BECKLEY, W. Va. – FMF KTM Factory Racing teammates Ben Kelley and Kailub Russell raced their way to a double podium-finish on Sunday with second and third place overall finishes, respectively, at Round 9 of the Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series in Beckley, West Virginia. Additionally, Trail Jester’s Racing/KTM’s Jonathan Girroir had another standout performance in the XC2 250 Pro class to earn his second-straight victory and assume the co-lead in the championship chase with four rounds remaining.
Summit Bechtel Reserve, known for its technical and rocky terrain, saw rainfall taking place on and off throughout the weekend making the already challenging terrain even more slick, especially during the second half of the race. With dry conditions at the start of the XC1 Open Pro class, Russell powered his KTM 350 XC-F off the line to capture the holeshot but it was Kelley who assumed the early lead as he rounded the opening lap out front. He went on to lead most of the opening lap before getting passed on the next lap, where he continued to battle from the second-place position for the remainder of the nearly three-hour race. Kelley was able to get as close as one-second away from the race-leader on laps two and four but he dropped back in the second half of the race after stopping for goggles and making a few mistakes late in the race. Kelley maintained a solid pace in the final laps to ultimately secure second overall to claim his best finish of the season after missing four rounds early on due to injury.
Ben Kelley: “I was just kind of managing there, hoping to have a big push at the end of the race but I kept having problems. The lappers were kind of tough and I had a few crashes trying to get by them, but Stu [Baylor] was riding strong and smooth, so hats off to him. It was a fun race but I’m just a little bummed I wasn’t there to fight for the win at the end of the race.”
Russell, the XC1 holeshot recipient, found himself in trouble right way as he slid off the track on the opening lap and got caught up with a downed tree. He was able to get himself back on-track but he was forced to fight through the pack from seventh-place early on. The Seven-Time GNCC Champion battled up to third by lap two and spent the rest of the race dicing back-and-forth inside the top-five. With two laps to go, he was able to solidify the third-place position and he finished strong with third overall for the day, where he now leads the overall National Championship by 63 points with four rounds remaining in the series.
Kailub Russell: “I wasn’t going really fast, I just didn’t have the flow there at the beginning and those guys got away. I had a couple big ones there at the beginning of the race so I had to just settle down and ride into it like I normally would at a race and I got into third. I kept a steady pace and tried not to fall down because it was super easy with the slick and icy conditions.”
Meanwhile, Josh Toth had a good run going up front early on as he settled into third on the opening lap. However, after tweaking his leg two weeks ago during a practice incident, Toth ended up reaggravating the same knee early in the race and with the tough conditions, he ultimately made the decision to pull off after three laps. Toth plans to rest this week and allow his leg to heal again in order to be ready for next weekend’s AMA National Enduro Championship round, where he currently leads the overall point standings.
XC2 250 Pro
It was another great day for Trail Jester’s Racing/KTM’s Jonathan Girroir, who led from start to finish en route to his fourth win of the season. Girroir consistently pulled away from the competition early on to create a sizeable gap as he launched himself into the top three overall heading into the final laps. A couple of mistakes took him out of the overall running late in the race but he remained steady to clinch the class-win and seventh overall for the day.
FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am
KTM-Supported rider Zack Hayes continues to lead the way in the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am championship standings following a second-place finish at Round 9. Hayes currently sits with four wins behind him as the series heads into the final four rounds this fall.
Next Race: Round 10 – Burr Oak GNCC – September 27, 2020
For more information on the GNCC schedule, please visit www.gnccracing.com.
XC1 Open Pro Results – Mountaineer GNCC
1. Steward Baylor Jr., YAM, 02:49:44.398
2. Ben Kelley, KTM, 02:51:03.539
3. Kailub Russell, KTM, 02:54:58.558
Overall Championship Standings
1. Kailub Russell, 256 points (7 wins)
2. Josh Strang, 193 (1 win)
3. Jordan Ashburn, 143
XC2 250 Pro Results – Mountaineer GNCC
1. Jonathan Girroir, KTM
2. Liam Draper, KTM
3. Mike Witkowski, YAM
XC2 250 Pro Championship Standings
1. Craig DeLong, 224 (3 wins)
2. Jonathan Girroir, 224 (4 wins)
3. Michael Witkowski, 209 points (2 wins)