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GNCC RaceDay Picks: Powerline Park

Welcome to a new feature here on digitaloffroad.com, RaceDay Picks. The idea comes from American Beta’s Chris Bach after an interesting twitter bench racing session during the last GNCC round at Mountain Ridge. We figured maybe we should do this on a regular basis but in a fashion that doesn’t limit us to 140 characters or less. So here’s the idea. Each Friday before the race we will get three individuals to provide their picks for the weekend’s race action. Along with the picks each person will provide some insight as to why they’ve made the choices they’ve made. .

To kick off this first edition of RaceDay Picks we’ve brought in the instigators of the Mountain Ridge GNCC twitter bench racing session:

Johnny Gallagher - Factory Yamaha XC1 Pro Racer

Chris Bach - American Beta Factory XC1 Pro Racer

Rob Mitchell - digitaloffroad.com video guy

 

Johnny Gallagher

XC1:

1. Josh Strang
2. Charlie Mullins
3. Kailub Russell
4. Nathan Kanney
5. Paul Whibley

Strang will be a man on a mission this weekend. After giving up the points lead in NY and just squeaking out a Podium in PA after some bike issues, he will stop at nothing to get the win. Mullins is a machine right now, his speed and endurance are top notch but he will wisely play it safe for 2nd Sunday after battling Strang for much of the race. Russell will be in the mix for the lead throughout the race, and ultimately come out on top of a 3 way tussle over the final podium step between himself, Kanney, and Whibs. Nate will finish up the day in 4th after a last lap, final mile pass on Whibs essentially vindicating himself after the near miss at Somerset. I’m also going to go ahead and call out Kanney for the win at Ironman. That’s right I’m on the record 2 weeks early. I really don’t have a good reason for Whibley in the 5 slot except a gut feeling. Please don’t beat me up Paul I honestly hope my gut is wrong!

DARK HORSE: Cory Buttrick could be a spoiler if he is healthy and back on the bike, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up front throughout the race.

XC2:

1. Jordan Ashburn
2. Steward Baylor
3. Jason Thomas
4. Scott Watkins
5. Andrew Delong

There is a lot to be said for momentum, and Ashburn is on one heck of a roll. I see the #16 pulling out his 3rd win in a row after a grueling battle with both, Baylor and Thomas. Stew Baylor had a mid season run that gave him a healthy points lead, but just has not had the same swagger after the summer break. I expect to see him make a big step back this weekend with a solid 2nd place. Jason Thomas will end up 3rd after struggling early and mounting a late race charge. Home state boy Watkins will be 4th, and Delong will round out the top 5 after grabbing the XC2 holeshot and running up front early.

There you have it folks. Please feel free to hit me up on Twitter and tell me how awesome my predictions were after they all come true Sunday. Once again Whibs…. Please don’t beat me up!

Johnny G and Bach both pick Strang for the XC1 Pro win.

Chris Bach

XC1:

1. Josh Strang
2. Charlie Mullins
3. Paul Whibley
4. Kailub Russell
5. Nathan Kanney

Strang: Josh has to make up ground, and quickly. Charlie is strong, so Josh has to plan on winning out these last rounds if he wants to repeat his ‘ship. This track is going to suit guys like Josh and KR with its high speeds, square edges, and dry-slick ground. Everything about this weekend plays into Josh’s favor in my book, and I think he has more motivation this weekend then pressure, so I say there will be a good battle, with Josh edging this one out.

Mullins: Ohio native, yes. Fast, yes. Won PA and NY, yes. BUT, unlike my comment with Ashburn, I don’t think Hotrod’s momentum plays into his favor here. There is a LOT of pressure on Charlie winding down these last couple races. He’s got the speed to do it, but unfortunately, the #1 plate has something to prove and gain this weekend. Charlie will be riding with a massive target on his back, under a lot of pressure, and I think he’ll be strong but I think he’ll be a few mistakes shy of winning this one.

Whibs: The ax man. He won the first PA race at Rock Run, but I don’t think Paul is a proclaimed rock rider but has had strong rides in NY and PA2. He still kind of has a shot at this thing if something crazy happens, and you can never count Whibs out especially on a physically demanding course like this one. With the way this season has gone, anything can happen, and the Ax man will put himself in the best position he can to capitalize on whatever does happen.

Russell: ugh, this is a tough one. If you follow me on twitter, last week I mentioned the tracks I felt KR would excel at, with this on the list as well as other fast, slick, courses(NC/SC/NY). I originally had KR picked higher then this, but I’m waiting to see that late race push from him. We know he can run up front, he can lead, but he just hasn’t finished the job yet. He will be up front this race, and may even lead and check out for a bit, but I think the championship contenders might be on another level late in the race. Hopefully KR can be in the mix, and if anyone can cause an upset, it’ll be the 557.

Kanney: Mr. Consistent this year. Typically this isn’t a track I would pick Kanney to set the world on fire. Nate has been consistent and strong all year, and I think he’s going to ride a pretty quiet race here, looking to stay solid and get to Ironman healthy. Nate has been doing some testing, and has a pretty killer new shock setup from what I’ve heard… But this is a hard track to stand out on, and not favorable to Nate’s ultra technical riding style. Race testing his new shock setup this weekend, preparing to devastate everyone at Ironman.

Bach and Gallagher are also on the same page for the XC2 class...

