Each year we look at all the venues across the country and choose the one rider who best carries forth the Kurt Caselli legacy. Then we inscribe that name on a perpetual trophy we call the Caselli Cup. So how do we choose from among hundreds of riders who might or might not have ever met in competition? It ain’t easy. First, we give special consideration to racers who ride more than one series. That’s the whole point. We also try to look past injuries and misfortune. This is more than a look backwards at the previous year; we think of this as a snapshot representing America’s 25 best off-road racers right now. And, we don’t care if the rider is an American citizen or not. As long as he’s racing here or representing America overseas, he’s in the running. Now, we proudly present the winner of the 19th annual Caselli Cup, as well as all the finalists. Congratulations to all of them.
1 DANTE OLIVEIRA—NGPC CHAMPION, WORCS PRO CHAMPION, ISDE GOLD
Dante is exactly the type of rider who embodies the spirit of this award. He does it all. He’s the 2022 WORCS Pro champion and the 2022 NGPC champion. In the course of winning those two titles, he won 79 percent of the races he entered. He’s also an ISDE gold medalist. In 2023 he plans to expand his horizons even further by competing in the AMA Hare Scramble West Series. Technically, this is the second time Dante has won the Caselli Cup. In 2020, he was named along with the entire U.S. ISDE team. Now, he’s the winner again, but this time he’s truly in a league of his own.
2 MATEO OLIVEIRA—NGPC 250 PRO CHAMPION, WORCS PRO 2 CHAMPION, ISDE GOLD
U.S. off-road competition has a long history of brothers who push each other to new heights. Mateo Oliveira seems to be just as driven as his older brother and is going down the same road. In 2022, he won the NGPC 250 Pro class and the WORCS Pro2 class. He even bettered his brother’s record, with a 95 percent win rate. Then, at the ISDE, he not only earned a gold medal for America’s Junior World team, he actually finished ahead of Dante in the overall standings. There’s serious speed in that family.
3 JORDAN ASHBURN—GNCC XC1 CHAMPION
If there is an award for perseverance, Jordan Ashburn has it wrapped up. He earned his last number-one plate in 2010 when he won 11 of 13 Open A races in GNCC. Since then, he’s had the misfortune of racing against the likes of Kailub Russell, Thad Duvall and Steward Baylor in the pro ranks. At times, he must have considered backing it down. He didn’t. In 2022, he won his very first GNCC XC1 race after nearly 100 attempts. Then he won another, then the championship itself. It turns out, some riders don’t know how to back it down.
4 GRANT BAYLOR—AMA NATIONAL ENDURO CHAMPION, GNCC XC1 #7
In 2022, Grant Baylor won his second AMA National Enduro Championship. This makes six consecutive years that a Baylor brother has won that championship, and seven total championships out of the last 10. Grant also finished as high as second in the GNCC XC-1 Pro class. Even more amazing is the fact that everyone knows there’s more potential there.
5 BEN KELLEY—6 GNCC XC1 WINS
If any rider looks to have that Kailub Russell magic touch, it’s Ben Kelley. He earned the 2021 GNCC XC1 Championship with three wins in 12 races. He returned in 2022 to win the first six races in a row. It looked like it would be a Kailub kind of year. Then, it came apart. At the first National Enduro of the year, he broke his leg. Despite early predictions of a return to racing, that was the end of Ben’s 2022 season. We know he will be back as strong as ever.
6 STEWARD BAYLOR—WON 2 GNCC, NATIONAL ENDURO #4
In a year of injuries, surgeries and missed opportunities, Steward still won two GNCC races and two National Enduros. He’s among the fastest off-road riders that America has ever seen. Whether or not he has a clean year of uninterrupted racing remains to be seen, but a year of Steward Baylor at full strength would be a beautiful sight to behold.
7 COLE MARTINEZ— NGPC PRO #3, WORCS PRO #5
Cole Martinez is freakishly good at everything. For years, he has routinely switched back and forth between motocross and off-road, but in 2022 all the stars aligned for him. He was the only rider besides Dante Oliveira to score wins in the NGPC 450 Pro class, and he also won a round of the WORCS Pro class. During the spring break, he suddenly switched back to motocross and won two Pro classes at the Loretta Lynn Amateur MX Championship. No one does that.
