It was a bittersweet day as the 2015 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series (GNCC), presented by Maxxis, an AMA National Championship came to a close for the season in Crawfordsville, Indiana.
Nearly perfect weather conditions surrounded the Ironman Raceway Facility where almost 2,200 riders showed up to compete in America's premier off-road racing series over the course of two days.
As the green flag dropped for the XC1 Pros, it would be N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Jordan Ashburn who jumped out ahead of the rest of the field grabbing the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Holeshot Award. The quick lead allowed Ashburn to be a consistent threat throughout the entire race.
Unfortunately Rocky Mountain ATV/MC KR4/FAR-backed Thad Duvall was involved in a first turn pile up, and once he recovered he was struck with more bad luck with his fuel injector ultimately taking him out of the race.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Josh Strang secured his third overall win and seventh podium finish of the season. Strang was a front-runner throughout the entire three-hours dominating much of the race, and ultimately crossing the finish line with a two minute lead over second.
"Sipes had a crash with a lapper and I was able to further extend my lead," said Strang. "It was really fun riding with those guys early on, and overall it was a good day and a good way to end the year. I'd like to take a moment to say good luck to Takeshi, it's been good to have him here and it's a shame to see him go. I hope he had a good time over here and good luck in whatever he goes on to do."
Japan's Takeshi Koikeda concluded his last full GNCC circuit today as he crossed the finish line eighth in XC1 Pro. Koikeda has spent the last few years competing on the American circuit, and will return to Japan at the end of this month.
"My time in America has been amazing," said Koikeda. "Thank you to the many people who have helped me and to all my sponsors."
AirGroup/Rockstar Energy/Husqvarnas's Ryan Sipes was the second person to see the checkered flag, but it wouldn't be an all-out easy race for him as he fought hard the whole time through lappers.
"I'm committed to this series, and having fun with it," reported Sipes. "I'm getting better, we've still got a little ways to go but we're getting close. I couldn't stay off the ground today and the fifth time I went down today I got together with a lapper pretty hard and our bikes were tangled up. I was for sure that I had the speed to win today and I just need to stay off the ground."
Ashburn was able to hold onto third overall, making it his seventh top five finish this season.
"This season has been rough compared to last year," said Ashburn. "We struggled early on and finally got everything dialed in over summer break. I worked hard all break and the results really proved that."
The XC2 Pro Lites race was a battle from beginning to end with DirtWise/Maxxis/KLIM's Jason Thomas barely edging out the competition in the fight for the $100 Hot Cams XC2 Holeshot Award. In the end it would be E&H Honda's Trevor Bollinger standing in the middle of the box for the first time this season. He was followed by Thomas in second and Factory Beta's Jesse Groemm in third.
"I was actually contemplating on racing next year, and I'm sure I'll be back now," said Bollinger. "My plan is to stay in XC2 and try for the championship in 2016."