BUCKHANNON – Not all heroes wear capes. Buckhannon native Gavin Claypool, a 6-year-old ATV racer, was recently named GNCC Racing’s Hometown Hero.
In this role, Gavin will act as an ambassador of the racing series at this weekend’s Mountaineer First Responder Salute race in Beckley, West Virginia. The Hometown Hero encourages local community members to visit the upcoming races and gather fans to cheer on their favorite racers. The Hometown Hero nomination was humbly accepted by Gavin and his family this week.
“It was a feel-good moment for him. It made him happy and excited,” said Samantha Ault, Gavin’s mother, during an interview with My Buckhannon on Thursday. Gavin smiled over Ault’s shoulder throughout the interview.
Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) is a racing series based in Morgantown, West Virginia. The series travels to various locations across the East Coast for nine months out of the year — from early February to the end of October. Including this weekend’s The Mountaineer race, four races remain this season. Check out the GNCC Racing series schedule here.
According to a recent GNCC Racing media release, “More than 1,500 racers are expected to compete over the weekend, as the event includes four-wheeled ATV racing on Saturday and dirt bikes on Sunday. Classes range from riders as young as four and as old as the 60-plus divisions. The top GNCC pro classes feature some of the world’s top riders, including talent from England, Europe and Australia.”
Whether a youngster or a seasoned racing veteran, competing is no easy feat. Drivers of motorcycles, all-terrain vehicles (ATV), and electronic assist mountain bikes (eMTB) will face various terrain that requires speed, skill and reaction time. The courses include rolling hills, woods, loose dirt, rocks of various sizes and slippery mud.
As the Claypool family has driven across the East Coast for various races – as far north as Ohio and as far south as Florida – and the hobby has truly become a family affair.
Mikeal Claypool, Gavin’s father, explained that racing did not start out as a competitive venture for his sons, but rather as a spare time activity that quickly turned into a more meaningful passion.
“Seeing him get rewarded [as the Hometown Hero] for what product he puts out there on the racetrack – it was good to see him get noticed,” said Mikeal Claypool. “All the countless hours of mechanic work behind that 30-minute race proved that [racing] is worth it for him.”
This is Gavin’s second season as an ATV racer. The family said he has grown exponentially both on and off the track since his first time at the starting line.
“He’s grown a bunch,” said Mikeal Claypool. “He started out on a smaller four-wheeler, and now we’ve moved him up to a little more advanced one. He pushes a lot more out there — he wants to do good and he understands what he needs to do to place higher.”
Ault added that Gavin’s competitive drive has accelerated from last season as he currently holds the position as the GNCC Racing class leader in points in the 50 JR 4-5 micro division. He has placed first in five of the eight GNCC races so far this season.
Not only does he race in the GNCC Racing series, but Gavin is also third in his class in the Mountain State Hare Scrambleseries. The Mountain State Hare Scramble is a local racing series hosted within the state of West Virginia.
Gavin’s older brothers, Gunnar and Christopher, have played a major role in developing his passion for racing. Watching them on the track flipped a switch inside him, sparking a passion for high-speed ATV racing. Now, the brothers gather together at the starting line for a quick pep talk before the green flag drops.
“If anything, [racing] brings them closer,” Ault said. “They always say they’re ‘brothers off the track, but competitors on it.’”
Weekends for the Claypool family usually require travel time, mechanic work and hours at the track with multiple racers in the family.
“It’s worth it when that switch flips and you see them go out there and perform,” said Mikeal Claypool. [Racing] really gives them something to look forward to – [the kids will] ask 20 to 30 times a week, ‘How many more days until we go to the race?’”
Ault added that her sons continue to be eager to learn about the point standings and ways to improve their racing.
At the conclusion of the racing season, GNCC Racing will host an awards banquet December 9 and 10 at the Morgantown Marriott at Waterfront Place in Morgantown, West Virginia. The goal for the Claypool family is to win the GNCC Racing National Championship and place high within the Mountain State Hare Scramble series as well.
See Buckhannon’s very-own Hometown Hero and his family this weekend at GNCC Racing’s The Mountaineer 2022 First Responder Salute in Beckley, West Virginia. Fans will find Claypool at the starting line Saturday, September 10 at 8 a.m. The Micro division drivers race for 30 minutes. Races on Saturday, September 10 will feature 50 action-packed ATV national classes and 10 eMTB racing classes. Races on Sunday, September 11 will showcase exciting dirt track motorcycle racing that features 67 motorcycle national classes. See the GNCC Racing flyer below to learn more about this weekend’s races.