Paul Whibley earned his second career GNCC title after winning the final XC1 Pro round at Loretta Lynn's.
The final round of the 2012 Grand National Cross Country Series took place at Loretta Lynn’s legendary ranch in Hurricane Mills, Tennessee. Entering the contest AmPro Yamaha’s Paul Whibley and FMF/KTM’s Kaliub Russell were neck-and-neck in the championship race, with only one point separating the two. Russell had the advantage going into the contest, but in the end it was Whibley who took the race win and the 2012 title. Russell managed to battle back after an early set-back to finish second followed by Whibley’s teammate Jordan Ashburn who rounded out the podium.
Whibley pushed hard from the start, looking to make up for a disappointing round in the previous contest in Indiana
where a penalty left him fifth overall. The Yamaha
rider scored his thirteenth consecutive MotoSport.com Holeshot Award and went nearly uncontested out front to earn his second career title.
"I just rode my own race today and couldn't ask for the season to end a better way," Whibley said. "It's been an awesome year, we've had some huge battles with a lot of the guys and it's been exciting for the fans being this close down to the final round."
Fans were waiting for Whibley and Russell to battle hard for the win, but after an early crash that put the KTM
rider close to last place. He remained resolute though and by the end of the first lap had recovered to fourth. He continued to push for position and finally made it up to second on the final lap, but Whibley’s gap was too wide and Russell couldn’t make up enough ground to have a shot at the championship.
Kaliub Russell suffered an early set-back at Loretta Lynn's and finished the season second overall.
“I’m disappointed that I didn’t win the championship today,” said Russell. “Finishing so close in the championship points just makes me want to work that much harder to be on top next year.”
Ashburn, in his rookie season, earned his second podium finish of the year and moved up to sixth in overall points standings.
"It's been a lot of hard work all year," Ashburn said. "Heading into this race, I was looking for a top five finish. But when I started following Paul, I realized I could run his pace."
/Offroadchampions.com’s Thad DuVall had a similar experience as Russell, falling behind early and having to battle through the ranks. He finished the day in fourth, followed by KTM riders Takeshi Koikeda in fifth and Rory Mead in sixth.
Whibley took earned four wins during the 2012 season but his consistent podium placements in other rounds left him with a four-point advantage over Russell in the final tally. Mead ends the season in third, with DuVall holding to fourth and KTM’s Charlie Mullins in fifth.
"You can't really compare this championship to the last one in 2009, I really didn't know what I was getting myself into back then," said Whibley. "To win the championship it was a dream come true and then to get it taken away the next year consumes you and all you want is that number one plate back. So to finally get there, it's awesome. It's hard to put into words the feelings and emotions and what we've been through to get here and hold this number one plate again."
Loretta Lynn’s GNCC XC1 Pro Results 2012:
Loretta Lynn's GNCC XC1 Pro podium with Paul Whibley (center) in first, Kaliub Russell (left) in second and Jordan Ashburn (right) in third.
1. Paul Whibley (Yamaha)
2. Kaliub Russell (KTM)
3. Jordan Ashburn (Yamaha)
4. Thad DuVall (Honda)
5. Takeshi Koikeda (KTM)
6. Rory Mead (KTM)
7. Adrian Smith (Yamaha)
8. Nathan Kanney (Honda)
9. Brenden Ritzman (Honda)
10. Chris Bach (Yamaha)
GNCC XC1 Pro Championship Points 2012:
1. Paul Whibley, 320
2. Kaliub Russell, 316
3. Rory Mead, 234
4. Thad DuVall, 229
5. Charlie Mullins, 198
6. Jordan Ashburn, 196
7. Chris Bach, 168
8. Nate Kanney, 156
9. Takeshi Koikeda, 155
10. Garrett Edmisten, 153
Jason Thomas took the XC2 Pro Lites title after finishing second at Loretta Lynn's.
