Great weather set the stage for the 42nd annual event and Saturday's pro winner overcame a challenging start to join an elite group of riders that have won four or more of these races.
As he waited for the start last year's champion Rodney Spencer Jr. said "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."
A row behind Spencer, sat three-time winner Ross Nelly, who is now a college student living in Chico, Calif.
Asked about the race, he said, "I'm going to approach this smooth and calmly with no wrecks, that's for sure. 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."
At VC riders line up in rows of 10, which are started ever 15 seconds. And now all the pros are in the first group that starts while the amateur and expert riders are in the second group.
Before every race begins two "head start" positions are auctioned to raise 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 and he rode in tribute to her.
Cory Evenson was the lucky winner of the one-minute head start.
Although Spencer said he was going to take it easy he and Ty Tremaine led the charge down the hill from VC's main street.
On the downhill run where the riders go from pavement to dirt is when things began to happen for Neely, who was in the second row. Charging into that corner he was faced with riders ahead of him swinging wide to make the turn.
With nowhere to go, he sailed over a mound of dirt, crashed through temporary fencing then rode the rest of the way down a hill before getting back on course. Now further behind, he began his charge.
Up front, Tremaine held the point with Spencer giving chase. Behind the leaders Neely was picking off riders and soon had his sights on the lead group.
He would get by Spencer going up Sutro Canyon when he chose the better line to get by some stalled riders and soon swept past Steve Tichenor, who had been in second.
Once in the lead, Neely was on his game as he raced passed the lap traffic and dust. Behind him 37-year-old Brian Garrahan was also charging and eventually finished second ahead of Aric Swan and Irving Powers.
The course was so challenging, especially Sutro Canyon where the riders had to go uphill this year, only the top three finished five laps on the 28-mile long course.
Neely got a water bath from friends and family after he finished then 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."
Sutro Canyon is one of the hallmarks of the race but this year is was more difficult as the weather had exposed more rocks. In fact several riders said one section was like riding over bowling balls.
Asked about this Neely said, "It was horrible up there today, 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 fun."
Then he thanked Mod 1 Motorsports in Vallejo, California, Dick's Racing for suspension, Dirt Tricks for sprockets and RMS as well as the people that have helped him over the years.
At the end Neely had almost an eight minute lead over second place. This victory puts him third behind Ty Davis and Larry Roeseler for most VCGP wins.
When Garrahan reached the finish he tried to do a burnout but his bike wouldn't cooperate. Then after catching his breath he said, "I won the amateur race in 1992 and today I passed everyone up Sutro Canyon. 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 the thanked G Brothers Racing, Husaburg, Moose Racing, Dunlop Tires and Bell Helmets for their support.
The pros, experts and amateurs race on Saturday and their event is four-hours long. On Sunday the novice, women, bomber and vintage bike riders compete in a three-hour long race.
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 the race, 59-year-old "Artichoke" Joe Divecchio, who has raced in every VCGP and usually competes for both days, said, "Yesterday was pretty gnarly with Sutro, we knew it was coming as 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 Bomber class today on a '81 Husky 430."
Once again two "head start," positions were auctioned off the winners were Nicole Collins, who was disappointed Sutro wasn't part of the course, while 15-year-old Reece Dominguez claimed the one-minute early start. Then a 30-second head start was auctioned off and Justin Simmons got that advantage.
Soon after the charge Dominguez swept past Collins and seemed on his way to the win. However way back in the pack local rider Robert Underwood, racing a Honda bomber started his charge.
A late entry put Underwood on the 40th row at the start so he also faced a time challenge as each row starts 15 seconds head of the next one.
When the checkered flag waved 16 riders had passed the finish line and were on their fifth lap. Everyone behind them was stopped as they had timed out.
On the final lap, Domingues and Mikey Morgan, who started in the 22nd line, had a two-minute advantage on the charging Underwood.
