Paul Whibley won the battle, but Josh Strang won the war at an exciting round of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series at ITP Power Line Park in St. Clairsville, Ohio.
Strang came into the Ohio round with a chance to wrap up the XC1 title early, needing to finish ahead of series rival Charlie Mullins to do so. After starting the race in last place, the Rockstar Makita Suzuki rider clawed his way into fourth position by the second lap of the race. Strang then spent the next two hours trying to find a way around Mullins, finally doing so a few turns before the finish to take third for the day and giving him the 2010 XC1 championship – his first-ever AMA national title.
“This was the toughest race of my life,” said Strang. “I didn’t get the start I usually get, I couldn’t find my rhythm and Charlie was riding really good. I finally just put my head down and rode as hard as I could and I got him just as we came out of the woods before the finish. It was a heck of a race and it’s incredible to win the title.”
Meanwhile, at the front of the pack, Whibley and Glenn Kearney waged an equally fierce battle over first. Whibley got off to a great start, claiming the $250 MotorcyceUSA.com Holeshot Award on his on his AmPro/FMF Yamaha to start the race. However, it wasn’t long before Kearney moved his 310cc-kitted Husqvarna onto Whib’s rear fender, the two riders going back and forth for most of the three-hour race. Kearney made a few last-ditch pass attempts near the end of the race, but Whibley was able to hold on to take the win – his first of the season.
“It feels great to win again,” said Whibley. “I got a good start and about midway through the first lap I started getting in a groove. I really didn’t want to have the lead that early but I was going a good pace and then Glenn caught me and we went back and forth. He closed on me near the end and I just had to push a little harder and it ended up being a pretty tough race, Glenn was going really well.”
Kearney held on to finish second – his best finish of the year – after leading for much of the race. Kearney started out the year on the Husqvarna 250 TXC, but struggled to keep pace with the bigger 450Fs. The 310cc kit made a big difference in Ohio, putting him on more of an even playing field.
“This year has been a real struggle, racing the 250 against the bigger bikes, but the new motor is really strong and I have to give props to Husky for make a great bike,” said Kearney.
Am Pro/FMF Yamaha’s Barry Hawk Jr. had one of his best rides of the year, finishing fifth behind the Strang/Mullins battle. Behind Hawk came eight-time National Enduro Champion Michael Lafferty, who was making one of his rare GNCC appearances.
Cory Buttrick took a nasty fall on the opening lap of the race, but the FMF/KTM rider rebounded to finish seventh, crossing the finish line five minutes in front of Australian Enduro Champ Toby Price, who rode a KTM on loan from Shane Watts.
Ninth went to former XC2 champ Justin Williamson, while fellow Kawasaki rider Kenneth Gilbert rounded out the top 10.
In the XC2 division, FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell also wrapped up a title early, taking his second-straight XC2 championship with a come-from-behind performance. Like Strang, Russell charged to the front after a poor start and crossed the finish line with almost a minute to spare over runner-up Scotty Watkins. The win was Russell’s eighth on the year.
“I knew it was going to be tough to catch up on this track and it was,” said Russell. “I was mid-pack and I couldn’t see the ruts in the woods and I fell over and everyone passed me. I finally got it together but I still didn’t feel comfortable all day. I just did what I needed to do to get the win and it feels good to get the title.”
Watkins bought his GEICO/JG Off Road/ Monster Energy Kawasaki home for second, with Monster Energy Andrews Cycles’ Jason Thomas rounding out the podium.
KTM’s Steward Baylor Jr. was a solid fourth in the XC2 class, while Yamaha rider Morgan Moss finished fifth. Zach Nolan (KTM) was sixth ahead of former Arenacross Champion Jeff Gibson (KTM). Brian Lawson (Yam) and Josh Gaitten (KTM) were eighth and ninth, while Jesse Robinson (KTM) finished 10th after taking the $100 Motorcycle-USA.com Holeshot Award at the start of the race.
2010 ITP Power Line Park GNCC Results:
1. Paul Whibley (Yamaha)
2. Glenn Kearney (Husqvarna)
3. Josh Strang (Suzuki)
4. Charlie Mullins (Yamaha)
5. Barry Hawk Jr. (Yamaha)
6. Michael Lafferty (Husaberg)
7. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
8. Toby Price (KTM)
9. Justin Williamson (Kawasaki)
10. Kenneth Gilbert (Kawasaki)
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Scotty Watkins (Kawasaki)
3. Jason Thomas (Husaberg)
4. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
5. Morgan Moss (Yamaha)
6. Zach Nolan (KTM)
7. Jeff Gibson (KTM)
8. Brian Lawson (Yamaha)
9. Josh Gaitten (KTM)
10. Jesse Robinson (KTM)