The record-breaking streak to start to the 2023 Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series finally ended, as Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Craig Delong became the first rider to repeat as a winner this year. Previously the series boasted seven winners in the first seven rounds of the season. That’s great for Delong, but the new-winners-streak didn’t go down without a fight! Layne Michael, who has had a rough year with injury on his GasGas/FXR/Scott Goggle ride, nearly pulled it off and became the eighth winner of the season, as he led a lot of the day at the Mason-Dixon GNCC, before ultimately finishing second. That’s still a career best for Michael. Somehow this season is just trending toward the surprise!
“I feel all right, but honestly I didn’t expect to be up front today,” said Michael. “I got back on the bike Wednesday afternoon, I probably only have six hours on the bike since Camp Coker. A bit in shock! I can’t believe I feel this good. I was super lucky and got a good start and I just settled into my pace. Craig was going better than me, but he made a mistake and I got into the lead. I just tried to ride my pace, I didn’t want to wick it up too much. Unfortunately, I just made a small mistake, got off balance, hit a tree and he got around. Then I made another mistake and lost tow, but man, I’m pretty dumb founded right now. I didn’t even expect to race this weekend, so to put it on the box and feel good for three hours, that really caught me off guard. I’m happy with that! I’ve been through a lot, a lot of injuries, and honestly, I’m not even 100 percent right now, but I think the home state fans helped me.”
The win was exceptionally big for Delong, as it vaulted him into the GNCC points lead. Early-season leaders and annual title contenders Steward Baylor Jr. and Ben Kelley both struggled, with Baylor dropping to ninth on the last lap and Kelley crossing the line in sixth.
“This feels awesome – I’m lost for words,” commented DeLong. “Pretty close to a perfect day with the holeshot, then I ran up front, which I felt I could manage. I had a little crash and Layne [Michael] got around me, but reeled him in, he made a mistake, and I was able to bring it home. Two wins this season, we’re in a good spot, and I think that shows everyone what I can do.”
Said Baylor, who lost the points lead:
“Tough day at the Mason Dixon @GNCC_Racing. Bike issues, out of my control. Still in this thing, but frustrated with today.
Big shoutout to the @rmtelyktm team for nailing my pitstops and filter change in the dusty conditions. We’ll be back.”
Ben Kelley said the following in a post-race release from KTM:
“They were tough conditions today, with the heat and dry track. It wasn’t the best start and I struggled with comfort and vision due to the dust. Had a few crashes throughout the day also, but managed to put on a charge after my pit stop and make it up to sixth with a couple of last lap passes.”
“Oh man, I’m usually a good starter and unfortunately one of the races where you really need a good start, I totally botched it,” said third-place finisher Russell. “Just spun sideways and then I was buried. Just, we couldn’t see the first few laps, we were just barely going and looking down at the ground. Then I was kinda stuck behind Stu [Baylor] for a while, he was going good, but those front guys were getting away. I was getting a little bit frustrated, it was just so dusty it was hard to make a move. Once everyone pitted everyone separated out a little bit and I was able to make some moves. Then I saw the podium, but I just came up a little bit short of those leaders, but at least I’m on the box, so I’ll take it.”
Check out the full post-race press release from GNCC Racing below:
MORRIS, Pa. – The Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Specialized, an AMA National Championship, (GNCC Racing) continued on with the Parts Unlimited Mason-Dixon GNCC, round 8 of the 2023 season. The event saw its first repeat winner of the season as Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Craig Delong came through to take the overall win.
Delong would get out front early on in the race, setting the pace and trying to put a gap on the rest of the field. Delong would have company halfway through the race as GASGAS/FXR/Scott Goggle’s Layne Michael was behind him in second. Michael would push Delong and eventually make the pass for the lead while out on the third lap of the race. Delong would make the pass back around Michael and continue to lead until the checkered flag was waving. Delong crossed the line first, making him the first repeat winner of the 2023 season. Michael would hold on for second overall on the day.
