Millfield, OH – The fight for the AMA Grand National Cross Country Championship has officially boiled down to two riders, but host of spoilers are ready to join the series and mix up the standings this weekend at the John Penton GNCC.

Even with five wins in nine races, FMF Suzuki’s Rodney Smith leads Am Pro Yamaha’s Jason Raines by just ten points. Few riders have been able to get between the duo, but Finnish World Enduro Champion Juha Salminen will try to do so in Ohio. Salminen will move to the U.S. and race GNCC full time for KTM in 2005, and he can make a statement by running up front in his first race. He will be joined by KTM International Race Team Manager Kurt Nicoll, a former vice-champion in the FIM Motocross Grand Prix wars.

In addition, two American champions will return to the series in Ohio. Defending GNCC Champion Barry Hawk will be back after breaking bones in his face a month ago in Virginia, and six-time AMA National Enduro Champion Mike Lafferty begins his comeback after a long layoff with a torn ACL.

Then there are the Ohio boys, Fred Andrews and Chuck Woodford. The Buckeye duo have taken every John Penton GNCC win for the last four years, including a one-two finish last year.

Other contenders include four-time AMA National Motocross Champion Mike Kiedrowski, former GNCC Champions Shane Watts and Scott Summers, and Kawasaki veteran Steve Hatch.

If one of the spoilers manages to do so, it could make all the difference in the fight for the most prestigious title in American off-road racing.

The John Penton GNCC will take place at the Sunday Creek Raceway motocross facility. Besides the MX track, The Penton features a winding loop of rugged Ohio trails. Ohio off-road fans are an exceptionally vocal bunch, and they will be cheering the riders on all weekend.

Over 1000 riders are expected to compete in the event, which includes ATV racing on Saturday and motorcycle racing on Sunday.

In Saturday’s ATV race, four-time GNCC Champion Bill Ballance is looking at his fifth-straight GNCC title. With seven wins in ten races, Ballance has logged his best season ever, and he hopes to continue it against riders like William Yokley, Matt Smiley, Chris Borich and Chad DuVall.

Pro races begin at 1 p.m. on both days, with novice classes racing at 10 a.m. Spectator admission is $10 for the entire weekend, and children under seven are free. From Athens, take Rt. 33 W. 1 mile to Chauncey Exit, then Rt. 13 North 12 Miles to Millfield and follow the signs.


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