A history indebted to capturing the big game, Union County’s Big Buck track will host more than 1,000 racers this weekend who are hunting a victory on America’s biggest off road cross-country racing series.
A field that includes U.S. Championship racers and drivers from eight countries including 38 states and a host of Union County drivers, this event is arguably Union County’s most diverse weekend.
The history of the track begins with the reason behind its name, “Big Buck.”
In 1973, Big Buck owner Henry Turner III purchased the property and he, his dad, and his son, Hank, spent many memorable fall days there together deer hunting.
Turner recalled how the first one to come out of the woods usually built a campfire. As the others gathered around later, the question would arise, “who saw the big buck?”
“My dad always said he’d heard the big buck,” Turner said as he walked along the Big Buck creek banks Thursday afternoon.
While no one yet has seen or bagged the grand buck prize, a passion lives in the Cross Anchor woods for a chance to claim either top prize — the big buck or a GNCC victory at Pirelli Big Buck.
While Turner never raced, Hank lured his father into the sport in 1981.
“I came home from work and Hank told me he wanted a racing go-kart. He was 10 years old then and before I knew it we were at Speedway Park for his first Saturday night kart race,” Turner added.
For the next nine years, the father-son duo traveled the eastern U.S. in the WKA Horstman Gold Cup Series. A true eye-opener for Turner.
“During that time I witnessed the almost explosive growth of kart racing,” Turner said.
Hank invited his father to go while he raced in a Mid East Hare Scramble in 1996.
“I didn’t even know what a hare scramble was but when there I saw the opportunity to be a part of that type racing before it ‘outgrew’ my being involved,” Turner recalled.
A scrap piece of paper turned into a career of hosting national championship events in Union County.
“I left Mid East Series promoter — Buren Hamrick — a note on a scrap of paper offering to host a national event if the opportunity ever presented itself,” Turner said.
Hamrick at the time served as GNCC trail designer for GNCC executive Dave Coombs and after previewing Turner’s Cross Anchor property he had only one question.
“What do you want to name it?”
Hank decided the time had come to share the “Big Buck” with GNCC riders from all over the world.
“No, we never shot the ‘Big Buck,’ and I’ll bet no rider ever claims to have tamed the Big Buck GNCC,” Turner added.
In 1997, the first Big Buck Grand National Cross Country came to Union County.
Now in its 15th annual running of the Grand National Cross Country Pirelli Big Buck event, more than 15,000 racers have made the trek to and around one of the tour’s premier tracks during its history.
In addition to its national competitions, major manufacturers have chosen Big Buck as a site to experiment with upcoming products.
Kawasaki chose Big Buck as a site to introduce their long awaited ATV (then called the V FORCE) to the public. Riders, writers, and Kawasaki officials left Union County satisfied because they had challenged some of the best trails in the world — the GNCC trails of the “Big Buck”.
Turner also recalls one of his favorite drivers — Fast Freddie Andrews — who raced in the inaugural Big Buck event.
“Fast Freddie had bad luck every way he turned, literally. He was racing towards the finish line his first year for a win but laid it down a few hundred yards away,” he recalled.
Andrews experienced several years of bad luck before finally making it to the podium. Fast Freddie finished good enough for a visit to the podium but after an exhausting race he fainted adding to his storybook career at Big Buck.
Racers will take their bumps and falls and experience misfortunes just as Andrews did. Each year, however, racers return to Big Buck for another chance to master the mysterious Big Buck course.