Impact Canopy

Neely Wins Fourth VCGP, Underwood Takes Bomber Victory on Sunday

| 3 May 2013 1:42 pm

Virginia City Grand Prix

Story and Photos by Dan McGee
VIRGINIA CITY, NV, APR. 27-28, 2013

One sure sign of spring in northwest Nevada is the siren sound of the Virginia City Grand Prix. It attracts riders from across the West and they travel to the Comstock. While only a select few have been winners, for most riders, just being able to say that they’ve ridden in this classic race is something special. Great weather set the stage for the 42nd edition of the VCGP, and Saturday’s Pro winner overcame a challenging start to join an elite group of riders who have won four or more of these races.

The Pros, Experts and Amateurs all race on Saturday. Before the start, last year’s champion, Rodney Spencer Jr., said, “I haven’t been on the bike as much as I’d like to, so this year we’re just looking to stay out of trouble and get through this.”

Riders lined up in rows of 10, which are started 15 seconds apart. A row behind Spencer sat three-time winner Ross Neely, who is now a college student living in Chico, California.

Ross Neely (13) had to jump over a mound of dirt in order to avoid Kale Elworthy (19) during the start of the VCGP on Saturday. Then Neely would land, go through temporary fencing, ride down a hill and then rejoin the race. A determined ride earned Neely a fourth victory at the race, and that puts him third on the all-time-winners’ list.

Ross Neely (13) had to jump over a mound of dirt in order to avoid Kale Elworthy (19) during the start of the VCGP on Saturday. Then Neely would land, go through temporary fencing, ride down a hill and then rejoin the race. A determined ride earned Neely a fourth victory at the race, and that puts him third on the all-time-winners’ list.

“I’m going to approach this smooth and calmly, with no wrecks, that’s for sure,” Neely said. “Just got to keep to it and get out of the dust, but that’s going to be hard because it’s been hot and dry the last few weeks.”

Unlike in years past, the Pros were grouped in the first few lines, followed by the rest of the field. One tradition is the auctioning off of two “head start” positions that raises money for a local charity. Ed Sellers Jr. got the two-minute head-start position, but he was riding with a heavy heart. Last weekend his sister Debra, a racer in own right, perished in a vehicle wreck; he rode this race in tribute to her.

On Saturday, Ed Sellers Jr. (247) got the two-minute head start when the VCGP began. He was riding in tribute to his sister Debra, also a motorcycle racer, who perished in a car crash the previous weekend.

On Saturday, Ed Sellers Jr. (247) got the two-minute head start when the VCGP began. He was riding in tribute to his sister Debra, also a motorcycle racer, who perished in a car crash the previous weekend.

Cory Evenson was the lucky winner of the one-minute head start.

After they’re flagged off, riders turn off the main street, go flying down a hill, and then swing left onto the dirt. Although Spencer said he was going to take it easy, he and Ty Tremaine led the charge down the hill from Virginia City’s main street.

While the start is always an adventure, it was even more so for Neely. Coming off the pavement, he found riders ahead of him swinging wide so they could make their turn easier. With nowhere to go, he sailed over a mound of dirt, crashed through some temporary fencing, and then rode the rest of the way down the hill before getting back on course. Now further behind, he began his charge.

Up front, Tremaine held the point position, with Spencer giving chase. Behind the leaders, Neely was picking off riders, and he soon had his sights on the lead duo.

Neely soon swept past Steve Tichenor, who had taken second, and he passed Spencer on their second lap, when they were going up Sutro Canyon and had to get around some slower traffic.

Once in the lead, Neely was on his game, as he left everyone in his dust. Behind him, 37-year-old Brian Garrahan was also charging, and he eventually finished second, ahead of Aric Swan and Irving Powers.

Sutro Canyon is one of the hallmarks of the VCGP, and this year riders had to go uphill, which made it even more challenging. With the dust and traffic, only the top three managed to do five laps on the 28-mile course. It’s been so dry this year, the canyon was even harder, as more rocks were exposed. Several riders described one section as being akin to “riding over bowling balls.”

After getting sprayed with water when he reached the finish, Neely said: “The start was pretty brutal – I overshot, went a little too fast in the corner, just had to recover after that and start passing guys. It was a battle all the way through.”

Then he took a breath and commented on Sutro Canyon.

“It was horrible up there today,” he said. “You had to pick your right line, and the dust was fairly decent in that area. Because it was so rocky, it was hard pushing all the way up that hill – but it was still fun!”

Then he thanked Mod 1 Motorsports in Vallejo, California; Dick’s Racing for his suspension; Dirt Tricks for sprockets; and RMS, as well as the people who have helped him over the years.

At the end, Neely had almost an eight-minute lead over second place. This victory puts him in third, behind Ty Davis and Larry Roeseler, for the most VCGP wins.

When Garrahan reached the finish, he tried to do a burnout, but his bike wouldn’t cooperate.

