Josh Strang has struggled somewhat in the last few rounds of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series, however, the FMF/Makita Suzuki rider returned to the form that carried him to four-straight victories at the start of the season, as the Aussie rider topped series rival Charlie Mullins to win the Titan GNCC in Lafayette, Tennessee.Mullins, riding an Obermeyer/Am Pro/FMF-backed 2009 Yamaha YZ450F, was relentless in his pursuit of Strang at the Titan, as the two riders went wheel to wheel for most of the race. However, at the end of three hours of racing it was Strang taking the win by a scant one-second margin over Mullins.
Strang looked totally unbeatable at the start of the year, but a crash at round six in North Carolina started him down a road of un-Strang-like finishes that the Suzuki rider just couldn’t seem to shake. In Tennessee, however, Strang was his old self and he fought off everything Mullins threw at him. “Charlie and I had an awesome race today and I think we both had fun,” said Strang. “We were wheel to wheel for most of the race, and at one point I hit a lapper and Charlie got by me, but things worked in our favor and we moved a little closer to the championship.”
Mullins went on a three-race win streak himself just before the summer break in the series. And at the Titan, the Ohio native wanted nothing more than to add a fourth win, but Strang wasn’t about to let that happen. “I gave it everything I had at the end but Josh rode well,” said Mullins. “He pegged a lapper and he ended up going down and I got around him. I tried to push and break away but he was able to catch me and he made a pass on me in one of the fields. I did everything I could on the last lap, trying to find places to get him, but it was pretty hard to pass out there and I just couldn’t make it happen. He rode well and I think I did too so all in all it was a good day.”
XC1-class rookie, Cory Buttrick, winner of the John Penton GNCC earlier in the year, claimed his fifth podium of the year in Tennessee, but not without plenty of pressure from Am Pro/FMF Yamaha’s Thad Duvall. Both riders went down during the course of the race, but it was DuVall who went down last, giving Buttrick just enough room to finish third and claim the final step of the podium. “That was an incredible race,” said Buttrick. “Thad and I lost touch with the front-runners, but we hooked up and had a good battle. I had my fair share of crashes, but Thad went down right there at the end, and that was it.”
DuVall narrowly missed out on what would have been his second podium of the year (he finished second at the Big Buck in South Carolina), and he was disappointed to have come so close. “I was in third all by myself and then I had a big crash and Cory got around me,” said DuVall. “Cory and I were running a pretty good pace and on the last lap, about halfway through, Cory took a pretty good crash and I was able to get back into third. I had it and then not far from the finish I went wide in a corner and got tangled up with a lapper and Cory got me for third.”
Glenn Kearney had one of his best rides of the year to finish fifth, the factory Husqvarna rider taking advantage of a new 310cc kit for his 250 TXC. “I got a really good start and I think I rode good,” said Kearney. “I screwed up on a couple of hills and fell down in the dust a few times, but the new 310 worked really well, especially for the first race with it.”
At one point during the race, XC2 points leader Kailub Russell was in position to claim the overall victory, however, in stead he settled for his seventh win of the year in the XC2 class. Russell got off to a slow start when his bike didn’t fire on the first kick, but the FMF/KTM rider was worried. “I just did what I had to do,” said Russell, who at one point was in contention for the overall win. “I wasn’t worried about the overall, I knew it would be tough to do that because the track was so gnarly today. I just couldn’t get the power to the ground and the XC1 guys were pulling me.”