XC2:

1. Jordan Ashburn
2. Jason Thomas
3. Steward Baylor
4. Andrew Delong
5. Scott Watkins

Ashburn: Gotta go with the kid on this one. He’s got confidence, he’s got momentum, he’s got a good bike, and that is tough to beat especially in a young kid when they get on a roll. Jordan has always had the speed, and its come together these last few races, and I look for it to continue here. I battled with Jordan here in 09 as amateurs, and the conditions will be close to the same. We ran inside top 10 then and I look for Jordan to be in the top 3 overall early in this one.

Baylor: Baylor needs a comeback ride, and in the worst way. I’m shooting long here, but I think if he’s going to do it, its going to be this weekend. South Carolina and North Carolina get some rough square-edged holes, and so does Powerline Park. Hopefully he will feel at home here. I think this may be his last chance to make a strong run, but we will see how he does with the dry-slick conditions.

Thomas: UK will be fast here. He stays in Ohio, he’s familiar with the dirt, and he’s got some ground to make up so he will be on the charge for sure. However, this track gets ROUGH, not Loretta’s rough, but tons of square edged holes, and fairly high speed. I don’t know enough about the Husky setup, or UK’s setup, to be confident he will be able to ride the rough stuff at the level he needs to for a W. I think he’ll be pressuring, but I think he’s gonna be a tick off the pace.

 

Rob Mitchell

XC1:

1. Paul Whibley
2. Josh Strang
3. Kailub Russell
4. Charlie Mullins
5. Nathan Kanney

Since 2008 the XC1 podium at the Powerline Park GNCC has been occupied by the same 3 guys: Whibley, Strang, and Mullins. The streak was broken last year by Husqvarna’s Glenn Kearney when he worked his way up to 2nd place. But who was right behind him in 3rd and 4th place? Josh Strang and Charlie Mullins. I think the race is going to play out much like it did last year. Whibley is currently sitting 3rd in points, 25 points behind points leader Charlie Mullins, and many consider him a long shot to take home the championship this year. The pressure should be off of Whibs allowing him to race his own race and take the top step at the end of the day. I also expect him to come into the race with a little fire inside him after “getting his butt handed” to him by Kailub Russell and Steward Baylor at a local North Carolina series last weekend.

With less pressure on him than his championship rivals Mullins and Strang, Rob is taking Whibs for the W.

Coming up a close 2nd behind Whibs I have Josh Strang. He’s proven in the last two seasons that he can handle the pressure of winning a championship and when the time comes he knows how to seal the deal. Plus he’s always fast at Powerline Park. He needs to turn around the bad luck he’s had the past couple races and chip away at Mullins’ points lead. Fortunately for Strang, KR557 seems to be adapting to the speed of the XC1 class and has been consistently in the mix the second half of the season. I’m looking for him to continue his upward momentum and being in the mix once again. This is fortunate for Strang because in a way he’ll be helping Josh close the points gap on Mullins. Also, as Chris Bach mentioned this track fits Russell’s style and at the end of the day he’ll round out the podium.

Coming in 4th place I have KTM’s Charlie Mullins. He currently holds the points lead and all the championship pressure is on him. He’s an Ohio native and has always done well at the Powerline Park track. But I think we’ll start to see him crack a little bit under the pressure. As we saw last weekend at the National Enduro he didn’t have anything for Russell Bobbitt. I could be reading too much into it but I don’t think Mullins works well in those high pressure situations. Strang will be on a mission and he’ll need to minimize his mistakes and ride smart for the remaining rounds.

XC2:

1. Jason Thomas
2. Jordan Ashburn
3. Steward Baylor
4. Andrew Delong
5. Morgan Moss

As you can see my pick to when the XC2 race is FAR/Husqvarna’s Jason Thomas. The window for him to close the points gap on XC2 rival and points leader, Steward Baylor, is quickly closing. At this point Thomas needs to put as much distance between himself and Baylor if he wants to take home that championship. With all of the work Thomas has been putting in with his trainer, Joel Younkins, and the fact this is home field advantage I expect UK8 to be up front this weekend. JT won’t have it easy though. Jordan Ashburn has the momentum of winning the last three rounds and he’s got to be riding high on confidence right now. It’s definitely going to be a battle to the finish but JT’s got to make something happen and I think that motivation will be the deciding factor.

Steward Baylor was dominating the first half of the season and got a significant lead in points when Jason Thomas suffered a mechanical issue at the Snowshoe round. Since coming back from the Summer break he looks to have to lost some of the steam he had earlier in the season. He’s been getting buried in the pack earlier in the races and has been working his way up front but has finished off the podium the last 3 rounds. I expect him to end that streak and be on the podium in Ohio.

I got Morgan Moss taking 5th place in XC2 this weekend. It could be a long shot as he hasn’t been a front runner in the class since Florida. But he’s dumped the FAR/Husqvarna ride for a privateer effort on a Yamaha and he’s got something to prove. I’m sure he didn’t make any friends blaming the bike for his lackluster year so he needs to show up in Ohio ready to make a statement. If he can’t get the job done on a Yamaha then all he did was burn a bridge. So I expect him to have a lot of motivation driving him this weekend.

That’s it for us! Tell us who your picks are for this weekend’s race in the comment section below.

To stay up to date with Chris Bach’s recovery and preparation for the 2012 season follow him on twitter.

If you want to stay in the loop with Johnny Gallagher you can follow him on twitter as well.

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