By: GNCC Racing
UNION, S.C. (March 5, 2017) – The second day of the AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series presented by Maxxis, an AMA National Championship, racing action took place March 5 at the Big Buck Farm in Union, South Carolina. Warm, sunny conditions greeted the 1 p.m. pro bike race as they lined up on the starting line.
After a four-month hiatus, anticipation was at an all-time high when the famed “10 seconds” was called and the green flag waved for the VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC season opener. Rockstar Energy/Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Josh Strang found himself in a favorable position when he jumped out to the quick lead and claimed the All Balls Racing $250 Holeshot Award.
Strang’s luck faded halfway through the first lap, when his lingering ankle injury, which he sustained five months previously at the ISDE, started to take a toll. Though he didn’t win, he played a huge role in the event when he stopped to help an injured XC2 racer. Strang ultimately decided to end his race early due to his ankle not being fully healed.
SRT/KTM’s Steward Baylor Jr. had full control of the race on the third lap once Strang was out of the picture. However, he began to feel pressure from FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell, who had recovered from a mid-pack start and kept the momentum going to ultimately pass Baylor. Baylor held on and stuck right with the four-time champion.
While the two KTM riders battled it out for the lead, another fight was taking place behind them. Rockstar Energy/Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Thad Duvall and Coastal Racing’s Ryan Sipes were also in the mix before the third lap was complete.
Like his teammate, bad luck would strike Duvall when he stopped in the pits with a bent rotor. His new mechanic, Tanner Tremaine, and team members worked diligently to change out the back wheel and get him back on the race course as quickly as possible. With a little less pressure, Sipes shifted his focus on Baylor and Russell. Sipes began to reel in the top two competitors until lapped riders troubled his journey.
“I started in sixth but I eventually caught up with Baylor and Russell and was right on their back wheels when the lappers got pretty bad,” said Sipes. “They were both riding really good and when I lost them it was hard to make up time.”
Russell worked his way around Baylor but faced issues soon after when he came together with a lapped rider on the hill climb section. “We had a pretty decent day,” said Russell. “Baylor was riding really well, and he had the pressure on me. Right when I got into the lead, I ended up coming together with a lapped rider on the hill climb and Baylor was able to pull a lead. He put about 30 seconds on me and I could just never close the gap. I was trying and trying, but tops to him for being so fast today.”
When the two-lap card came out, Baylor maintained his focus. Russell attempted to close the gap, but Baylor continued to only get faster. Once Baylor crossed the finish line, it was almost a minute and a half until Russell saw the checkered flag. Sipes would end up finishing in the third overall position.
“I knew coming into this race that Russell and Duvall would be the guys to be with,” said Baylor. “I put myself in a position to ride with them. Once Russell made his mistake and I had a clear trail, I gave it everything I could to get a big lead knowing that every second counts because Russell is the fastest guy on the line. I just knew I couldn’t make a mistake and it feels great to pull off my first win not only at the season opener, but also in front of my friends and family.”
XC2 250 Pro Rookie, Chris Venditti, had a stroke a beginner’s luck where he pulled the holeshot over the remaining 30 riders to earn the XC2 250 Pro Hot Cams Holeshot Award. Venditti’s contusion on his leg would eventually play a role in his race and N-Fab/Am Pro Yamaha’s Josh Toth would capitalize on Venditti’s misfortune and take the overall win. Coast Racing teammates, Layne Michael and Craig Delong, continued their success from last season where they rounded out the XC2 250 Pro podium.
“I got off to a good start, and was able to work my way into the lead on the first lap,” said Toth. “I knew Michael was right behind me so I just kept pushing and it paid off.”
The 1 p.m. pro bike race was broadcast live in its entirety on RacerTV.com and can be viewed as archived video online by visiting the GNCC LIVE page online. A highlight show featuring the event will be aired on the NBC Sports Network on Saturday, April 1.
The 2017 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series resumes March 11 and 12, in Palatka, Florida with the Moose Racing Wild Boar GNCC.
Source: Amsoil Racing