FMF Makita Suzuki’s Josh Strang slid to his third straight win by taking the victory at the Acerbis Loretta Lynn GNCC, round five of the 2009 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Strang’s win came after a dynamic six laps of racing that saw riders battling muddy hills and bike problems. The 20-year-old Australian finished around two minutes ahead of GEICO/JG Racing Monster Kawasaki’s Jimmy Jarrett and his Suzuki teammate Charlie Mullins, and he also fended off challenges from a pair of XC2 Pro Lites class riders, Jarrett’s teammate Scotty Watkins, and Shock Doctor KTM’s Kailub Russell.
“There’s still a long way to go,” Strang said, careful not to get too excited about his three-race win streak. “This was a tough race and I’m happy to be up here in first. This is where I knew I could be. ”
Loretta Lynn Ranch saw heavy rains all morning, but by the PM race for the pro riders, the rain had stopped and the sun started to shine. Lieutenant GNCC Trail Boss Buren Hamrick said this track “was back like the old Loretta Lynn track,” with a muddy hill, mud hole or water bar waiting around every turn.
Shock Doctor KTM’s Kurt Caselli was the first off the line and nabbed the $250 MotorcycleUSA.com holeshot award, as Mullins and Jarrett crashed in the first turn. Caselli slipped behind as Mullins recovered from his crash and put in a hard to charge to lead the first two laps in the XC1 class, with Am-Pro FMF Yamaha’s Thad Duvall, Strang, Jarrett and Am-Pro FMF Yamaha’s Barry Hawk on his heels. Geico/JG Racing Monster Kawasaki’s Paul Whibley, the GNCC points leader coming into the race, began gaining on the group as they made their way through the 12-mile track. The group traded in and out of positions in their class, but XC2 Watkins had actually climbed into first overall on adjusted time on lap one, and by the second lap, Russell passed Watkins to take the overall lead.
By the fourth lap, bike problems began setting in for Whibley, who broke a chain, and the Shock Doctor KTMs of Nate Kanney and Caselli. DuVall then charged into the lead in his class and overall, followed by Mullins and Russell in the fourth lap. Watkins was close behind Russell and when Russell stopped for an extended pit to get the mud out of his eyes, Watkins took the XC2 lead back.
Jimmy Jarrett rode his, mud brown, Kawasaki to a second place finish and currently holds fourth in points.
“I think I ride a little bit better when it’s muddy and nasty,” Watkins said. “The conditions really went with my talent.”
XC1 rookie DuVall looked like a contender for his first-ever GNCC overall win as he battled Mullins and Strang, but he lost his fuel line on the fifth lap, costing him a bunch of time. Then Strang started charging ahead, pulling a lead on Mullins as the white flag went out. Jarrett was able to get past Mullins on the last lap to take second, with Mullins in third. Hawk scored a season-best fourth place, with Husqvarna’s Glenn Kearney similarly taking his season-best with a fifth. Dustin Gibson came in sixth on his Husaberg followed by Whibley in seventh and Jesse Robinson in eighth. Ryan Gainey and South African Kenny Gilbert rounded out the top ten.
“It got pretty crazy out there,” Jarrett said. “It was actually fun out there today. It was good racing with a bunch of guys you don’t normally get to race with.”
In XC2, Watkins held on to nab first place. While Russell lost considerable time in the pits cleaning out his eyes, and then struggled with vision for the rest of the race, Monster Energy/Andrew’s Yamaha’s Jason Thomas was mounting a come-from-behind charge. He crashed on the start, sliding through mud, but recovered to move into third by the end of the first lap. Later, he took over the second spot from Russell.
“I just chose good lines,” Thomas said. “I came over here from another country to do this, and I’m all alone except the team, not like the other guys with their families, so I guess that makes me a little more determined than the rest.”
Russell, who had a great start, nabbing the $100 Cometic Holeshot award, came in third. “It was pretty tough,” Russell said. “I don’t like to lose it.”
Coming in fourth was privateer Jake Korn followed by Brian Lawson in fifth and Corey Macdonald in sixth, Shock Doctor KTM’s Cory Buttrick had mechanical problems after climbing up to third place at one point, and he finished seventh. Robert Santheson came in eighth, with Andrew Matusek and Mat Herrington rounding out the top 10.
It was a good day in the Mullins family, as Ted Mullins, Charlie’s brother, took the PM race top amateur award.
In the morning race, Ben Bowins came in with a first place finish, followed by GEICO/JG Racing owner JT Bennett in second and Terry Cunningham in third. Cunningham secured the Top Amateur award. David Dickinson won the $100 Coppersmith Suspension Amateur Holeshot award.
With three-straight wins, Strang has miraculously taken over the XC1 points lead just four races after running out of fuel at the opening race of the season. Russell continues to lead XC2 Lites class points.
The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series continues on May 2 -3 with the Weekend Warrior Titan GNCC in Lafayette, Tennessee. For more information on the series, and complete results from the Acerbis Loretta Lynn’s GNCC, visit www.gnccracing.com
Loretta Lynn GNCC Results:
1. Josh Strang (SUZ)
2. Jimmy Jarrett (KAW)
3. Charles Mullins (SUZ)
4. Barry Hawk (YAM)
5. Glenn Kearney (HSQ)
6. Dustin Gibson (HBG)
7. Paul Whibley (KAW)
8. Jesse Robinson (KAW)
9. Ryan Gainey (HON)
10. Kenneth Gilbert (KAW)
XC2 Pro Lites:
1. Scott Watkins (KAW)
2. Jason Thomas (YAM)
3. Kailub Russell (KTM)
4. Jake Korn (KTM)
5. Brian Lawson (YAM)
6. Corey Macdonald (YAM)
7. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
8. Robert Santheson III (KAW)
9. Andrew Matusek (KAW)
10. Mat Herrington (KAW)