MARCH 24–STEELE CREEK GNCC

MARCH 24–STEELE CREEK GNCC

Smith Steele Going
Four-time Series Champ Survives Seven-Rider Duel to Win Steele Creek GNCC

Morganton, NC – The 2003 AMA Grand National Cross Country Series returned to normalcy for round three at the Steele Creek GNCC. The rain and mud of the first two rounds subsided as beautiful weather greeted a big pack of riders and fans, and they all witnessed an amazing seven-man fight for the overall win. In the end, Team FMF Suzuki?s Rodney Smith emerged victorious, the veteran champion proving that he still has what it takes to come from behind and win, even at the ripe old age of 39.

“I didn?t get the start I wanted to, but I was comfortable riding in about fifth because I could see we where gaining on the leaders,” said the FMF/Suzuki/Dunlop/Moose/Smith-backed rider. “Then once I had the lead I just had to put my head down and make sure the lappers didn?t get in my way.”

Smith will also have to make a comeback in the series standings, since Am-Pro Yamaha?s Barry Hawk continued his solid riding with a second-place finish, giving him two seconds and a first on the season. Hawk led the Steele Creek race early, dropped back to as far as fifth in the running, and then mounted a furious late-race charge that carried him to the runner-up spot. “In the middle of the race, I just wasn?t charging,” said Hawk, of Smithfield, Pennsylvania. “I got passed and realized I had to go. I caught back up, and I was hoping to get by Rodney on the last lap like I was able to do last week, but you can?t expect two mistakes in a row from a champion like him.”

FMF Suzuki?s Mike Kiedrowski, a four-time AMA National Motocross Champion, was third. “I haven?t even finished a race this year yet, so I just wanted to get some points and get rolling,” said Kiedrowski. “It was a good race, but today wasn?t the day to hang it out and try to step up and win.”

Hawk grabbed the Steele Creek holeshot and set a strong pace early, with his teammate Jason Raines following him. The duo paced off each other until a swarming pack caught them, including Smith, Kiedrowski, their Suzuki teammate Steve Hatch, last week?s winner Mike Lafferty and R.E.R. Yamaha?s Josh McLevy.

All seven riders battled on a dynamic 11-mile racetrack that featured tight woods, wide-open field sections, and numerous mud holes and water crossings. Fans even got in on the action when they built a spectacular jump over a mud bog, which the top pros were seat bouncing over to clear the mess.

Hatch led the race until the halfway point, but as he began to fatigue due to flu-like symptoms, Smith and Kiedrowski took the point from him and headed home. Hawk and Raines, who had dropped to the tail end of the freight train, then mounted a late race comeback, passing Hatch, Lafferty and McLevy, who all faded down the stretch, each feeling sick after a long day on a rough race track.

Hawk?s momentum carried him past Kiedrowski on the last lap, but he came up just short of Smith at the finish.

The 2003 MSR/Yamaha/Dunlop/Wiseco/Maxxis/FMF/Klotz-backed AMA Grand National Cross Country Series resumes on April 13 at the Big Buck in Union, South Carolina.

 

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