Millfield, OH ? For the first time in years, the hottest property in Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Racing isn’t one of the Killer B’s of Bill Ballance and Chris Borich. GT Thunder’s Chris Jenks is on fire, and he used another smart, solid run at the Wiseco John Penton GNCC to score his second-straight GNCC win. And he’s creeping back into the points chase, too. Jenks, who lives only a half hour from the Sunday Creek Raceway motocross facility that hosted the race, has everything going his way.
“I’m ready to do two more laps!” said Jenks after the race. “I’m pumped up and ready to go. I know I can run this pace. Anything can happen out here, you just have to ride as hard as you can and hope the cards unfold for you. That was the name of the game today.”
It was another wild race in the wide-open GNCC Series. Ballance ended up second after leading most of the day. Luck, however, was not on his side. “I’m still waiting for that one race where nothing goes wrong,” said Ballance, the factory Yamaha rider. “I got out there today and pulled away. I had a minute and a half lead. I felt good, I didn’t even feel like I was charging, I was just going smooth. Then my bike choked up. I went to fire it back up, and I must have had a loose connection on the battery or something. I was sitting back there, and I waved and waved hoping somebody would help. Finally one of the guys started pushing me so I could get it bump started. I just lost way too much time there. I just charged the last lap and got back up into second.”
But Ballance had better luck then Borich, who lost the series points lead for the first time this year. Borich took the ITP Holeshot award off the start but bent a tie rod minutes into the race. He changed it and went back out, only to crash hard on his way back. He managed to gut out a tenth.
Meanwhile, impressive rookie pro Duane “The Rock” Johnson impressed even more by notching his first-ever podium with third. “I was training all winter,” said Johnson, who has turned heads this season with a string of top-five finishes. “I didn’t want to get smoked by all of these pro guys. I mainly just wanted to get as many top tens as I could, but the way things have been going, I though I could get up here. Everything went my way on the last lap. We were real close. Going into the last lap I was in fourth, I saw (Chris) Bithell in the woods, broken down. Then we got to a mud hole, and I just saw lappers everywhere, I took my time. I made sure I made a good move, because that’s what cost me last time.”
Johnson was able to displace Yoshimura Suzuki’s William Yokley, who was battling Jenks for the lead on the last lap until he ran into some mechanical problems. This opened the door for another Suzuki rider, privateer Jeremy Rice, to take fourth on his LT-R450. GT Thunder’s Johnny Gallagher took a season-best fifth.
It was a wild race day, which is no surprise since just about every Suzuki GNCC ATV race this year has been exciting. Borich grabbed the holeshot but dropped out when he broke his tie-rod. Then Ballance seized the lead until he stalled his machine and could not restart it. He had to convince lapped riders to help give him a bump start. “It was funny, I was yelling and one guy was like Hey, you’re Bill Ballance! Of course I’ll help you!'” The bumped the machine to life, and Ballance rode like mad to get back into podium contention ? pulling his buddy Gallagher through the pack with him.
Jenks and Yokley took advantage of Ballance’s bad luck, and they went into the last lap dueling for the lead. In one tough mud hole, Yokley nearly got into the lead before his own bad luck set in with some mechanical troubles. From there Jenks put his head down and charged to a very popular win.
“Yokley pushed me the whole last lap, and I didn’t think he was the only one there,” said Jenks. “We came to this bottleneck, and luckily all of my friends pointed me in the right direction. I pinned it through there and skipped it across. Then I got to a field and I looked and there was no one back there.”
Jenks still works a full-time job during the week, and many of his co-workers were on hand to watch him win. “I haven’t rode since Missouri if that tells you anything,” said Jenks. “The weather didn’t work in my favor this week ? it sucked, and I trashed this bike in Missouri and spent all my time getting it together.”
