It's been a season of upsets in the Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series, but all year long six-time GNCC ATV Champion Bill Ballance has remained confident that he is still the man in the series. Ballance was just hoping for a clean race to prove himself again, and he finally got it at the Spartan GNCC in Sparta, Kentucky, taking his third win of the season on his factory Yamaha YFZ450.
"This is what we had been looking for all season long," said Balance, who won another close one. "I know I'm in the best physical shape of my life. I can ride the whole race and not get tired. It's just a matter of not having stupid little things happen, and today it finally came together for us."
But the competition put up one heck of a fight, as LTERacing.com's rookie threat Chris Bithell put in another inspired ride and fought Ballance all the way through the last lap. "I had a good start and I just tried to ride smart and stay with them," said Bithell. "At one point Bill and Chris (Jenks) tried to make a run and they started to get away, but then they made a mistake and I was back on them. On the last lap, Bill made a couple mistakes in the trees and I almost got around. I was just pushing as hard as I could to get that win, but he rode really well." East Coast ATV Honda's Chris Borich ended up third after a come-from-behind effort.
After grabbing the $100 ITP Holeshot Award, Ballance jetted away out front. The pack stayed close all day, but GT Thunder's Chris Jenks made the big move by pitting a lap later than everyone else to take the lead. Jenks was trying to win his third GNCC in a row, but Ballance managed to catch up to him and then pass him when Jenks had to pit on lap three. "I knew he had to pit, so I just tried to get close to him," said Ballance. "It was a good strategy on his part. I just didn't need to take any chances and force it since he was going to pit."
When Jenks pitted on lap three he dropped back to third, but instead of mounting a charge, he made a few mistakes and dropped back.
"Just wasn't my day I guess," said Jenks. "I made too many mistakes. I couldn't keep it out of the trees."
On the last lap Jenks came under fire from Borich, who was charging hard after crashes of his own. "I didn't get a good start and the track was so tight, it was hard to make up ground on these guys," said Borich. "A holeshot would have helped today. I'm happy to get in here in third, I was pretty far back. I just charged as hard as I could on the last lap. Chris and I had a good battle, he made a mistake and we ended up wedged between the trees. I just couldn't make up the time after that."
"I apologized to Chris for that one," said Jenks. "I have respect for all of these guys."
Borich accepted a third-place finish, but the former series points leader knows he needs to win again to prevent Ballance from getting on a roll.
Team Excell Motorsports/DeRisi Racing rider Bryan Cook put in his best ride of the season to finish fourth. After a shoulder injury early in the year, Cook is marching his way back to the front. "I'm just trying to get the mindset back," said Cook. "It feels really really good to get back up here in the top five."
Jenks was fifth and Yoshimura Suzuki's William Yokley ended up sixth after a horrible start. "I don't know what happened," said Yokley, who rides the LT-R450 Suzuki. "I thought I had it all ready, but it just didn't crank on the line. We're just learning things with this new machine. The track was so tight it was hard to get around guys, and I didn't want to start pushing people out of the way or end up getting myself hurt."
In the GNCC morning race, Alba Yamaha's Traci Cecco took another overall win on her factory Yamaha YFZ. Polaris' Stephanie Parton took second overall on an Outlaw 500, and Novice rider Glenn Pritchard put in the best race of his career with third overall. Michael Shelley was the top utility rider with 12th overall.
The Suzuki GNCC Series continues in two weeks with the Parts Unlimited Wisp GNCC in Deep Creek, MD. For more information, log on to GNCCRacing.com.
|Results: Suzuki Grand National Cross Country Series|
|Round 8 - The Tire Balls Spartan GNCC|
|ATV Top Twenty Overall|
|1. Bill Ballance||Oakland, KY||YAM||01:59:40|
|2. Chris Bithell ||Irwin, PA||HON||01:59:42|
|3. Chris Borich||Sunbury, PA||HON||02:00:15|
|4. Bryan Cook ||Casar, NC||HON||02:00:18|
|5. Chris Jenks||Washington, WV||HON||02:00:21|
|6. William Yokley||Thompkinsville, KY||SUZ||02:02:14|
|7. Duane Johnson||Trenton, MO||HON||02:02:17|
|8. Brent Sturdivant||Montrose, WV||HON||02:02:19|
|9. Tyler Lenig||Shamokin, PA||HON||02:03:00|
|10. Michael Houston||Hickory, NC||HON||02:03:58|
|11. Brandon Ballance||Oakland, KY||YAM||02:04:00|
|12. Johnny Gallagher||Aurora, OH||HON||02:04:06|
|13. Santo Derisi||Casar, NC||HON||02:05:25|
|14. Kyle Martin||Winona, MO||HON||02:05:51|
|15. Jarrod Mcclure||Kaska, PA||HON||02:05:56|
|16. Rob Hertz||Brookhaven, PA||HON||02:06:22|
|17. Ryan Morphew||Cookeville, TN||HON||02:06:26|
|18. Bryan Baker||Knob Noster, MO||HON||02:06:35|
|19. Jeremy Rice||Fombell, PA||SUZ||02:06:45|
|20. Andris Lagzdins||Baltimore, MD||ROL||02:06:54|
Suzuki GNCC Points Standings (After 8 of 13 rounds)
1. Bill Ballance 196/3 wins
2. Chris Borich 185/2 wins
3. Chris Jenks 166/2 wins
4. Duane Johnson 126
5. William Yokley 125
6. Chris Bithell 102
7. Michael Houston 79/1 win
8. Adam McGill 67
9. Bryan Baker 65
10. Andris Lagzdins 64