GNCC Racing

Tuesday Toolbox: Ricky Russell

Tuesday Toolbox: Ricky Russell

Wednesday, March 23, 2016 | 9:30 AM
Wednesday, March 23, 2016 | 9:30 AM

Many GNCC fans are familiar with Ricky Russell. He’s been competing the past couple seasons in the XC2 class. This year finds Ricky on a new team with a new bike and a new goal! He’s lined up on the front row. caught up with Ricky to find out the details! Hi Ricky! Welcome to the 2016 GNCC Season!
Ricky Russell: Thank you. It’s good to be back. Seems like the off-season was a long one.

We see you are set up with a new team for this year. How did that come about?
Well, at the end of the year last year, I was trying to sort things out. Pretty much like everyone else! It looked like my opportunities were shortening with Yamaha and I was looking for something to keep me in GNCC. I hooked up with Obermeyer MCS Suzuki during the off season and so far it has been awesome! interviewed your teammate, Chris Douglas, last year. He was on a fresh Suzuki ride with Obermeyer. It looks like since then, the team has expanded!
Yes! Rod Marshall with MCS Cranks wanted to step in and make things more official. Now we have the mechanics and the support we need. This is obviously a building year, but Chris and I are committed to doing our very best. With MCS Racing, Obermeyer and Suzuki behind us, we are looking forward to building the program and being even stronger in the future!

Ricky started the 2016 season out strong by taking the first XC1 Pro holeshot of the year at round one!
Ricky started the 2016 season out strong by taking the first XC1 Pro holeshot of the year at round one! Photo: Ken Hill

It seems like you have been on the series for a while, but that’s actually not true. You hail from Washington state and only recently came to the east coast?
That’s right. I came over here in 2013. I had been racing in Washington and met Jason Raines since he’s from there. We got to talking and I really wanted to give the GNCCs a try. So I loaded up my van with everything I owned and headed out! Through Jason, I hooked up with Randy [Hawkins] and he helped me out a bit. He actually put me up at the bunkhouse in Traveler’s Rest, SC and gave me a little bit of support throughout the year. I raced XC1 that first year and my best finish was at Ironman where I got 6th. From there, Jason put together an XC2 team and pulled me in for 2014 and 2015.

So what were you doing in Washington before you came out this way?
Well, I had grown up riding dirt bikes. We used to go riding as a family up in the mountains. We would camp and ride all weekend and when I was 16, I decided to try a race. I won! After that, I was hooked. I ended up competing in the local series, NMA Off-Road. I rode pro there and every once-in-a-while, I would do a WORCS race. I loved the Washington WORCS, but not the California “deserty” wide-open stuff. And so I got to thinking that the GNCCs were “woodsy” and that’s what I wanted to try. It was right about then that I talked with Jason Raines and figured I wasn’t getting any younger, so I better get to it!

You’ve put together some impressive rides, but also had some bad luck.
That first year was tough. I had a few bike issues, a few personal issues and just the overall adapting to being away from home. And then the past couple years I’ve had some good rides and then injuries. So this year, I’m focused on staying together and finishing the season strong!

So during the off-season, you went home to Washington, right?
Yes, and once we got the team together, I loaded up the van and came back out here. I don’t really have a home. I’m pretty mobile! I’ve been staying south just because the weather has been good for riding and training. I’ve hung out with the Baylor’s and even stayed at the bunkhouse over at Randy’s.

The Washington native made his way to GNCC Racing in 2013 after some discussion with former top GNCC pro racer and fellow Washington native, Jason Raines.
The Washington native made his way to GNCC Racing in 2013 after some discussion with former top GNCC pro racer and fellow Washington native, Jason Raines. Photo: Ken Hill

Did you just tell them your yellow bike was an anniversary edition of their brand?
[laughs] That’s what we ended the year on last year. It was Yamaha’s 60th anniversary so we rode yellow at Ironman. Now I’m on a Suzuki – which is a great bike and I’m getting along great with it! And I think that’s a real testament to how we off-roaders get along. It’s not like this in the moto community. But in off-road, everyone helps everyone. Ultimately, I’ll end up in Indiana because that is where the team is. I’m sure we’ll work it out as we get there!

Your fist couple years over here, your girlfriend Jenah was with you. We haven’t seen her lately?
She’s back home working. I’d love to do well out here and get the support to bring her back with me. As we both get older, it takes a little bit more to live on. She’s doing great! She cheers me on from home!

So what prompted the move from XC2 to XC1?
Honestly, there was a rule change this year! I’m 25 now and so I aged out! I really wanted to get that XC2 championship, but I’m ok on the front row. I have the speed. 

You proved that in the opening round in Florida! You got the holeshot and led most of the 1st lap!
Yeah! I thought I had the holeshot, but no one said anything and so after the race, I didn’t go to the podium. Honestly, I was a bit confused all day. I got the holeshot and was leading, but in the back of my mind, I was wondering if I was off-course? I was looking around to see where everybody was. I wasn’t riding super-awesome! I was tight and it messed me up a bit. But now I know I belong. I have the speed. I won’t be second-guessing myself!

If you've been wondering over the past few years, no, Ricky is not related to Kailub Russell!
If you've been wondering over the past few years, no, Ricky is not related to Kailub Russell! Photo: Ken Hill

It was really cool to see you on a new team with a new bike in the front row. That Suzuki must fire up pretty quickly!
It’s kick-start only, like the Yamahas. Paul Whibley holeshot 12 of possible 12, so I’ve got one under my belt! [Editors note: Snowshoe doesn’t count for a holeshot] We’ll see what we can do for the rest of the season. I had a little help with a pileup. I think Kailub Russell went down and collected a couple people with him. I was able to go to the outside and end up with the holeshot. It definitely felt pretty good!

We know you have the raw speed. You have a great team behind you and you’re working hard. We look forward to seeing you progress through the year. Who would you like to thank?
Obermeyer, MCS Racing, Suzuki, Fly Racing, Kenda Tires, YNS Designs, MX Tech Suspension, Unabiker Armor, G2 Ergonomics, Seat Concepts, Bel Ray Oils, Rekluse, Fasst Company, GPR Stabilizers, Motion Pro, FMF, SM Pro Wheels, Sunstar, TM Designs, Motohose, No Toil Filters, Pivotworks, Ebc brakes, IMS Products, Evans coolant, Scott Goggles, USWE Hydration, ARC Levers, Carbsport, 4Arm Strong, Vertex Pistons, Ward Insurance, Tomboy Barbie Photography, Dirt Buzz, and also a big thanks to my mechanic Mitch, my Mom and Dad, and my oh so supportive girlfriend Jenah!