Making it look all too easy, FMF/KTM‘s Kailub Russell claimed his first-ever XC1-class victory with a dominating performance at the ITP Powerline GNCC in St. Clairsville, Ohio – round 12 of the 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Series.
On a day when most of the focus centered on the two main contenders for the 2011 title, Russell put in a statement ride that served notice to the competition that his intention is to be a regular visitor to the center step of the podium. In his first season of XC1 competition, Russell has landed himself on the podium several times this year – finally getting a win over his veteran competition.
On a fast and slippery course – one that also had its share of treacherous mud holes and unforgiving hills – Russell passed FMF/KTM teammate Charlie Mullins on the opening lap when Mullins stalled his bike. After that, the two-time XC2 champ put the hammer down and began building a lead that stood at over a minute by the end of the three-hour race.
The victory not only marked the first-ever win for Russell in the XC1 class, but it was also the first win for the new KTM 350 XC-F, which Russell has been riding all year.
“I’ve been putting in a lot of hard work here lately, and I just want to win,” Russell said after the race. “I’m pretty disappointed with how the beginning of the year went, but I’ve turned it around and I want to finish off the season winning.”
Second went to Mullins, who helped his championship hopes immensely with the finish – especially since his main rival, Josh Strang, finished fifth. After settling into a safe second behind Russell, Mullins maintained a healthy lead over a raging battle for third, featuring Strang and AmPro Racing Yamaha riders Paul Whibley and Thad DuVall, the three swapped positions throughout the three hour race.
On lap four, Mullins lost considerable ground when he got stuck on a nasty hill, but he managed to get going without losing a position and made it to the finish with a little over 10 seconds to spare to grab the runner-up finish.
“I made a few mistakes after the gas stop but I felt I rode pretty good overall,” said Mullins. “Kailub rode a good race and I didn’t really have much for him. I just did the best I could to keep it on two wheels, and luckily I did what I had to and finished ahead of the people I needed to.”
Charlie Mullins extended his lead in the championship with a second-place finish in the penultimate round.
DuVall rounded out the podium, after fending off a last-turn pass attempt by Whibley. The West Virginia rider has steadily improved since the summer break and was extremely strong over the final lap of the race.
Whibley, who took the $250 Motosport.comHoleshot Award at the start of the race, held on for fourth, but collapsed after crossing the finish line, obviously in pain from the collision he had with DuVall at the finish.
Fifth place went to Strang, the FMF/Makita Suzuki rider losing valuable points to Mullins in the championship battle, and with only three races remaining on the schedule, the defending series champ sits a full 26 points behind Mullins.
JG Off-road/GEICO Powersports Honda‘s Jimmy Jarrett turned in a solid ride for sixth, beating out eight-time National Enduro Champ Michael Lafferty (Hsb) and Nate Kanney on WMR Racing/Clockwork/Planet Fitness KTM.
Beta rider Jesse Robinson finished ninth, while JG Off-road/GEICO Powersports Honda’s Scotty Watkins rounded out the top 10 in his first ride in the XC1 class this year.
Steward Baylor Jr. got back on track in the XC2 class with an impressive flag-to-flag win after grabbing the $100 Motosport.comHoleshot Award to start the race. The KTM rider was in contention for the overall during the early going and finished off the XC2 race a full two minutes ahead of second place finisher Jordan Ashburn on the Am-Pro/FMF/Yamaha YZ250F.
FAR Husqvarna‘s Jason Thomas rounded out the podium and maintains second place in the series standings, 38 points behind Baylor.
Fourth went to JG Off-road/GEICO Powersports Honda’s Rory Mead, who dropped back from the XC1 class for this race.
Meanwhile, Pennsylvania KTM rider Andrew DeLong finished fifth, ahead of Morgan Moss, who rode in third place for a good portion of the race on a 2012 YZ250F for Obermeyer Yamaha.
Pennsylvania KTM rider Nick Davis matched his best finish of the year with a seventh, while Yamaha riders AJ Stewart, Steven Squire and Ryan Lojak rounded out the top 10.
Scott Grills was the top finishing “non pro” rider, with a solid 17th overall finish on a Kawasaki. Grills also topped the competitive four-stroke A Lites class.
In the A.M. race, Masters A (50+) winner Mark Patterson took the overall win on a Suzuki, with Women’s class winner Maria Forsberg taking second overall on a KTM. Third overall and first in the 200 C Schoolboy (12-15) class was Dalton Cross on a KTM.
Brandon Higgins (Yam) beat fellow West Virginian Doug Blackwell (Hon) to win the Sportsman A class.
In the Youth race, Anthony Stone (KTM) grabbed his first overall win of the year, topping Levi Keller (KTM) and Austin Lee (KTM) for the honors. Stone also beat out Keller for first in the Super Mini (14-15) division, while Lee took the win in the Super Mini (12-13) class.
In the 85 (14-15) class, Brandon Ghearing took the win on a KTM, beating out Honda rider Joshua Borland.
The 2011 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series heads to Crawfordsville, Indiana for the Amsoil Ironman GNCC on October 22 & 23. ATV racing will take place on Saturday, followed by bike racing on Sunday. For more information, please visit www.gnccracing.com.
Motosport.com $250 XC1 holeshot – Paul Whibley
Motosport.com $100 XC2 holeshot – Steward Baylor Jr.
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
3. Thad DuVall (Yamaha)
4. Paul Whibley (Yamaha)
5. Josh Strang (Suzuki)
6. Jimmy Jarrett (Honda)
7. Mike Lafferty (Husaberg)
8. Nate Kanney (KTM)
9. Jesse Robinson (Beta)
Steward Baylor Jr. nailed the Motosport.com holeshot award in the XC2 class to win his fifth event of the season.
10. Scotty Watkins (Honda)
2011 XC1 Championship Points:
1. Charlie Mullins, 245
2. Josh Strang, 219
3. Paul Whibley, 213
4. Kailub Russell, 180
5. Nate Kanney, 160
6. Cory Buttrick, 120
7. Michael Lafferty, 105
8. Jimmy Jarrett, 98
9. Thad DuVall, 96
10. Chris Bach, 96
1. Steward Baylor Jr. (KTM)
2. Jordan Ashburn (Yamaha)
3. Jason Thomas (Husqvarna)
4. Rory Mead (Honda)
5. Andrew DeLong (KTM)
6. Morgan Moss (Yamaha)
7. Nick Davis (KTM)
8. AJ Stewart (Yamaha)
9. Steven Squire (Yamaha)
10. Ryan Lojak (Yamaha)
2011 XC2 Championship Points:
1. Steward Baylor Jr., 243
2. Jason Thomas, 205
3. Jordan Ashburn, 196
4. Andrew DeLong, 193
5. Jesse Robinson, 146
6. Scotty Watkins, 125
7. Morgan Moss, 113
8. AJ Stewart, 108
9. Zackery Smith, 101
10. Steven Squire, 91