Charlie Mullins Wins GNCC Season Opener, Josh Strang 3rd.


Less than thirty minutes away from the Daytona Bike Week festivities, the 2014 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Maxxis and sanctioned by AMA, kicked off its 13-round series with the inaugural running of the Moose Racing Mud Mucker GNCC.

The event held true to its name as Sunday's motorcycle competition saw some of the most grueling conditions in cross-country racing. After three hours of battle, Factory FMF/KTM's Charlie Mullins edged out a stacked field of XC1 Pros to capture the first overall win of the 2014 season.

Sunday's Mud Mucker GNCC was one of the most highly anticipated season openers in recent history. Rocky Mountain ATV*MC/AmPro Yamaha's Josh Strang shot out to grab the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Holeshot Award, with AmPro Yamaha's Paul Whibley and Rockstar Energy/WMR/KTM's Ryan Sipes close behind.

Incredibly, the riders who dominated last year's championship, the Factory/FMF/KTM duo of Mullins and defending GNCC National Champion Kailub Russell, were down in a heap in turn one, complete with bent bars and parts sent flying everywhere. XC1 Pro Class contenders Steward Baylor and Andrew Delong were down as well, setting up drama-filled charges through the pack.

Mullins wouldn't be denied, however. The 2011 GNCC champ quickly made his way from nearly last into the lead position by the second lap. From there, Mullins engaged in a heated battle with Whibley that lasted for nearly an hour, with Whibley, the two-time champion from New Zealand, getting the lead back.

Down the stretch, Mullins made the right moves to get away, completing an impressive charge from down on the ground to the center of the Maxxis Victory Lane. Mullins also claimed an extra $150 by laying down the KR4 Performance Fastest Lap Award on Lap 2.
Josh Strang Captured the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Holeshot Award - Photo: Ken Hill
Whibley, who spent much of last year battling an injury, was happy to start the year with a solid second place finish. A furious battled for third emerged between Strang and's Thad DuVall. They battled down to the final field section, with Strang grabbing the final podium position by less than one second.

DeLong and Baylor also put in strong comebacks to capture fifth and sixth overall. Whibley's N-Fab/AmPro Yamaha teammate Jordan Ashburn was seventh, with Sipes, in his full-season GNCC debut, showing impressive speed and strength to score eighth place in the class. As for Russell, he, like Mullins, worked his way all the way back to the lead pack, but ran into mechanical problems on the muddy course.

Fighting through the adversity and nursing it home for points, he salvaged fourteenth overall. Former Japan National Cross Country Series Champion and Pro Motocross/Supercross rider Takeshi Koikeda rounded out the XC1 top ten.

XC2 Podium: (left) Ricky Russell, Rory Mead, (right) Shane Hufford - Photo: Ken Hill
The XC2 Pro Lites Class was perhaps even crazier.

KR4 Performance's Shane Hufford was running the race of his career by leading most of the way after grabbing the $100 American Kargo XC2 Holeshot Award. But Raines Riding University/'s Ricky Russell made a run to the front.

But the muddy course created a race of survival, and Maxxis/KLIM/DirtWise KTM Race Team's Rory Mead, who was barely even hanging in the top five early on, steadily worked his way forward and snagged the lead on the next-to-last lap. Like Mullins in XC1, Mead's patience and tenacity paid off with a win. Ricky Russell was second and Hufford nearly collapsed of exhaustion at the finish, but still took third in the class.

The 2014 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series returns next weekend, March 15 and 16 in Washington for the Maxxis General GNCC. .

XC1 Event Results:
1. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
2. Paul Whibley (YAM)
3. Josh Strang (YAM)
4. Thad DuVall (HON)
5. Andrew Delong (HSQ)
6. Steward Baylor (KTM)
7. Jordan Ashburn (YAM)
8. Ryan Sipes (KTM)
9. Kailub Russell (KTM)
10. Takeshi Koikeda (HON)
XC1 Pro Podium: (left) Paul Whibley, Charlie Mullins, (right) Josh Strang - Photo: Ken Hill
XC2 Event Results:
1. Rory Mead (KTM)
2. Ricky Russell (YAM)
3. Shane Hufford Jr (KTM)
4. Trevor Bollinger (HON)
5. Chris Douglas (KTM)
6. Grant Baylor (KTM)
7. Callan May (YAM)
8. Garrett Edmisten (KAW)
9. Kyle Hangos (KTM)
10. Michael McGinnis (KTM)

Overall National Championship Standings:
1. Charlie Mullins (30)
2. Paul Whibley (25)
3. Josh Strang (21)
4. Thad DuVall (18)
5. Andrew Delong (16)
6. Steward Baylor (15)
7. Jordan Ashburn (14)
8. Rory Mead (13)
9. Ricky Russell (12)
10. Shane Hufford (11)

Top Image: Charlie Mullins grabbed an extra $150 by laying down the KR4 Performance Fastest Lap Award on Lap 2

Credit: Ken Hill

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