Awards handed out at annual banquet
Over 1,100 members of the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series racing community arrived at the annual series’ banquet, held at Lakeview Resort in Morgantown, WV to celebrate the season’s accomplishments a final time in 2009. The banquets – held on Dec. 4 for ATVs and Dec. 5 for motorcycles – recognize the top-ten riders in every GNCC class and also present a variety of specialty awards to riders as voted on by their fellow racers and GNCC staff.
While riders, friends, fans and family enjoyed a buffet meal, photos from the year flashed across two projector screens until the awards ceremony began. On the ATV side, Rockstar Makita Suzuki’s Chris Borich was presented with the Rider of the Year Award for toppling Yamaha’s Bill Ballance’s nine-year win streak and taking his first GNCC championship. Ballance was named the rider with the most wins in GNCC history with 68 wins. Ballance currently leads Barry Hawk, who won championships on bikes and ATVs by one win on the all-time list.
Warnert Can-Am’s Michael Swift won the Utility Rider of the Year award after he finished the season undefeated in the 4X4 Limited class. Doug Howarth won Youth Rider of the Year award for clinching the 90 Modified (12-15) class championship.
Yamaha’s Taylor Kiser moved up from national number six to national number two, and was presented with the Most Improved Rider Award for his hard work. The Bad Ass Award went to Ballance. He had a cancerous mass removed from his ribs just weeks before the season opener in Florida, and after two rough rounds, worked his way up to fourth overall by the end of the season.
Warnert Can-Am’s Brent Sturdivant was presented The Good Samaritan Award for assisting Yamaha’s Brandon Sommers off the track when he was injured at Ironman. The Shadron Family was presented with the Rough and Ready Pit Crew award for all of their help in the GNCC Youth Series. Team Faith, headed by Chuck Lemaster, who races both UTVs and bikes, was presented with the Sport Ambassador Award. The Award of Media Excellence went to Dave Smith and Rodney Tomblin for Track Smack Live. Can-Am was named Sponsor of the Year for their funding of the GNCC Television Shows on the Versus Network.
The Hard Luck Award went to XC2 Pro-Am’s Brian Wolf, who battled with Josh Kirkland the entire season for the championship. Wolf lost the championship by one point when he DNF’d at St. Clairsville.
Yamaha Motor Corporation won the Manufacturer’s Cup based on the finishes of each brand’s top two overall riders in each race. The state of Ohio won the State Championship, based on winning the most GNCC titles of any state.
The top five riders in each GNCC Class received contingency awards and prizes from sponsors such as Can-Am, Acerbis, Elka, FMF, ITP, Klotz, Maxxis, Moose Racing, Parts Unlimited, Pirelli, Wiseco, Alpinestars, BRP, Cometic, HiPer Technology, Moto Tees, MUD, National Guard, Ogio, Powersports Grafx, Rekluse, Scott, Thor, Tire Balls, Twin Air and Weekend Warrior.
After the awards ceremony, riders, friends, families and fans headed to the Can-Am After Party as the live band Eighties Enough played tons of popular hits from the 1980s. Guests danced until the early hours of the morning as they celebrated the 2009 season.
The 2010 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series kicks off on February 27th- March 2nd as part of Bike Week at the Westgate River Ranch Resort in River Ranch, Fla. ATVs race on Sunday, Feb. 28, and bikes racing on Tuesday, March 2.
For more information, check out the official series website at GNCCRacing.com.