Action in the XC2 Pro Lites class was no less intense as KTM’s Jason Thomas and Steward Baylor Jr. faced-off in a battle for the 2012 championship, with only one point separating the two. Neither rider was able to pull off the win at Loretta Lynn’s as Husqvarna
rider Andrew DeLong got to the front early in the race and went on to win by over a minute ahead of Thomas in second. Yamaha rider Jedediah Haines rounded out the podium. At the end of the contest it was Thomas who gained the advantage in overall points, winning the 2012 XC2 Pro Lites title by six over Baylor.
Thomas settled into second soon after the start, maintaining a consistent pace behind DeLong. Baylor, riding with two injuries, was near the back of the pack through the opening turns but had battled through nearly half the pack by the end of the first lap. He held steady in the middle of the field through subsequent laps but a late race charge saw him move up to fourth just before the checkers.
“Of course I wish I would have won the championship today, but second place feels really good after being plagued with injuries all year,” said Baylor. “I would really like to thank all my sponsors and my family for all their support this season.”
Honda’s Scott Grills finished the day in fifth, followed by KTM’s Chris Douglas in sixth and Yamaha’s AJ Stewart in seventh.
Thomas clinched the title with only two race wins to his credit over the season. Baylor appeared to be untouchable early in 2012, winning the first five races in a row, but after some mid-season set-backs has to settle for second. DeLong amassed five race wins overall during the season and finishes third in points, with Haines trailing in fourth and Stewart rounding out the top-five.
Loretta Lynn’s GNCC XC2 Pro Lites Results 2012:
Loretta Lynn's XC2 Pro Lites podium with Andrew DeLong (center) in first, Jason Thomas (left) in second and Jedediah Haines (right) in third.
1. Andrew DeLong (Husqvarna)
2. Jason Thomas (KTM)
3. Jedediah Haines (Yamaha)
4. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
5. Scott Grills (Honda)
6. Chris Douglas (KTM)
7. AJ Stewart (Yamaha)
8. Ricky Mair (KTM)
9. Sam Evans (KTM)
10. Zach Nolan (KTM)
GNCC XC2 Pro Lites Championship Points 2012:
1. Jason Thomas, 291
2. Steward Baylor Jr., 285
3. Andrew DeLong, 280
4. Jedediah Haines, 217
5. AJ Stewart, 159
6. Brad Bakken, 159
7. Jesse Robinson, 156
8. Scott Grills, 139
9. Zach Nolan, 118
10. Michael McGinnis, 118
In GNCC Women’s action, KTM’s Maria Forsberg took her thirteenth consecutive race win of the season. Forsberg had already wrapped up the title with four rounds remaining and now ends the year with a perfect score. KTM’s Samantha Steiner trailed well behind Forsberg in second and Yamaha’s Becca Sheets took third.
Forsberg has had a record-setting year, winner her second X-Games gold medal in Women’s EnduroX over the summer and she now heads back to the AMA EnduroCross Series
where she currently leads in overall points.
Loretta Lynn’s GNCC Women’s Results 2012:
Maria Forsberg made it a perfect season after taking the win in the final round of GNCC Women's racing at Loretta Lynn's.
1. Maria Forsberg (KTM)
2. Samantha Steiner (KTM)
3. Becca Sheets (Yamaha)
4. Britney Gallegos (Kawasaki)
5. Felicia Robichaud (KTM)
6. Sarah Baldwin (KTM)
7. Leann Bange (Yamaha)
8. Samantha Fisher (KTM)
9. Dawn Silvia (KTM)
10. Ashley Copeland (Husqvarna)
GNCC Women’s Championship Points 2012:
1. Maria Forsberg, 180
2. Hanna Otto, 161
3. Becca Sheets, 153
4. Ashley Copeland, 146
5. Leann Bange, 145
6. Rachel Gutish, 130
7. Samantha Steiner, 129
8. Dawn Silvia, 95
9. Samantha Fisher, 91
10. Ashley Crouch, 84