Ballance wasn’t happy to finish second, but he does have the points lead now. “This Yamaha is working so good, and I’m training harder than I ever have. I’m just trying to get my ducks in a row. That last lap I was charging with everything I had. I was just mad. It seems like every race I go to stupid things that have never happened before end up taking us out. With all the things that are going bad, it’s good to get into the points lead. I just felt good out there ? I was pulling away and checking out. All in all it was a good day.”
Johnson credits hard work with his big improvement this year. “Last year I was getting bad holeshots, and now I figured out how to do that. I started running more and trying to eat more healthy. I’ve just done more of everything over the winter ? I’ve got two bikes this year and it’s the first time I’ve ever had two. It really helps.”
In the GNCC morning race, Alba Yamaha’s Traci Cecco got back into victory lane after another big battle with Miller Yamaha’s Angel Atwell. Polaris’ Stephanie Parton was third. Kawasaki rider Marcus Gonzalez was the top utility rider with 11th overall.
The Suzuki GNCC Series continues in three weeks with the Tire Balls Spartan GNCC in Sparta, Kentucky. For more information, log on to GNCCRacing.com.
The AMA-sanctioned Suzuki Grand National Cross Country series is America’s premier off-road racing series. The 13-round series is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. Cross-country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The nearly three-hour long GNCC races lead as many as 1800 riders through tracks ranging from eight to twelve miles in length. With varied terrain including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed. GNCC featured sponsors include Parts Unlimited, Moose, Maxxis, Pirelli, Wiseco, Klotz, FMF, ITP and Tire Balls, and riders compete for over $3 million in series prizes and contingency money. Associate sponsors include Moose Utility Division, Scott, Acerbis, Alpinestars, Cometic, Outerwears, Twin Air, Polisport Plastics, Thor, Motion Pro, Hyper Wheels, Elka Suspension, MotoTee’s, Weekend Warrior, Owens Motorsports, Tom’s Marina Polaris, EK Chain and Laeger’s. Media Sponsors include Dirt Rider Magazine, ATV Sport Magazine, www.ATVRiders.com and Racer X Illustrated. For more information log on to www.GNCCRacing.com.
Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series – Round 7
The Wiseco John Penton GNCC
May 20, 2006
ATV Top Twenty Overall
1. Chris Jenks Washington, WV HON 02:00:42
2. Bill Ballance Oakland, KY YAM 02:02:14
3. Duane Johnson Trenton, MO HON 02:02:45
4. Jeremy Rice Fombell, PA SUZ 02:03:50
5. Johnny Gallagher Aurora, OH HON 02:05:10
6. Andris Lagzdins Baltimore, MD HON 02:06:10
7. Sean Neidlinger Flagtown, NJ HON 02:08:14
8. Ryan Morphew Cookeville, TN HON 02:09:05
9. Bryan Baker Knob Noster, MO HON 02:09:28
10. Chris M Borich Sunbury, PA HON 02:10:04
11. Tyler Lenig Shamokin, PA HON 02:10:11
12. Michael Burrows Gilman City, MO HON 02:10:33
13. Ryan Lane Bicknell, IN HON 02:10:58
14. Mark Notman Hubbard, OH HON 02:11:31
15. Todd Demaree Varsailles, IN HON 02:12:22
16. Donald Ockerman Marshall, IL HON 02:13:06
17. Chris Earlywine Dover, KY HON 02:14:39
18. Kim Kuhnle Newbury, OH YAM 02:14:56
19. Brian W Schmid Colden, NY HON 02:14:58
20. Todd Rothermel Shamokin, PA POL 02:15:03
Suzuki GNCC Points Standings (After 7 of 13 rounds)
1. Bill Ballance 166/2 wins
2. Chris Borich 164/2 wins
3. Chris Jenks 150/2 wins
4. Duane Johnson 112
5. William Yokley 110
6. Chris Bithell 77
7. Michael Houston 68/1 win
8. Adam McGill 67
9. Andris Lagzdins 63
10. Bryan Baker 62