Travis Pastrana's GNCC debut tomorrowMonday, March 6, 2006 | 6:38 AM
The Suzuki GNCC crew is setting up camp in Florida right now for the opening round of the 2006 series. Everything seems to be bigger and better for GNCC this year: bigger purse ($10,000 per event), TV coverage coming on OLN starting on April 1, over $3 Million in contingency money, and even the first-ever Racer X Holeshot Award up for grabs. But the big news right now surrounds one rider: Travis Pastrana. Team Red Bull/Cernic's Racing/199 Suzuki Manager Ron Meredith says they're ready.
We reminded Ron that last year Doug Henry raced the Orange Crush and won, but nearly killed himself doing it. No one has dug down deeper in their career than Henry, and yet there he was barely able to stand on the podium, saying, "That was the hardest thing I've ever done in my life!" That means a lot coming from Doug! But Meredith says the plan is to win the race, like Doug, but not feel nearly as bad when it's over. We'll see. Travis staying on a motorcycle and not wrecking himself for three hours seems pretty tough, but we do know that probably no one, no one on earth, could probably keep up with him on a long stretch of sand whoops.
But that GNCC Champion guy, Juha Salminen, is pretty darned fast on sand, too. He's from Finland, and although you're probably thinking Finland is all ice and snow, a lot of it is sandy. Juha hauls on the stuff and he never gets tired. In fact, when Henry collapsed at the finish last year, Salminen came across two seconds later and barely even looked like he had been trying. This year, he won't make the same mistake.
As for the rest of the GNCC stars, a lot of them admit they're much stronger in the tight, muddy woods of the Eastern U.S. than the high-speed sand in this race. Fred Andrews is usually a force in sand, as in Shane Watts. And Barry Hawk has won this Florida GNCC twice. Rodney Smith and Glenn Kearney will be there, too, but a lot of them may just choose to ffirst inish, and then work on finishing first at the second round of the series next weekend in Georgia.
Either way, Travis alone makes this event worth checking out. Tickets are $12. The pro race is Tuesday at 1 p.m. And Travis is bringing Rick Johnson with him, and he'll be racing the Industry class at 10 a.m. Tuesday morning just like Jeff Emig did a few years ago.
Moose Racing Orange Crush GNCC
Location: De Leon Springs, Florida
Directions: I-95 to State Road 40 West. Go 13 1/2 miles to Lake Winnona Road on left.
2 miles down road on the left is the track.
Coming from Ocala, on State Road 40 , as soon as you see Volusia Co.
Speedway make a right on Lake Winnona.
You never actually get on Rt. 11. You will cross over it at a blinking
light coming from I-95.