Ben Kelley Pulls Off Second Overall in a Last-Lap Battle at the Mountaineer GNCC

TimeTuesday, September 14, 2021 | 11:50 AM

BEN KELLEY PULLS OFF SECOND OVERALL IN A LAST-LAP
BATTLE AT THE MOUNTAINEER GNCC

BECKLEY, W. Va. – After a two-month break from racing, the AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series returned to action on Sunday with Round 10 of the 13-race series in West Virginia. FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Ben Kelley found himself on the winning end of an intense last-lap battle to claim second-place, while his teammate Josh Toth landed just off the podium with fourth overall on the day.

Kelley, the previous round’s winner, had a few challenges to overcome off the start as he washed the front end of his KTM 350 XC-F coming into the first turn, dropping him back a few spots outside the top-five. He freight-trained with the lead group early on and he used that momentum to break into third before the end of lap one. Kelley set his sights on catching the lead battle but he found himself on the ground too many times in the next few laps and the gap increased to 1:30 with one-hour of racing to go. With an impressive late-race charge, Kelley was able to reel in the second-place rider on the final lap and it was an intense head-to-head battle all the way to the checkers. Despite losing his front brakes in a racing contact situation, Kelley was able to overtake the second-place position in the last few corners before the finish. With three rounds remaining, Kelley maintains the lead in the Overall National Championship with a pair of victories and six solid podiums behind him.

Photo: Shan Moore
Photo: Shan Moore

Ben Kelley: “It was crazy race! I had a couple scary crashes but other than that, I felt like I was riding good but they kept pulling time on me. It was slick out there and I was struggling to keep the momentum going but I just kept charging the whole time and I was able to reel in Jordan somehow on that last lap. About a quarter-mile from the finish, I tried to make a pass on the outside but the two lines came together and we bounced off each other and I went flying off the trail and I hit my front brake rotor so I went to grab the front brakes and the lever just went to the bar. I knew it was going to be tough to run it in on him but I hit the last few corners good, took some different lines and I was able to square him up coming into the fields and take the inside and he washed out there, so I was able to claim second. So that’s pretty lucky for me on how the day went but a second-place is solid.”

Photo: Shan Moore
Photo: Shan Moore

Toth had a fairly uneventful afternoon of racing as he maintained a steady pace throughout the three-hours. He got off to a top-five start and worked his way into fourth early on, sitting just outside the top-three on the opening lap. He fluctuated back-and-forth from the podium battle all race long but he ultimately rode his own race to finish 45 seconds back in fourth overall. 

Josh Toth: “I didn’t get the best of starts but I worked my way around a few guys early in the race. I kind of struggled getting around some guys and ultimately lost the leaders but I still had a really good ride. I pressured Ben and played cat and mouse with him all day but wasn’t able to get close enough to make a move or stay with him towards the finish but overall, it was a solid day.”

Next Race: Millfield, Ohio – September 26, 2021

XC1 Open Pro Results – Mountaineer GNCC
1. Steward Baylor Jr., YAM, 02:50:04.576
2. Ben Kelley, KTM, +01:17.361
3. Jordan Ashburn, HQV, +10.202
4. Josh Toth, KTM, +45.180

Overall Championship Standings
1. Ben Kelley, 237 points
2. Steward Baylor Jr., 233
3. Jordan Ashburn, 179
OTHER KTM
6. Josh Toth, 146