AmPro Yamaha’s Ricky Russell would have a mid-pack start to the day as he came through sixth on the first couple of laps. Russell would continue to push towards the front, eventually making his way to third overall as the checkered flag flew.
Magna 1 Motorsports/Husqvarna’s Jordan Ashburn would find himself inside the top three early on in the race, but he would be unable to hold off Russell as he came through to take that third spot away. Ashburn would continue to push, finishing fourth overall at the eighth round of racing.
Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Grant Baylor steadily made his way into fifth overall by the end of the race. Baylor would push through the first part of the race, as he made his way up from a seventh place starting position. FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Ben Kelley was able to make a last lap charge to earn sixth overall on the day after a rough race with dry and dusty conditions.
FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Jonathan Girroir also had a rough day as he came through seventh in the XC1 Open Pro class. Rocky Mountain/Tely Energy/KTM Racing’s Steward Baylor would finish behind Girroir in eighth, ninth overall. Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Trevor Bollinger made his return to racing after some lingering injuries earlier this season. Bollinger would finish ninth in XC1 and 11th overall. Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Josh Strang rounded out the top 10 finishers in the XC1 Open Pro class, but he would come through 14th overall on the day.
AmPro Yamaha’s Liam Draper battled throughout the race, coming through to earn his first XC2 250 Pro class win of the season. Draper would start his day third on the opening lap with FMF RPM KTM Racing’s Angus Riordan leading the way. Draper would soon make the pass on Riordan and continue to push at the front of the pack. With two laps remaining, Draper continued to hold the lead, and would take the checkered flag first. Riordan would hold on for second in the XC2 class, while Phoenix Racing Honda’s Ruy Barbosa had worked his way up to third in the class after a ninth place start to his day.
In the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am Class it was Beaver Creek Cycles/Bells Electric/Wossner Piston’s Toby Cleveland earning his fifth win of the season and continuing to further his points lead in the Championship Standings. Hall’s Cycles/Enduro Engineering/Moose Racing’s Jhak Walker would hold second for the duration of the race as he came through 16 seconds behind Cleveland. Liqui Moly Beta Factory Racing’s Jason Lipscomb rounded out the top three in the FMF XC3 class.
Top Amateur honors went to Cooper Jones who finished 21st overall and first in the 250 A class. Joseph Cunningham and Lane Whitmer would round out the top three Top Amateurs in the race as they came through 23rd and 24th overall on the day.
Trail Jesters KTM Racing’s Korie Steede would take home her third WXC class win of the season after a heated battle with AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer throughout the first couple of laps. Archer would hold the early lead, but Steede would continue to push her way into the lead as the two lap board came out. Steede would hold her lines and come through to the checkered flag with a five second lead over Archer, who finished second on the day. GASGAS/Over and Out/RG Factory Racing’s Rachel Gutish came through to round out the top three WXC finishers on the day.
In the youth bike race, it was Ryan Amancio coming away with the overall win and YXC1 Super Mini Sr. (14-15) class win on Sunday morning. Canyon Richards would battle throughout the race, coming through to earn second overall on the day, while Brody Amos came through third overall and in the YXC1 class.
Caleb Wood would come through fourth overall in the race as he took the YXC2 Super Mini Jr. (12-13) class win. Brayden Baisley and Michael Meyer would come through second and third in the class, rounding out the top three YXC2 finishers. Addison Harris battled back to take the Girls Super Mini (12-16) class win in Pennsylvania.
Catch GNCC Pro ATV and Motorcycle Racing free via RacerTV.com all season long. Pro ATV Racing starts Saturday’s at 2pm ET, with the exception of Big Buck, Snowshoe and Ironman events where they will start at 1pm ET. GNCC Pro Motorcycle Racing will begin at 1pm ET on Sunday’s. Later in the year GNCC Racing will premiere on MAVTV with event highlight episodes.
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.
Mt. Morris, Pennsylvania
Round 8 of 12
Sunday, June 5, 2023