to the GNCC circuit after fully recovering from a finger injury which required surgery. Before his injury Sipes had rode some impressive races where he hadn't finished outside of the top ten, and in 2015 Sipes found himself on the podium at the Inaugural Tomahawk GNCC. The Kentucky native will look to repeat his success again this year.
Obermeyer/MCS Racing Suzuki/Kenda/Fly Racing's Ricky Russell finished just off the podium in fourth at the previous round. Russell has a couple of All Balls Racing Holeshot Awards behind him this year, but is still searching for his first podium.
Sitting in an impressive fourth overall and first in XC2 Pro Lites is JCR Honda/Lucas Oil/Maxxis/FLY Racing-backed Trevor Bollinger. While Bollinger started the season off with a four-race winning streak, he faced issue an issue with his chain at the previous round where he was able to salvage fourth place. He will be a man-on-a-mission as he strives to earn his sixth win on Sunday.
However, Coastal Racing/Husqvarna/MSR's Craig Delong finally proved that he has what it takes to stand in the middle of the box just two weeks ago. After having six podium finishes behind him this season and never finishing outside the top five, Delong's hard work paid off when he crossed the line victorious in Ohio. Delong will ultimately be a rider to keep an eye on once the second line takes off this weekend.
"I struggled in New York last year," said Delong. "But I actually did a local race there a few weeks ago and now I know what to look forward to. I actually got some testing done and I'm really looking forward to it since it's pretty similar terrain to what I'm used to riding at home in Pennsylvania."
Delong's teammate, Layne Michael, has also found success this season where he is ranked third in the XC2 Pro Lites class. Michael comes into this round fresh off a podium finish at The John Penton GNCC and will use that as momentum to earn his season win this Sunday.
New Jersey native Jesse Groemm, currently fourth in points, will join the Solid Performance KTM team for the remainder of the season. Groemm has already had a successful season, but was quoted saying that he is more comfortable on a KTM and will look to make a smooth transition onto his new ride this weekend.
Trail Jesters Racing's Benjamin Kelley rounds out the top five heading into the Tomahawk GNCC and will charge hard to earn his second podium of the year in New York.
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. Camping will be available to racers only.
This weekend is co-sanctioned with WNYOA, a series that produces local racing events in New York, and will ultimately bring out a full slate of local racers. All local racers are invited to compete at this event, as GNCC Racing offers classes for riders of all skill and experience levels. The amateur race entry fee is $40 and riders can sign up at the track.
Local racers expected to compete this Sunday will be Colby Davis (85 12-13), father James (Vet A 30+) and his son Timothy (250 B) and daughter Samantha Steiner (WXC), Paul Best (65 7-9) and father Jeffrey (Super Senior A 45+) and his son Hunter Hart (4-Stroke C Lites).
For a complete schedule of the weekend's activities, please visit the Dunlop Tomahawk GNCC event page on the series website by clicking HERE.
Tune into RacerTV.com on Sunday at 1 p.m. EST to catch LIVE coverage of the Pro Bike race. For more information on GNCC Live coverage, visit www.racertv.com.
For more information on the series, visit the official website at www.gnccracing.com or call (304) 284-0084. Join the conversation on the series Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and be sure to always hashtag #GNCCLIVE.