8 TRYSTAN HART—ENDUROCROSS WINNER, AMA HARD ENDURO CHAMPION
Canadian Trystan Hart just gets better and better every year. Last year he already established himself as the top rider in the American Hard Enduro scene. In 2022, he proved that he’s one of the very best in the world, too. When round six of the FIM World Hard Enduro Series came to America, he beat the world’s most elite riders. Combine that with his EnduroCross record, and he’s clearly a talent on the rise.
9 BRANDY RICHARDS—WORCS WOMAN’S PRO #1, NGPC WOMAN’S PRO #1
Brandy Richards couldn’t possibly beat her record from 2021. That was a perfect season. But, in 2022, she came close. Once more she was perfect in NGPC and WORCS. On top of that, she went outside her comfort zone to finish on the podium in GNCC. It all ended just short of perfection when she was injured at the ISDE, but Brandy Richards is still at the top of her game and flirts with perfection every time she rides.
10 CRAIG DELONG—GNCC XC1 #2, ISDE GOLD
When it comes to chasing championships, consistency is usually as valuable as blinding speed. Craig DeLong has both. His best finish in the 2022 GNCC XC1 Pro class was second. His worst was seventh. In the AMA National Enduro series, he ranged between second and seventh as well. At the ISDE, he was consistently among the fastest of the club riders. The 2022 season was his best year in a career that has seen steady improvement. For 2023, Craig is a member of the Rockstar Factory Husky team.
11 RICKY RUSSELL—GNCC XC1 #3
For 10 years Ricky Russell has been the guy from the Northwest racing throughout the East. In that time, his record has been outstanding—always finishing in the top 10, usually in the top five, sometimes even first. He’s also one of the very few GNCC regulars who has won a WORCS race out West. In 2022 he had his best year yet, winning two XC1 Pro races and finishing third in the final standings. He also earned four podiums in the AMA National Enduro Series. Ricky is back with Randy Hawkins’ Ampro team in 2023.
12 JOSH TOTH—U.S. SPRINT ENDURO #1, GNCC XC1 #6, AMA NATIONAL ENDURO #2, ISDE GOLD
Josh Toth races every weekend, sometimes more than once. In the midst of earning a U.S. Sprint Enduro Championship, a Sprint Enduro World Championship, an ISDE gold medal and garnering a hard-fought runner-up finish in the AMA National Enduro series, it’s amazing he found time to finish sixth in the GNCC XC1 Pro class. Josh loves riding his motorcycle, and his results reflect it.
13 DALTON SHIREY—AMA NATIONAL HARE & HOUND CHAMPION, NGPC PRO #5
Dalton Shirey won his second AMA National Hare & Hound Championship in 2022, and it looks like he’s finally found his rhythm. Between Hare and Hounds, he puts his 3 Bros./Hatch Racing Husqvarna near the front of the NGPC Pro class. Three years ago he let a factory ride with the Rockstar Husqvarna slip through his fingers. Now, he’s back on the factory team.
Austin Walton. Photo by Simon Cudby
14 AUSTIN WALTON—NGPC PRO #2, WORCS #2, ISDE GOLD
In 2022 Austin Walton had the distinction of finishing in front of a full-strength Dante Oliveira at round eight of WORCS. That ain’t easy. He’s been in the championship mix since turning to off-road racing back in 2018. That year he was riding Supercross and national motocross, and decided to enter one WORCS race in the Pro-2 class. He won, and he’s been a full-time off-road guy ever since.
15 LYNDON SNODGRASS—GNCC XC2 CHAMPION
After years of being a thorn in the side of the U.S. ISDE team, Australian Lyndon Snodgrass came to the U.S. to ride for the Babbitt’s Kawasaki team in the GNCC XC2 class. It took him a couple of years, but in 2022 he captured the XC2 Championship, joining a long list of his countrymen who have had success here. He says he loves racing and living in the U.S. For a number of XC2 riders, that’s bad news.
