UNION — The AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, an AMA National Championship, 2018 season opener took place the weekend of February 24th and 25th, in Union, South Carolina with the VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC. One of the oldest rounds on the circuit (established 1997), the Big Buck celebrated 22 years of GNCC Racing. A total of 73 female racers lined up to compete over the weekend, with 10-time ATV champion Traci Pickens and 2017 defending bike champion Tayla Jones taking the wins in the premier WXC Pro classes.
The Big Buck course is a classic GNCC, with wide-open grass tracks to tight pine forests and everything in-between. Despite being in South Carolina, there is no sand, and the majority of the trails are hard packed clay, with exposed roots and the occasional rocky section presenting some challenges. Rain in the week before helped keep the moisture high and the dust low in the wooded sections, to the delight of the 1,908 total racers that competed over the weekend.
Conditions for the ATV race on Saturday were near perfect, with most riders reporting good traction and limited dust. Shamokin, Pennsylvania’s Traci Pickens took the holeshot and as she said before, “tried to set a good steady pace to the finish.” Her strategy paid off, as Pickens would stay in front for the entire race. Ohio’s Sadiee Gorrell was second heading into the woods, with New York native Katelyn Osburn third.
Megan Shepherd out of Marion, Ohio, stayed right on Osburn and was able to make a pass in the first field section, moving her into third place. However, before the end of the first lap, Osburn would take a better line through the woods to take the position back. Osburn then made the pass on Gorrell in the field section before the barrels, moving her up to second place. Gorrell came through the barrels in third, with Shepherd still in fourth despite catching a root. Kara Short, also hailing from New York, who was racing a different machine for the first time, rounded out the top five.
Pickens continued to expand her lead over the rest of the riders on the second and third laps.
Meanwhile, Gorrell hung with Osburn through much of lap two before an incident causing her steering stem to twist. Gorrell tried her best to continue pushing for the remainder of the race, but the damage would eventually drop her back to a sixth place finish for the day. Shepherd moved into third following Gorrell’s misfortune.
Near the end of the third lap, Pennsylvania’s Alicia McCormick, who was unable to get her quad to fire up off the start, would pass Shepherd to take over the final podium spot. From this point onward, the top three held their positions for the remainder of the race. Though Osburn made a heroic push to catch Pickens, dropping a minute-plus gap down to 29 seconds, she was unable to get the job done, and Pickens’ steady pace would win the day. Afterwards Osburn admitted that she was happy to start off the season with a second, and “looks forward to a great year battling it out with some fast ladies.”
Pickens was optimistic as well, stating “[the] Big Buck track was a lot of fun and a bit tighter in some sections than usual. I’m very happy with how my day went. We still need to make a few bike adjustments, but I’m looking forward to round two.” McCormick was unable to recover fully from the bad start and ended up finishing quite a ways back from the other two in third, but still with a decent gap over third, and commented that “[t]he track was super fun and my setup was on point! I’m excited to move on to round two with some valuable points.”
Shepherd took fourth, resulting in one of her better finishes to date, and Short settled for fifth, despite dropping out of the top five briefly following an incident on the third lap when a rock got lodged in her front brake.
In the ATV Girls (8-15) class, 12 year-old Morgan Johnson finished first, followed by Alexis Keyes (also 12) in second, and Gabrielle Lemley (age 15) rounding out third. Pennsylvania’s Hannah Hunter was the fastest overall ATV amateur woman racer, defeating 12 other competitors.
Just before the start of the bike race on Sunday, the skies opened up, pouring down rain hard for nearly ten minutes. Although the worst of the weather took place before the start of the race, it sprinkled intermittently throughout the rest of the morning. No bike-swallowing mudholes formed, but the roots and clay grew significantly more slippery, providing some extra challenges for the WXC Pro bike riders. Australia’s Mackenzie Tricker took the holeshot, followed by Becca Sheets of Ohio and Tayla Jones, also from Australia.
Early on in the first lap, Jones would make a pass on Sheets to take over second position. Shortly thereafter, both would pass Tricker to take the lead. The front runners mostly hung together through the rest of that first lap, but near the end, Sheets passed Jones back for the lead, and returning WXC champion Maria Hahn-Forsberg worked her way up from a fifth place start into second, a mere ten seconds ahead of Jones. Tricker came through in fourth, with Maryland’s Brooke Cosner hot on her heels in fifth.
On the second lap, a triple clamp issue requiring a pit stop effectively took Forsberg out of the lead pack, before a crash resulting in a concussion and dislocated thumb on the last lap would take her completely out of the race. After Forsberg dropped back, first-time WXC contender and Ohio native Korie Steede moved up into fifth where she would remain for the duration of the race. In addition to this being her first race in the WXC class, it was the 16-year old’s first race on a full-size machine. She revealed later that although nerves got the best of her on the start, she had a blast her first time out and will be “working to improve every weekend!”
