Ben Kelley Captures Runner-Up Finish at The John Penton GNCC

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TimeMonday, May 24, 2021 | 1:40 PM

BEN KELLEY CAPTURES A RUNNER-UP FINISH AT THE JOHN PENTON GNCC

MILLFIELD, Ohio – Conditions were brutal for Sunday's John Penton GNCC but FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Ben Kelley pushed through three intense hours in the heat and humidity to claim a runner-up finish at Round 7 of the AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series. Rounding out a positive day for the team was Josh Toth, who battled through an eventful day to earn a top-five finish in the XC1 Open Pro class.

With temperatures nearing 90 degrees in Ohio, the setting began to really heat up for the afternoon pro race. Kelley got a decent jump off the start and worked his way up to third on the opening lap but he crashed about five miles in and was forced to play catch-up early on. He was able to get up to second by the end of the first lap and he kept himself within striking distance of the leader, Ricky Russell, during the first hour of racing. Eventually making his move into the lead on lap three, Kelley built a solid gap of almost 15 seconds out front but he ran into a bottleneck in the single-track Penton section, allowing Russell to get by for the lead. Kelley reeled him back in to overtake the lead once again but he later encountered more congestion on the trail, which cost him his cushion out front. Using every ounce of energy to hold off a hard-charging Josh Strang in the final stretch, Kelley eventually got passed for the lead and this time he wasn’t able to counter the attack, ultimately finishing second on the day. With consistent finishes behind him thus far, Kelley continues to lead the way in the Overall Championship standings with six rounds remaining. 

Photo: Shan Moore
Photo: Shan Moore

Ben Kelley: “Sometimes you get lucky with lappers and sometimes you don’t, and I was unlucky today. Strang capitalized when he reeled me in and he was putting it to me in the Penton section in all that tight fast track. I was just so tired trying to ride through that fast and I was smoked on the last lap. Stew was catching me on the last lap and it was all I could do to keep moving forward and I held on for second. I really want that win but we’ll get it here soon.”

Toth got off to a fourth-place start just in front of his teammate Kelley but an early crash sent him to the back of the pack right away on lap one. Despite getting run over in the process, Toth was able to re-mount and charge his way up to the top-five battle but he confronted another setback when he somehow missed the rear brake and ran straight into a tree, bending his rear brake pedal. Toth stopped in the pits at the end of lap one to get it fixed and from there he put on a charge to reach fourth on lap three. He battled inside the top-five for the remaining 70 minutes, coming away with a solid top-five finish after three total hours of racing.

Photo: Shan Moore
Photo: Shan Moore

Josh Toth: “Off the start, I kind of hit a bump weird on the turn and tucked the front end, and then I ended up getting run over and going to the back of the pack. I worked my way around Stu and as I passed him in the next corner, I don’t know if I missed the rear brake pedal or if it was already bent, but I ran straight into a tree and bent my rear brake pedal so I had to ride the rest of the lap with no rear brake. After I came into the pit to get it straightened out, I caught up to Ricky in fourth but it was pretty dusty and it was hard to put a pass on him or get close enough to do that. I ended up with a fifth but all things considered, I’m pretty happy with my riding.”

Next Race: Mount Morris, Pennsylvania – June 6, 2021

XC1 Open Pro Results – John Penton GNCC
1. Josh Strang, KAW, 03:03:05.038
2. Ben Kelley, KTM, +06.861
3. Steward Baylor Jr., YAM, +0.694
OTHER KTM
5. Josh Toth, KTM

Overall Championship Standings
1. Ben Kelley, 157 points
2. Steward Baylor Jr., 148
3. Grant Baylor, 126
OTHER KTM
7. Josh Toth, 94