Cranberry, PA -The Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series drew more racers and spectators this year than ever before, so the big blowouts that marked the end of the 2007 season--the annual GNCC Banquets--were also bigger than ever. Over 1200 riders, friends, families and fans attended the shows at the Four Points Sheraton in Cranberry, Pennsylvania. The banquets--held on Friday night for ATVs and Saturday night for motorcycles--recognize the top-ten riders in every GNCC class and also present a variety of specialty awards to riders as voted on by their fellow racers.
Among the awards, GNCC Champions David Knight and Bill Ballance were voted Riders of the Year. The bike ranks voted Kawasaki privateer Garrett Edmisten as the Most Improved Rider for finishing fifth in the final standings. Ironically, GNCC Womens' Champion Amanda Mastin won the Sportsman of the Year Award for putting together fund-raisers for the U.S. ISDE Team. PowerSport GrafX's Bart Hayes won Sport Ambassador of the Year for his positive contributions to the series, and photographer Jason Hooper won the Media Excellence Award. The Hard Luck Award went to GNCC Scoring Official Chris Dudley, who was hit by riders in two different incidents this year. The Hardcore Racing Youth Team won the Rough `N Ready Pit Crew Award, and the Good Samaritan Award went to Keith Jeziorski, who stopped during his race at Loretta Lynn's to help an injured rider.
On ATVs, XC2 Pro Am Champion Brandon Sommers won the Most Improved Award, with funny man Adam McGill winning the Sportsman Award for his fun-loving attitude--and of course McGill cracked everyone up with his acceptance speech. Vet A Champion Jeff Miller won the Good Samaritan Award for raising money to help an injured racer in his own class, and the Sport Ambassador of the Year Award went to QuadZone.com, a site made of GNCC members. The Hard Luck Award went to youth racer Jesi Stracham. The Award of Media Excellence went to ATVInsider.com, a newspaper which provides first-rate coverage of GNCC ATV racing. The Rough `N Ready Pit Crew Award went to the team of Ronald Wright and Larry Kirkland.
A highlight of the evening came from the annual "Best Bod" contest, in which racers in the GNCC Women's classes nominate six GNCC males to compete for the trophy. McGill's strip tease won the award on Friday for ATVs, and XC2 Lites contender Thad DuVall won on bikes--his dancing skills certainly aiding him there.
Racer Productions also created Championship rings for Ballance and Knight, complete with eight diamonds for Ballance celebrating his championships, and one for Knight celebrating his first. Ballance also presented the Youth Rider of the Year Award to ATV Youth Champion Dylan Bradford, asking Bradford when he planned on switching to a Yamaha, to which Bradford showed no interest. Yamaha fans were happier on Saturday, when eight-time GNCC Champion Barry Hawk handed out the bike Youth Rider of the Year Award to Walker Fowler, but this time Fowler used the opportunity to announce he is switching to Yamahas on both bikes and ATVs next season.
Yamaha's good news continued when they claimed the Manufacturer's Cup on bikes, based on the top-two overall finishes for each brand at each race. American Honda won the Manufacturer's Cup on ATVs.
Sponsor of the Year on both nights went to series title sponsor Can-Am, which provided the funding for the GNCC TV Series to air on Versus. Can-Am's Bernard Guy was on hand to accept the award, and he also handed out $2,500 checks to each of Can-Am's ATV class champions: Michael Swift, Cliff Beasley and Rick Cecco.
Racer Productions also memorialized members of the GNCC racing family who had been lost throughout the year; Chris Earlywine, Lee Hammond, Gus Larson and Robert Patterson.
The top five riders in each class received piles of contingency product from GNCC sponsors. Class Champions were also picked at random to win a variety of prizes, including Elka Suspension, Laeger's steering stems, Tire Balls, Risk Racing stands and Hiper Technology wheels.
All that winning added to the fun, but the banquet really presented one more chance for each member of the GNCC racing family to hang out around the holidays. Once the banquet closed, DJ Jeff Horton (the Maxxis Man) spun songs as riders, friends, fans and families danced late into the night. GNCC racers stay up late celebrating at the banquet, but they'll surely be in bed early getting ready to race when the 2008 season begins in March in Vero Beach, Florida.