With four different winners in the XC1 Pro class this season, the championship title has come down to the final races on the circuit. FMF KTM‘s Charlie Mullins has surged through the final stretch of the year, now holding a twenty-six-point lead over defending champion Josh Strang, of the FMF Makita Suzuki team, with AmPro Yamaha’s Paul Whibley a mere six points behind Strang with three races left in the series. The championship battle continues this weekend in Crawfordsville, Ind. for the annual Amsoil Ironman GNCC, which is historically the finale on the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series schedule, but serves as the second-to-last stop this year, with a rescheduled double header at Loretta Lynn Ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee, ending this year’s tour in two weeks.
Along with Mullins, Strang and Whibley comes a potential spoiler in FMF KTM’s Kailub Russell, who took his first career XC1 win at the previous GNCC in Ohio; marking the first time in history a father/son duo has won a Pro GNCC race (Russell’s dad Jeff won GNCC races in 1990 and 1991). In addition, WMR/Nihilo Concepts/Clockwork/Planet Fitness KTM’s Nate Kanney is always a favorite at the Ironman, taking home wins at the track in 2006, 2008 and 2009.
The Ironman GNCC is known as one of the best all-around off-road tests in America, with a track offering loamy soil, flowing woods trails, huge hill climbs and water crossings, as well as high speed, motocross-style runs through the cornfields. The event usually boasts the largest spectator attendance of the season, and adding to the spectacle, The Ironman has gone pink once again this year in honor of October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month. GNCC racers and spectators are encouraged to wear pink clothes, riding gear, graphics and decorations at the event and there will be several opportunities to donate to the cause through FAITH Alliance, a breast cancer resource for Montgomery County, Ind.
Mullins has the points lead by virtue of two wins and a second in the previous three races. But his first GNCC Pro class title won’t come easy with two former GNCC champions hot on his heels.
Defending champion Strang started his season off strong, capturing two wins and taking the points lead before the summer break; however, he has seen nothing but bad luck since the series resumed in September, with a crash and bent sprocket costing him in New York, and brake problems in Pennsylvania. Whibley has finished ahead of Strang the last four races and since both riders have a tendency to finish strong and rise to the occasion, it’s clear that the final rounds will host some of the best battles of the year and the points will become more crucial each weekend.
Kanney currently sits in fifth place in the point standings and looks to make up the twenty-point deficit to Kailub Russell in fourth.
In between the racing action, fans can sample the terrain themselves, as Yamaha and Can-Am will have 2012 models available to test ride on a closed course and Polaris will have their 2012 models to check out on display as well. The pits will include a plethora of activities for the family – including truck rides, a mechanical bull and the annual Ironman swap meet, where racers and fans are encouraged to clean out their garages and work shops for a no-permit-necessary swap meet sale in the pits.
ATVs will compete throughout the day on Saturday, October 22 and dirt bikes will race all day Sunday, October 23. Local riders are invited to race the event as well, as GNCC racing offers classes for riders of all skill and experience levels. The amateur racer entry fee is $40 and riders can sign up at the track.
Spectator passes run $15 for the full weekend, with pro pit access and pro autographs at no additional charge. On both Saturday and Sunday, youth riders race at 8 a.m., beginner riders race at 10 a.m., and the top amateurs and the pros race at 1 p.m.
The track is located south of Crawfordsville off Route 47. For more information and complete directions to the event, please visit http://www.gnccracing.com.