FMF KTM's Kailub Russell Becomes Seven-Time GNCC Champion
Ben Kelley Earns First-Career XC1 Win Ahead of an
All-KTM Podium Sweep at Penultimate Round
BECKLEY, W. Va. – It was a monumental day for the KTM brand in Beckley, West Virginia as FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell clinched his seventh-career AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series Championship despite an unfortunate DNF result at the penultimate round.
Russell’s 2020 FMF KTM Factory Racing teammate, Ben Kelley, made history for himself and his current Trail Jesters KTM-Supported Racing Team on Sunday as he became a first-time overall winner in only his second time competing in the premier XC1 Open Pro class. Kelley’s impressive performance led an all-KTM podium sweep with Tely Energy Racing/KTM’s Grant Baylor finishing a season-best second, and FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Josh Toth rounding out the overall podium in third.
Additionally, Trail Jesters KTM Racing Team’s Jesse Ansley wrapped up the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am Championship on Sunday with a substantial five-minute victory at the penultimate round, giving KTM a stellar weekend from the inaugural Mountaineer GNCC event.
Team Manager, Antti Kallonen: “What an amazing season KTM has experienced in 2019! To start with Kailub’s seventh consecutive championship today, followed by Jesse Ansley’s second FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am title, it was a great day for the championships and to top it off with an all-KTM podium with Ben, Grant and Josh, who are also the three members of the ISDE junior team this year. Congratulations and a big thank you to all riders and our entire team who has worked hard all season long to achieve this moment.”
Russell’s seventh championship bid didn’t end the way he would have expected as a practice crash earlier in the week caused the multi-time champion to come into the weekend a little under the weather with an injured shoulder. With a positive READY TO RACE attitude, Russell lined up for the start and put himself into a second-place position during the first hour of the race. He dropped back to third for the next hour of racing but the rough and tumble course conditions made it difficult for him to hold on and with three laps remaining, Russell made the tough decision to call it a day. With a 37-point lead going into the final round, Russell was able to clinch the title and add yet another stripe to his decorated championship belt.
Kailub Russell: “It’s a sad way to end the year but that’s racing. I had a pretty good crash this week while practicing and I re-aggravated my shoulder again. I gave it my best the first half of the race but the rocky course became too challenging for my weakening shoulder, so I decided there was nothing more for me to gain since I won the championship by default with Thad not being able to line up. Seven consecutive championships is a pretty amazing feat and I can’t thank everyone who supports me enough. Every race-win counts during the season and I’m thankful we were able to get enough of them to lock down the championship one round early.”
Following an incredible 10-race winning streak en route to claiming his second-straight XC2 250 Pro Championship at Round 10, Ben Kelley made the jump into the premier XC1 class aboard the KTM 450 XC-F at the last round. It didn’t take long for the New England native to get comfortable as he immediately catapulted himself into lead contention in only his second race on the front row. After battling up front all afternoon, Kelley positioned himself just behind race-leader Steward Baylor Jr. heading into the final lap and from there he was able to capitalize on an unfortunate issue from Baylor to overtake the lead late in the race and carry it through the checkers for his first-career overall win.
Ben Kelley: “This win means the most out of any other win I’ve had in my whole career. I got really close to Stu on the last lap and I just tried to stick with him the whole time. I knew it was going to be hard to pass him, I took a few different lines and close to the end on the bike-only section he stalled it and I was able to squeak by when he was trying to re-fire the bike. I got a little gift there but I worked really hard and I’m just stoked to get my first overall win!”
KTM-Supported rider Grant Baylor had a great day of racing, where he ran inside the lead pack all afternoon. Baylor put himself into podium contention around the halfway point and from there he maintained a solid pace to ultimately move into second on the final lap.
FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Josh Toth made his second GNCC appearance back since a mid-season knee surgery and he showcased his hard work and determination with a solid ride. Toth got a seventh-place start and worked his way into fifth by lap five. As the race wore on he only got stronger as he worked his way into third on the final lap, ultimately claiming his second podium finish of the season.
Josh Toth: “I had high expectations for myself coming into this weekend. I’ve been working with WP to get my suspension sorted and coming to this round I knew it would be like home for me. I’m stoked to be on the box with Ben and also Grant, this is the whole [ISDE] Junior World Trophy Team. It gives me a lot of confidence, I know I’m coming back from injury so trusting the work I’ve been putting in.”
It was a heartbreaking day for Tely Energy Racing/KTM's Steward Baylor Jr., who led two and half hours of Sunday's racing before a bike issue ended his race with one lap to go.
Next Race: Crawfordsville, Indiana – October 27, 2019
XC1 Open Pro Results – Mountaineer GNCC
1. Ben Kelley, KTM
2. Grant Baylor, KTM
3. Josh Toth, KTM
DNF Kailub Russell, KTM
Overall Championship Standings
1. Kailub Russell, 295 points (6 wins)
2. Thad DuVall, 258 points (4 wins)
3. Steward Baylor Jr., 198 points (1 win)
4. Ben Kelley, 196 points (1 win)