“I won the Amateur race in 1992, and today I passed everyone up Sutro Canyon,” he said after catching his breath. “And it was tough every time, but at the end, my body was cramping up. I had a phenomenal time except for that last time, as my body was smoked.”

Then he thanked G Brothers Racing, Husaberg, Moose Racing, Dunlop Tires and Bell Helmets for their support.

Both days have timed races in which the checkered flag is thrown once the events time out, so if the leaders have passed the finish before the checkered flag is waved, they do a lap more than those behind them. Saturday’s race was a four-hour contest, while Sunday’s event – in which the Novice, Women, Bombers and Vintage riders race – is timed out at three hours. Due to the condition of Sutro Canyon, it was decided to route the racers around that area so the course was shortened to 20 miles.

Before Sunday’s race, 59-year-old “Artichoke Joe” DiVecchio, who has raced in every VCGP and usually competes on both days, said: “Yesterday was pretty gnarly with Sutro; we knew it was coming and uphill is always tough. I fell down a bunch of times, but I made three laps and I’m proud of that. Today should be a lot easier, but we’ll have a lot of dust and a lot of Novices today. I’m riding [in the] Bomber class today on an ’81 Husky 430.”

Once again, two “head start” positions were auctioned off. The winners were Nichole Collins, who was disappointed that Sutro wasn’t part of the course, and 15-year-old Reece Dominguez, who got the one-minute early start. Then a 30-second head start was auctioned off to Justin Simmons.

Nichole Collins (21) from Jackson, California, got the two-minute head start after her grandfather Bob Collins had the high bid when that spot was auctioned off prior to Sunday’s race at the VCGP. Despite being passed during the first lap, she rode hard, finished eighth, and won the Women’s class.

Nichole Collins (21) from Jackson, California, got the two-minute head start after her grandfather Bob Collins had the high bid when that spot was auctioned off prior to Sunday’s race at the VCGP. Despite being passed during the first lap, she rode hard, finished eighth, and won the Women’s class.

Soon after the charge, Dominguez swept past Collins and seemed on his way to the win. However, way back in the pack, Reno, Nevada’s Robert Underwood, who started in the 40th row, was beginning his charge from the back of the pack. Due to that starting spot, Underwood would have to make up a more-than-10-minute time disadvantage.

Even with the shortened course, the dust ensured that only 16 riders passed the finish before the checkered flag flew, which meant they did five laps.

Up front, Dominguez and Mikey Morgan, who’d started from the 22nd line, held a two-minute advantage over the charging Underwood. During the final lap, Underwood made four minutes on the two leaders and ended the race with an advantage of almost two minutes – not bad, considering he raced on both days.

“I just took my time, was patient, as I knew it was long, so it was one rider at a time,” Underwood recounted. “The dust was horrible; you couldn’t see at all. I happy to get a win for White Knuckle Motorsports, because yesterday my bike broke. Today I rode a bomber – an old, old Honda XR – and it was a fun course, well marked, and I want to thank the VCMC.”

Robert Underwood (401) charges on his Honda bomber during Sunday’s race at Virginia City. After starting almost dead last in the 407-rider field, he stormed through traffic and dust to earn the overall victory.

Robert Underwood (401) charges on his Honda bomber during Sunday’s race at Virginia City. After starting almost dead last in the 407-rider field, he stormed through traffic and dust to earn the overall victory.

Collins had a good race, and although she was passed early, she stayed in the top 10 and was one of the riders who completed five laps, which gave her the Women’s class victory.

“Reece Dominguez passed me in the first lap; then I didn’t get passed again until mid-second lap,” she said. “There are some really rocky parts, because it’s Virginia City, but there weren’t any parts I didn’t like, as it was all really fun. This is my fourth or fifth time racing here.”

Then she thanked her papa, her grandfather Bob Collins (who’d bought the head start for her), and her family, as well as sponsors NorCal Motorsports of Elk Grove and Mach One in Vallejo, California.

Riding motorcycles and racing them isn’t just for the young. On Sunday’s front row sat 65-year-old Pete Prichard, who ended up 26th overall. Artichoke Joe ended up 288th, while 76-year-old Roy Watson finished 274th.

Watson’s grandson Billy also raced and expressed his great pride in his grandfather and added that his children are the fourth generation of the family to ride and race motorcycles.

In a race like this, especially with this many competitors of varying skill levels, there will be many crashes and some broken bones. But by the end of Sunday, the local EMTs had only had to transport two riders on Saturday, while families and friends took any others that needed treatment to the hospital.

This year, 466 riders competed on Saturday and 407 on Sunday.

Now it’s quiet on the Comstock, but on the last weekend of April of next year, riders will again hear the siren call and return for the 2014 edition of the Virginia City Grand Prix.

