MURRIETA, CA – March 13, 2023 – (Motor Sports NewsWire) – A career-first victory in the XC1 Open Pro class was earned by Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider Craig DeLong at The General GNCC in Washington, Georgia, where he navigated the toughest of muddy conditions at round three of the 2023 Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) season. Teammate Trevor Bollinger completed the weekend with a 10th-place result.
Former XC2 Pro champion DeLong came of age on Sunday in the premier class aboard his FX 350 with a measured effort that saw him finish the race in a total time of 2:54:05.296, almost a full minute clear of the chasing pack despite some late challenges on the final lap.
After claiming an important holeshot and then battling for position at the front of the field in the opening stages, DeLong critically led when it counted and, eventually, it paid off when he began to stretch an advantage toward the race’s end. Following back-to-back podiums, he’s now third in the standings, just nine points outside of the lead.
“Man, what a day!” reflected DeLong. “I didn’t really want to lead, I knew it was going to be muddy, but I got a good start and I was like ‘I guess I have to lead now’. So, it was good. Stew [Baylor] got around me and I sort of followed him and he was splashing all the puddles out for me. We freight-trained for the first hour or so of the race and I didn’t lead a lot of it early on. I just stayed steady and upright, then with two laps to go I had the lead and put in a little push. I didn’t sprint too hard, the team kept telling me the gap was getting bigger and bigger doing what I was doing, then on the last lap they were telling me I had a minute advantage, so I kind of just rode it home. I had a couple of little crashes on the last lap, but I was able to bring it in and it was awesome! After last weekend, that was big for me to be on the podium. I’m happy to get it done and stay in this fight, so let’s keep it rolling.”
The General GNCC saw DeLong’s Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing teammate Bollinger ride to 10th position also in the XC1 Open Pro division. After climbing multiple positions up the order on the final lap for P10, he’s currently ranked 12th in the championship.
“This weekend was a challenging one for everybody and we finished 10th in really difficult conditions,”said Bollinger. “You just have to keep pushing when the track is like that, try to minimize mistakes, and make it to the end of the race. I’m looking forward to the next round now and seeing what we can produce there.”
Defending XC1 Open Pro class champion Jordan Ashburn was seventh on Sunday, the Husqvarna Motorcycles-backed rider currently sitting directly behind DeLong, fourth in the point standings.
Next Round (4): Union, South Carolina – April 2, 2023
1. Craig DeLong – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
2. Josh Strang (KAW)
3. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
7. Jordan Ashburn (HQV)
10. Trevor Bollinger – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing
1. Steward Baylor Jr, 76 points
2. Ben Kelley, 73 points
3. Craig DeLong – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, 67 points
4. Jordan Ashburn, 43 points
12. Trevor Bollinger – Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing, 4 points
Husqvarna Motorcycles has continued to expand its professional race team to compete in AMA Supercross, AMA Pro Motocross, AMA National Enduro, GNCC, AMA EnduroCross, and AMA National Hare & Hound championships. Husqvarna team riders are competing aboard Husqvarna FC 450, FC 350, FC 250, FE 350, TC 250 and TE 300 models.
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Source: KTM North America, Inc.