Author: Jason Hooper
After seven weeks off from racing due to two cancellations due to weather, there was definitely a buzz in the pits at the Rock Run GNCC in Patton, PA this past weekend. All of the riders and teams were antsy to get back to racing, and with the event being held at a new venue, meaning there were no pre-race favorites coming in to the event.
Privateer Jedediah Haines narrowly edged AmPro Yamaha's Paul Whibley for the $250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award. Haines went so hard for the holeshot line he was barely able to make the first turn, but for a privateer that cash is definitely worth the dropped positions that early in a 3-hour race.
FMF/KTM's Charlie Mullins, who came into the weekend with the series points lead passed Whibley in the 4th turn and started to pull away from everyone in the field except for his championship rival, FMF/Makita Suzuki's Josh Strang. Mullins and Strang led the pack for the first three miles before they both chose a bad line in a mud hole and were passed by a majority of the field.
Whibley inherited the lead at this point with Factory FMF/KTM and MotoSport.com supported rider Kailub Russell in second and Factory Husaberg's Mike Lafferty in third. It wasn't long however before Strang and Mullins began to put pressure on Lafferty and Russell with the two taking over the 2nd and 3rd place positions by the end of the 2nd lap of racing.
The Rock Run course was extremely fast for a GNCC event and as the name would have you believe, there was no shortage of rocks on the course. After a day of ATV racing on Saturday and a few hundred amateur bike racers hitting the course on Sunday morning, the track became dusty in a lot of sections forcing the riders to drop back from the rider in front of them leading to a pretty spread out field throughout the XC1 Pro class.
Pit strategy ended up playing a huge role in the race, as Paul Whibley did not stop in the pits after the 2nd lap of racing choosing to push well past the 1-hour mark on one tank of fuel while just about every rider in the field did pit. This gave him a big lead, but defending champ Josh Strang slowly cut into that lead, and after Whibley stopped for fuel on the 3rd lap the two battled closely with Strang even taking the lead briefly.
Whibley would retake the lead when Strang was forced to pit a 2nd time for fuel and that would be the last the two would see each other on the day. Strang's brakes began to fade and he was forced to drop off the pace of the leader and rather maintain his cushion on 3rd-place rider Charlie Mullins for the remainder of the race.
By the end of the 3-hour event, Whibley had stretched his lead to nearly 2-minutes on Strang who was over 2-minutes ahead of Mullins. Lafferty ended the day in 4th-place, the best GNCC finish for the eight-time National Enduro Champion in the last few years. After having to stop and have his hands taped due to severe blisters, Kailub Russell was able to round out the top-five on his KTM 350 XCF.
Strang's 2nd-place finish was good enough to put him into the series points lead by two points over Charlie Mullins. Paul Whibley remains in 3rd and is now only 20-points back of Strang heading into the 6th round of racing, the Motosport.com Snowshoe GNCC June 26th in Snowshoe, WV.
The XC2 Pro Lites Class ended up having the best racing action of the day, with RockRiver Yamaha's Cody Gragg jumping out to the early lead and earning himself the $100 MotoSport Holeshot Award in the process. Gragg was followed closely by a slew of riders including series points leader Steward Baylor, Jesse Robinson, Brad Bakken, Andrew DeLong and Jason Thomas. A five-way battle ensued for the first half of the race with Robinson and Baylor eventually pulling themselves away from the pack and battling for the entire 3-hour race. Baylor was able to hold off Robinson for the win by just over one second for his 3rd win of the season and extending his points lead to 18 over Jason Thomas, who only a week after dislocating his collarbone finished a solid 5th-place.