During the final lap, Underwood made four minutes on the two leaders and ended the race with an almost two-minute advantage over them. And he was another rider that raced both days.
"I just took my time, was patient as I knew it was long so it was one rider at a time. The dust was horrible, you couldn't see at all," he said. "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."
Collins had a good race and although passed early stayed in the top 10 and was one of the riders that 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, grandfather Bob Collins, who bought her the double zero head start, her family and Norcal KTM in Rocklin.
Riding motorcycles and racing them isn't just for the young. In Sunday's front row 65-year-old Pete Prichard took his place and ended up 26th overall. Artichoke Joe ended up 288th while 76-year old Roy Watson finished 274th.
His grandson Billy Watson 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 at the end of Sunday the local EMTs only had to transport two riders on Saturday while families and friends took the others that needed treatment.
This year, 466 riders competed on Saturday and Sunday there were 407 racers.
Now it's quiet on the Comstock but late next April they riders will return to face the challenge of the VCGP and, for some, the rocks of Sutro Canyon.
•The RTF Speedway was in action Saturday evening. Shawn "the Rooster" Natenstedt won the IMCA feature, while Malen Gonzalez topped the Pro Stocks and Carl "Fireball," Barlow continued his winning ways in Hobby Stock.
OTHER RACING NEWS
•This weekend Rattlesnake Raceway stages another of its points races beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday. The racing card includes the usual car classes as well as the Amsoil Northern Nevada Outlaw Karts and Mud Bogs.
On Sunday, the Northern Nevada Kart Club races at Desert Park Raceway. The action begins with heat races around 10 a.m. and continues through the main events in the afternoon.
•The Busch brothers were in Richmond, Virginia this weekend competing in two NASCAR events. On Friday night Kyle started second and finished third in the Nationwide race.
In Saturday evening's Sprint Cup event Kyle started 18th and ended up 23rd while older brother Kurt had a better night starting 14th and finishing ninth.
42nd Annual Virginia City Grand Prix*
•Saturday, April 27
Overall Finishers - 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 Exp., 13. Justin Seeds, Pro, 14. Sean Jones, Pro, 15. Josh Wilson, Over 30 Exp
• Sunday, April 28
Overall Finishers - 1. Robert Underwood, Bomber, 3:28:58, 2. Mikey Morgan, Open Nov., 3:30:31, 3. Recce 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
* - Full results will be posted on the club's website at VCGP.com.
• RTF Speedway - April 27
Heat Winners - #1 Walter Ball, #2 Robert Miller
Main - 1. Shawn Natenstedt, 2. Riley Simmons, 3. Josh Ogg, 4. Steve Evenson, 5. Walter Ball
Heat Winner - Rick Rogers
Main - 1. Rick Rogers, 2. David Partelow, 3. Jeff Tuttle
Heat Winner - Jack Randall
Main - 1. Malen Gonzalez, 2. Gary Nevers, 3. David Rauscher, 4. Derrek Rauscher, 5. Jim Klopp
Heat Winner - 1. Carl Barlow, 2. Rocky Goetz, 3. John Schilling, 4. Samantha Schultz, 5. Derek Ramthun
Heat Winner - Frank Hinds
Main - 1. Frand Hinds, 2. Calvin Ryle, 3. Cody Gibson, 4. Roy Peterson, 5. Tate Morehead
Heat Winners - #1 David Paine, #2 Justin Busch
Main - 1. David Paine, 2. David Ausano, 3. Justin Busch, 4. Kenny Martin, 5. Jesse James
Heat Winners - #1 Bracee Langevin, #2 Justin Schilling
Main - 1. Travis Barr, 2. Justin Schilling, 3. Bracee Langevin, 4. Lynn Wrigglesworth Jr., 5. Danielle Paine
Outlaw Kart Winners:
Beginner - Evan Rauscher
Box Stock - Cole Reid
250cc - Krazy Kate Robinson
500cc - Jozay Hartman