PALATKA, Fla. – FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell earned career-win No. 49 on Sunday for Round 2 of the AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series in Palatka, Florida. Russell’s hard-fought victory marks his 2nd of the 2018 season as he continues to set the bar high for the orange brand, who enjoyed four riders inside the top five overall for an impressive showing. KTM-supported rider Steward Baylor Jr. led all but one lap of the three-hour race to finish 2nd overall, while support rider Ben Kelley earned his first-career XC2 250 Pro victory (and 4th overall) in a close battle with FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Josh Toth, who came up short in the final minutes to finish 2nd in XC2 and 5th overall for the day.
XC1 Open Pro
After nearly three-hours of racing it was Russell who came out on top but the five-time GNCC National Champion wasn’t always in a favorable position. Russell got a bad jump off the line and spent the early part of the race catching up to the lead pack. Russell struggled with a few crashes along the way and was forced to make an early pit stop on lap two in order to replace a bent shifter. The FMF KTM Factory Racing crew quickly replaced the shifter and topped off his fuel to allow Russell to immediately return to racing. Russell relentlessly chased down Baylor for the lead and it wasn’t until the white flag lap that Russell was able to overtake the position. Russell held strong for the final lap to ultimately secure a 16-second victory over Baylor in the brutal Florida conditions.
Russell: “I got a bad jump and Thad and I hooked up around 10th and 11th and we pretty much traded crashes – I would go down and then he would go down. I would feel like I’m going good and then have a little mental error that would put me at a deficit and make me have to work a little harder. I felt good in the sand sections so I would push a little harder there and use the other part of the track to kind of regroup, get back in the flow and then hammer again when we get back to the sand. It was a brutal day but I have to give it up to the entire team for making it happen.”
Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Steward Baylor Jr. capitalized on a great start as he sprinted away from the pack on the opening lap. Baylor maintained control of the race for two-and-a-half hours before Russell overtook the lead. Baylor experienced a crash late in the race that caused him to lose time to the leader and ultimately finish 2nd overall for the day.
XC2 250 Pro
Defending XC2 250 Pro Champion Josh Toth had a great start in the class as he commanded the lead early on. Trail Jesters KTM Racing’s Ben Kelley latched on to Toth on lap two and the duo put on a great battle for the XC2 lead as they made their way through the XC1 pack as well. Toth led for a majority of the three-hour race but Kelley remained within striking distance all race long. With one lap to go, Toth went down pretty hard while trying to make his way around a lapped rider, which allowed Kelley the opportunity to move into the lead position. Kelley held strong in the final moments to capture his first-ever XC2 victory.
Toth remounted in the 2nd place position and put forth one last effort to catch Kelley but there wasn’t enough time to make it happen.
Toth: “Ben was chasing me and I switched my lines to get around a lapper and ended up having a hard get-off and by the time I got up, Ben was going by me. I left it all on the track today but there wasn’t enough time at the end and Ben was riding really well.”
With one win apiece, Kelley and Toth sit tied for the lead in the XC2 250 Pro Championship standings heading into Round 3 next week.
Round 3: March 17 – Washington, Georgia
XC1 Open Pro Results
- Kailub Russell, KTM
- Steward Baylor Jr., KTM
- Thad DuVall, HQV
XC2 250 Pro Results
- Ben Kelley, KTM
- Josh Toth, KTM
- Pascal Rauchenecker, HQV
Overall Championship Standings
- Kailub Russell, 2 wins, 60 points
- Steward Baylor Jr., 46
- Thad DuVall, 46
XC2 250 Pro Standings
- Ben Kelley, 1 win, 55 points
- Josh Toth, 1 win, 55
- Pascal Rauchenecker, 42