16 SKYLER HOWES—RALLYE DU MAROC WINNER
When Skyler Howes crashed out of the 2022 Dakar Rally, it was a tough setback. Until that point, his career with the Rockstar Husqvarna Rally team had been going up and up. Skyler came back to win the Rallye du Maroc against some of the best rally teams in the world. Then he came back to North America to win the Sonora Rally. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
17 LAYNE MICHAEL—ISDE GOLD, GNCC XC1 #14
Layne Michael has a history of coming through for the U.S. When U.S. Trophy team regulars like Taylor Robert and Steward Baylor were sidelined with injury, Layne once again got the call to duty for the 2022 Six Days. He responded with another gold-medal performance. Earlier in the year, he had been sidelined with a shoulder injury of his own, but he plans on a fresh, healthy start for 2023.
18 COLTON HAAKER—ENDUROCROSS WINNER
With five EnduroCross Championships to his name, Colton Haaker’s status as an all-time great is beyond question. But, in recent years he’s won races despite being a virtual human petri dish, hosting one malady after the other. In the thick of the 2022 Hard Enduro season, he suffered a bout of Epstein-Barr syndrome. Despite his illness, he returned to win several motos in the EnduroCross series. He’ll be back on top.
19 JOHNNY GIRROIR—3 GNCC XC2 WINS, 4 US SPRINT ENDURO WINS
Johnny Girroir is an angry mass of raw talent on a motorcycle. Unfortunately, a broken pelvis kept him away from his motorcycle for much of 2022. When he came back, he was winning as usual with three GNCC XC2 victories. In the U.S. Sprint Enduro Series, he won the first two races of the year and the last two for an average position of first in that series. Johnny is a full blooded member of the Red Bull Factory KTM team for 2023.
20 TAYLOR ROBERT—3 AMA NATIONAL HARE & HOUND WINS
If you were to credit one rider with America’s rise in the ISDE, it would be Taylor Robert. Unfortunately, Taylor crashed in round four of the National Hare & Hound series and suffered traumatic internal injuries. He was out for the rest of the year, including the ISDE. He’s still on the road to recovery and plans to do select events in 2023. We need him back; it’s a matter of national pride.
21 RICKY BRABEC—DAKAR P7
Ricky Brabec might be the best rally rider in the world. Sadly, he’s so good that he doesn’t get to race at home anymore. His whole year centers around preparation for the Dakar Rally. The Monster Energy HRC Factory Rally team turns a blind eye to his UTV racing habit here in the U.S., but other than that, if you want to see Ricky ride, you have to book a trip to Saudi Arabia.
22 TREVOR BOLLINGER—GNCC XC1 #5
Trevor spent most of 2021 rebuilding his knee after reconstruction and started 2022 with a string of great rides, including three podiums in the GNCC XC1 class. Unfortunately, the injury fairy found him once more. He broke his hand at the beginning of summer, then severely broke his leg in a practice crash in September. Trevor has been through it all before, and he’s come back strong.
23 JOSH STRANG—GNCC XC1 WINNER
No currently active rider in the GNCC world has won as many races as Josh Strang. He won the XC1 Championship back in 2010—that was in the pre-Kailub era. Sheer Aussie toughness has something to do with it. In 2022 he broke his arm in round two, then was back racing by round six. Then, surprising even himself, he won round seven. It was a little too much too soon, though, and the arm injury reasserted itself afterwards, ending Josh’s season.
24 THAD DUVALL—GNCC XC1 #10, AMA NATIONAL ENDURO #11
Thad Duvall was the chosen one after the departure of Kailub Russell. Almost everyone expected him to win the 2021 GNCC XC1 title, but it didn’t happen. He spent most of the year recovering from injury. Then, just when he was healthy, it happened again at round one of the 2022 GNCC series. Thad came back from a broken pelvis by September and was right back on the podium. It’s just who he is. Thad will be on a GasGas in 2023.
25 CODY WEBB—ENDUROCROSS WINNER
For Cody Webb, the injuries have been non-stop for three years. He broke his wrist early in 2022 and missed the entire AMA Hard Enduro series. In typical Cody style, he rode the Tennessee Knockout round of the FIM World Hard Enduro Series after only a few days back on the bike. He didn’t win, but he did a few weeks later in the final round of the 2022 EnduroCross season.