Sheets continued to maintain and extend her lead the next few laps over Jones, who had several rough encounters with lappers, while still maintaining a decent gap over third. In the battle for third and fourth, Cosner took the lead after Tricker was snagged by a vine and took a tumble over the handlebars. For the remainder of the race, Tricker steadily chipped away at Cosner’s 3rd place position, before finally making a pass on the last lap for the final podium spot. According to Tricker, “I crashed a couple times due to lappers and bad line choices, but we are way ahead of where I was at Big Buck last year. Just got to keep on progressing.”
Jones knew going into the last lap that less than a minute separated her from Sheets, and instead of playing it safe and taking the second, decided to “put her head down and hold it wide open.” Combined with Sheets’ fading clutch, the two came into the final three corners virtually bar-to-bar. With neither racer willing to yield an inch of ground, a collision was inevitable. Both riders went down hard, but Jones would recover quicker and go on to take the win. Jones later relayed “[i]t got pretty hectic going into the final three corners… but all ‘round I had a great race and it was a lot of fun battling all day!”
In the ensuing wreck, the fuel in Sheets’ tank was pushed to one side and she could not restart her bike. Assuming all of the gas had spilled out in the crash, Sheets, her mechanics and several bystanders were able to push her machine through the remainder of the course quick enough to hold on to second place. Becca reflected, “I was able to finish second for the day after holding a long lead. It honestly was a great race and a great way to start off the season!”
In the Bike Girls (8-15) class, 13 year-old Jocelyn Barnes took the win, followed by Prestin Raines (also 13) in second and Marina Cancro (age 15) in third. West Virginia’s Olivia Judy was the top overall Bike amateur woman, defeating 10 other racers, while Alexis Phillips of North Carolina claimed the prize in the Women Novice division.
The 2018 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series resumes next weekend, March 10 and 11, in Palatka, Florida with the Moose Racing Wild Boar GNCC, with ATV and UTV racing on Saturday and bike racing on Sunday.
For more information on the GNCC series, visit the official website at www.gnccracing.com or call (304) 284-0084. Join the conversation on the series Facebook page, follow us on Twitter and Instagram, and be sure to always hashtag #GNCC.
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VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC
Union, South Carolina
Round 1 of 13
February 24 & 25
ATV WXC Pro Event Results
1. Traci Pickens (YAM) GBC / Yamaha / Fly Racing
2. Katelyn Osburn (HON) Spider Graphix
3. Alicia McCormick (SUZ) Ye Olde Cycle Barn
4. Megan Shepherd (HON) Stewart Boys Racing
5. Kara Short (HON) Veteran Family Racing
6. Sadiee Gorrell (YAM) Maxxis / Fivesixo Graphics / Custom Axis / Pierce Performance
7. Jaida Phillips (YAM) GBC / Rekluse
ATV WXC National Championship Standings
1. Traci Pickens (30)
2. Katelyn Osburn (25)
3. Alicia McCormick (21)
4. Megan Shepherd (18)
5. Kara Short (16)
6. Sadiee Gorrell (15)
7. Jaida Phillips (14)
Bike WXC Pro Event Results
1. Tayla Jones (HQV) KR4 / Husqvarna
2. Becca Sheets (KTM) Fly / Maxxis / Seat Concepts / KTM
3. Mackenzie Tricker (KTM) Bonanza Plumbing / KTM
4. Brooke Cosner (YAM) Tely Energy / KTM Supported
5. Korie Steede (GAS) GasGas / FAR
6. Eden Netelkos (KTM) Garden of Eden Racing
7. Shelby Rolen (SUZ) Suzuki RM Army / Iron Pony / FMF
8. Shyann Phelps (KTM)
9. Rachel Gutish (BET) Braap Beta Racing
10. Taylor Johnston (KTM) Trail Jesters / KTM / FMF
Bike WXC Pro National Championship Standings
1. Tayla Jones (30)
2. Becca Sheets (25)
3. Mackenzie Tricker (21)
4. Brooke Cosner (18)
5. Korie Steede (16)
6. Eden Netelkos (15)
7. Shelby Rolen (14)
8. Shyann Phelps (13)
9. Rachel Gutish (12)
10. Taylor Johnston (11)
About GNCC Racing
The AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series (“GNCC”) is America’s premier off-road racing series, featuring motorcycles, ATVs and Side-by-Sides, for men, women and children of all ages. Founded in 1975, the 13-round championship is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. Cross country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The grueling three-hour GNCC races lead as many as 2,400 riders through trails ranging in length from 8 to 12 miles. With varied terrain, including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed, drawing talent from all over the United States, Central America, South America, Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. GNCC Racing is televised on NBC Sports and RacerTV.com. For more information, visit www.gnccracing.com.
About The American Motorcyclist Association
Founded in 1924, the AMA is a not-for-profit member-based association whose mission is to promote the motorcycle lifestyle and protect the future of motorcycling. As the world’s largest motorcycling rights and event sanctioning organization, the AMA advocates for riders’ interests at all levels of government and sanctions thousands of competition and recreational events every year. The AMA also provides money-saving discounts on products and services for its members. Through the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, the AMA honors the heroes and heritage of motorcycling. For more information, visit www.americanmotorcyclist.com. Not a member? Join the AMA today: www.americanmotorcyclist.com/membership/join.