Virginia City Grand Prix
Virginia City, Nevada
Results: April 27-28, 2013

Saturday, April 27

OVERALL: 1. Ross Neely (Pro) 438:50; 2. Brian Garrahan (Pro) 4:46:28; 3. Aric Swan (Pro) 4:58:58; 4. Irving Powers (Pro); 5. Joseph Fiasconaro (Pro); 6. Kale Elworthy (Pro); 7. Sean Berryman (Pro); 8. Steve Tichenor (Pro); 9. Sam Key (Pro); 10. Cory Vannoy (Pro); 11. Steven Godman (Pro); 12. Nick Fain (Over 30 Ex); 13. Justin Seeds (Pro); 14. Sean Jones (Pro); 15. Josh Wilson (Over 30 Ex).

125 AM: 1. Calum Campbell; 2. Jeremy Coiner; 3. T.J. Fulling; 4. Kaniel Baxley.

125 EX: 1. Jamie Welch; 2. Caleb Frandsen; 3. Chris Bain; 4. Denny Hannel.

250 AM: 1. J.T. Baker; 2. Mitch Anderson; 3. Weston Furia; 4. Landen Lamoly; 5. Dustin Wright.

250 EX: 1. Ryan Hamel; 2. Austin Tavares; 3. Tony Bowser; 4. Erik Hatch; 5. Blaine Fenner.

OPEN AM: 1. Ty Baker; 2. Mike Madrigalli; 3. George Helgerson; 4. Travis McFadden; 5. Ed Sellers Jr.

OPEN EX: 1. Brandon Henning; 2. Casey Crandell; 3. Cory Everson; 4. Nick Palladino; 5. Steven Poor.

PRO: 1. Ross Neely; 2. Brian Garrahan; 3. Aric Swan; 4. Irving Powers; 5. Joseph Fiasconaro.

30+ AM: 1. Evan Gardner; 2. Chuck Paya; 3. Josh Klikna; 4. Will Allen; 5. Ehsan Farkhondeh.

30+ EX: 1. Nick Fain; 2. Josh Wilson; 3. Bill Pinder; 4. Titan McKibben; 5. Ryan Jackson.

40+ AM: 1. Mike Kenney; 2. Glen Pearson; 3. Martin Mike; 4. Richard Miller; 5. Randy Good.

40+ EX: 1. Rob Baker; 2. Kevin Brown; 3. Kurt Ashley; 4. Jason Lulis; 5. Jack Roberts.

50+ AM: 1. Ray Alvarado; 2. Jeff Campbell; 3. Fred Habenicht; 4. Bruce Burke; 5. Bruce Burke.

50+ EX: 1. Rick Bowser; 2. Darrol Brown; 3. Ronald Paterson; 4. Jamey Gregg; 5. Kris Goolsby.

Sunday, April 28

OVERALL: 1. Robert Underwood (Bomber), 3:28:58; 2. Mikey Morgan (Open Nov) 3:30:31; 3. Reece Dominguez (125 Nov) 3:31:03; 4. Scott Wilson (Over 30 Nov); 5. Parker Evans (Open Nov); 6. Ed Hickey (Over 40 Nov); 7. Sean Rhodes (Bomber); 8. Nichole Collins (Women); 9. Jeff Houle (Open Nov); 10. Adam Thevenin (Bomber); 11. Dave Dickson (Over 40 Nov); 12. Rob Rael (Over 30 Nov); 13. Jack Rose (Over 50 Nov); 14. Taylor Ward (250 Nov); 15. Justin Longo (250 Nov).

125 NOV: 1. Reece Dominguez; 2. Justin Simmons; 3. Max Parker; 4. Seth Boyd; 5. Dalton Laney.

250 NOV: 1. Taylor Ward; 2. Justin Longo; 3. Eric Cramer; 4. Cody Row; 5. Joshua Paloma.

OPEN NOV: 1. Mikey Morgan; 2. Parker Evans; 3. Jeff Houle; 4. Jason Garbo; 5. Chase Jeffers.

BOMBER: 1. Robert Underwood; 2. Sean Rhodes; 3. Adam Thevenin; 4. Phillip Means; 5. Rick Parker.

WOMEN: 1. Nichole Collins; 2. Nicole Lullis; 3. Chrystal Ponsock; 4. Beth Legenbauer; 5. Andrea Kisling.

30+ NOV: 1. Scott Wilson; 2. Rob Rael; 3. Jerry Cunha; 4. Tracy Marsh; 5. Mike Rodgers.

40+ NOV: 1. Ed Hickey; 2 Dave Dickson; 3. Richard Sommer; 4. Joe Smith; 5. Jason Whinery.

50+ NOV: 1. Jack Rose; 2. Clay Eastman; 3. David Walden; 4. Tony Milner; 5. Eric Kaiser.

MASTERS: 1. Pete Prichard; 2. Brad Clark; 3. Peter Lowis; 4. Mykeal Clark; 5. Kerry Barnes.

ULTRA MASTERS: 1. William Craig; 2. Steve Campbell; 3. Roy Watson; 4. Lee Montgomery; 5. Russell Hewett.

VINTAGE: 1. Chris Loer; 2. Eric Loer; 3. Kre Meyer.

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Category: Gran Prix, National, Off-Road, Regional, Vintage, Vintage Off-Road

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