GNCC Racing

Russell Clinches Sixth-Consecutive GNCC Championship at Penultimate Round

Monday, October 15, 2018 | 1:00 PM

Russell Clinches Sixth-Consecutive GNCC Championship at Penultimate Round

ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio – It was an outstanding day for KTM riders at Sunday’s Powerline Park GNCC and FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell led the charge as he piloted his KTM 350 XC-F to a sixth-straight GNCC National Championship with a poised performance at the penultimate round of the 2018 AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

Joining Russell atop the overall podium was XC2 250 Pro rider, Ben Kelley, with an impressive third-place finish from the second row. Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Kelley battled with championship rival – FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Josh Toth – all afternoon before solidifying his sixth class-win of the season to extend his points lead with one round remaining. 

Additionally, FMF/RPM/KTM Team Maxxis Racing’s Jesse Ansley won the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am Championship with his sixth victory of the season on Sunday. Ansley, who has been a KTM-mounted rider throughout his decorated youth and amateur racing career, continues to progress his way through the ranks making a big step with his first-professional championship in GNCC. 

XC1 Open Pro

Russell came into the weekend with a pre-existing shoulder injury but that didn’t stop the 28-year-old from going after his sixth consecutive title on Sunday. As the green flag waved to start the XC1 Open Pro race, Russell commanded the holeshot and led the first few miles of the race before a small mistake dropped him back to second early on. About four miles in, another rider bobbled in front of him going up the ‘FMF Powerpoint’ hillclimb, forcing him to choose an alternative line and ultimately not make it up the hill. As a result, Russell found himself in the back of the pack as he began his charge from nearly last-place to podium contention by lap two. 

On the second-to-last lap, Russell reclaimed the lead and attempted to hold off DuVall on the final lap. A bad line selection by Russell caused him to go down in a mud hole and DuVall inherited the lead once again. With only five miles to go, Russell made the decision to safely bring it home for second – clinching his sixth consecutive GNCC National Championship with one round remaining in the 2018 season. 

Russell is scheduled to have surgery this Tuesday to repair his injured left shoulder, therefore missing the final round of the GNCC Series in Indiana. Furthermore, Russell has been withdrawn from the U.S. World Trophy Team lineup for the upcoming International Six Days Enduro (ISDE) in Chile as he begins his recovery process in preparation for the 2019 race season.

Russell:“I wasn’t really 100% coming into this race, or into the last one, so I knew it was going to be tough and I had it in the back of my mind that I had to be careful. I got the first two laps underway and I felt pretty good. I was content riding behind Thad, but he ended up gassing again or something and I got around him in the pits but I didn’t really want to be in the lead, I just wanted to follow him into the finish, to be honest. But then I got in the lead and I just kind of maintained, I was riding my own race at my pace and I thought I was going to pull it off there at the end, or I was going to try to anyway. Halfway through the last lap, I was still in the lead but I took a bad line and fell over in a little bit of mud and that was all she wrote. Thad rode good, he’s been riding good all year. The next few years are going to be tough but I’ve kind of realized that you don’t have to win them all. It’s pretty amazing just to click them [six championships] all off in a row like this. It’s hard to take it all in.” 

Team Manager, Antti Kallonen:“It is an incredible feeling to support Kailub in his sixth-straight GNCC National Championship. As we know and have seen, these championships are not given and the entire FMF KTM Factory Racing Team has worked just as hard as Kailub to stay on top. It is so rewarding to see this success and I would like to congratulate everyone on a job well done.” 

XC2 250 Pro

Excitement filled the air in the XC2 250 Pro competition as fellow KTM-mounted teammates and championship rivals Kelley and Toth continue their bid for the title, while also turning heads with impressive performances in the overall classification. Kelley grabbed the holeshot and early advantage but Toth remained close in tow as the duo worked their way through the XC1 field and into the overall lead for the first half of the three-hour race. 

Kelley had a crash on the ‘FMF Powerpoint’ on lap four and Toth capitalized on the opportunity to lead the way in XC2; however, Toth later experienced an issue that allowed Kelley to reclaim the lead once again and they continued to battle wheel-to-wheel for the next few laps. While out front, Kelley made a sudden brake and Toth ran into his rear tire and fell down. Kelley was able to take that gap and run with it to the finish, besting Toth by 54 seconds in the end. 

Toth:“Ben and I started off strong – he got the holeshot and I was right there with him. We just had a great pace going, caught into the XC1 guys really quick and we started picking away at them. Before long, I could see Kailub and all the top guys right in front of us – it was kind of crazy! On the second lap, Ben got with that lead group and I kind of got hung up a little bit so they broke away but it was great riding out there. I was leading the last two or three laps and I had a tip-over on the last lap. I actually caught back up to Ben but I clipped his rear tire and went down on the last lap. I’m not too mad about it, we both gave it our all out there and we’ve been working hard so he deserves it just as much as me.” 

Kelley leads Toth by 23 points in the XC2 250 Pro Championship as the series heads into its final round on October 28. 

KTM-Supported rider Becca Sheets put forth a dominant performance on Sunday to earn her third WXC and overall victory of the season, besting over 380 riders in the entire 10 a.m. morning race. 

Round 13: October 28, 2018 – Crawfordsville, Indiana 

Overall Results

  1. Thad DuVall, HQV
  2. Kailub Russell, KTM
  3. Ben Kelley, KTM
  4. Grant Baylor, KTM
  5. Josh Toth, KTM
  6. Steward Baylor Jr., KTM

XC1 Open Pro Results

  1. Thad DuVall, HQV
  2. Kailub Russell, KTM
  3. Grant Baylor Jr., KTM

Overall Championship Standings

  1. Kailub Russell, 7 wins, 297 points
  2. Thad DuVall, 4 wins, 262
  3. Trevor Bollinger, 190
  4. Steward Baylor Jr., 189

XC2 250 Pro Results

  1. Ben Kelley, KTM
  2. Josh Toth, KTM
  3. Craig DeLong, HQV 

XC2 250 Pro Standings

  1. Ben Kelley, 6 wins, 298 points
  2. Josh Toth, 5 wins, 275
  3. Craig DeLong, 181