The days leading up to the Steele Creek GNCC in Morganton North Carolina, I looked out the window at the lake that was once my backyard due to quite a few days of heavy rains. I sat there trying to figure out how I could possibly prepare myself for the sloppy mess ahead of me. As it downpours on Thursday night, I am bummed and my sister Jodi and team manager Kevin Johnston are jumping for joy as they prefer the sloppy racetracks. As I arrived to the track, I was surprised to see that for the first time since I started racing, Steele Creek was actually dry.
As the youth race was underway, I was scrambling to get my quad together for the morning race. I eventually headed up to the starting line only to find out that the women's class would end up starting on the 2nd row once again. As Angel Atwell and Traci Cecco battled for the holeshot, I was trying to start my quad and ended up dead last off the line. Once I finally got going, I started to pick off riders on that first lap and began gaining confidence. But that confidence was soon forgotten. About 2 miles into the track I crashed hard and got trapped under my quad, screaming frantically for help. Unfortunately, I forgot where I was and what I was doing. I went 4 laps trying to figure out what I was doing when I hit a tree and started seeing double, that's when I decided I'm done with this race. I had a minor concussion and was certainly not happy. As the race came to an end, it would be Wyatt Westmoreland, a Sportsman A/B rider to take the overall even though this class cannot officially gain points. KTM's Angel Atwell ended up with the official overall win in her 3rd consecutive victory of the season. Lexie Coulter would end up in the official number 2 spot rounding out the morning podium with Yamaha's Traci Cecco in third.
I have to admit, my head was killing me and the Oakhill Fire and Rescue squad wanted me to go to the emergency room to get checked out. I told them thanks for their services, but I had a race report to write. I went to the starting line for the afternoon race and told my usual boys good luck and found a place to watch the start from. Donnie Ockerman grabbed the Pro holeshot followed closely by Brandon Sommers. As the Pro Class came around for lap 1, it would be Ockerman in the lead. But it would not be easy to hold as he had Ryan Lane, Brian Cook, Adam McGill, and Brandon Sommers all breathing down his neck. In the Pro Am class it was a heated battle between Josh Kirkland and Brian Wolf. In College A Walker Fowler was experiencing some new competition coming from the #75 of Patrick Burch. As the race wore on, Ockerman experienced some minor malfunctions, which left a doorway open for McGill and Cook to take over the lead. It was an all out battle between the two for the rest of the race. In the end, it was privateer Brian Cook who would take his first win of the season, followed by KTM's Adam McGill. This heated battle literally came down to the very last turn of the race and all of the fans were cheering and screaming. All Brian could say on the podium was, "this feels awesome!"
Our 3rd place finisher brought a lot of emotion throughout the crowd. It was his first podium finish of the season. The 9-time GNCC Champion of Yamaha's Bill Ballance would round out the podium. The Yamaha crew had gathered around Bill making sure he was okay. You could feel all the emotion pouring from around this group of people. Everyone was ecstatic and overly joyed to see the "Champ" return to the box. "The last three months have been pretty tough," said an emotional Ballance. "I was thrown a little bit of a curveball (at the beginning of the season) and I was wondering if we'd ever be back in this place again."
In the Pro Am class, it would be Josh Kirkland with the win, but it wasn't easy for him. He had Brian Wolf steal the lead from him in the 3rd lap and he took what he thought should be his back. Kirkland would take his 2nd win for the season. Kirkland was followed by Wolf, Eric Hoyland, Dustin Canipe, and Gabe Phillips at the finish. The College A class is showing amazing young talent this season as Walker Fowler won the class by 5 minutes. Jamie Bithell was scanned the first lap in 13th and by the end of the race he pulled off a 2nd place finish.
The next stop on the series calendar is on April 4th at the Big Buck in Union, South Carolina. It will for sure be one to remember, as it will also be the first stop for the UTV racers. I will see you in two weeks.