The mud was a huge factor for Charlie Mullins and Paul Whibley as they battled it out at the Big Buck GNCC.
It’s no longer a matter of earning stripes for Factory FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell, who locked down his third consecutive XC1 Pro class victory at Sunday’s VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC, one of the most rugged stops on the 13-race circuit. Russell has already proven he’s got what it takes to hang with former GNCC champs Charlie Mullins (2011) and Paul Whibley (2010); but after growing up through the GNCC youth ranks, the 22-year-old is quickly becoming the rider to beat in the 2012 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series.
Whibley once again grabbed the $250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award on his AmPro Yamaha YZF450, but it was Russell who set the early pace on his KTM 350, as he led the avenging duo of Whibley and Mullins who haven’t been able to beat Russell since Whibley took the opening round in Florida over a month ago.
Russell put a sizeable gap between himself and the Mullins/Whibley battle about midway through the three-hour race and he especially turned it up as the two-lap card fell. And that’s when the major twists started to take place for Mullins and Whibley, as they took turns getting stuck in the mud hole on the final two laps. Russell capitalized on their mistakes to extend his lead even more, as he seemed to have ridden a nearly flawless race through the rough and tumble South Carolina obstacles.
“Paul and Charlie kept me honest out there today and have been riding awesome all year, that’s why you’ve seen us all up here every weekend,” Russell said. “I’ve been putting in the work and it’s really starting to pay off, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Whibley was able to best Mullins once again for second place and the defending champ came through about a minute later for the final podium position.
“I actually went down in the 3.5 mud hole two laps in a row at the end,” said Mullins. “It was definitely a mistake on my part and I’m pretty frustrated, but we’ll come back next round and make up for it.”
Shenandoah Honda/Offroadchampion’s Thad DuVall put in another solid ride to capture fourth place, just shy of landing his first podium appearance this season. After riding Yamahas for so long, DuVall is finally becoming comfortable on his Honda 250F the consistency is bringing him to the front more than ever before.
WMR/KTM’s Rory Mead finished an impressive fifth in XC1, having early battles with DuVall and AmPro Yamaha’s Jordan Ashburn, until Ashburn was sidelined temporarily to fix his rear brake. Mead commented after the race, “that was really fun! I had a blast out there, the track was awesome!”
Factory FMF/KTM’s Cory Buttrick began inside the top five but managed to lose a few positions throughout the race, finishing in seventh, just in front of Florida’s Garrett Edmisten who came in sixth. Edmisten started near the back of the pack but made his way up toward the front, putting his Kawasaki just outside the top five in XC1.
With high hopes to land an overall win in front of his home state crowd, South Carolina’s Steward Baylor Jr. put in a valiant effort to catch the XC1 leaders, falling a little short with fourth overall. Although the defending XC2 champ wasn’t content with an overall finish off the podium, he continued his current sweep in the XC2 class, now making it four for four in the Pro Lites division.
F.A.R Husqvarna’s Andrew DeLong sat the first two rounds of the season out as he mended a broken collarbone, but the Pennsylvania kid seems to be healing up just fine as he rode to a stellar second place finish behind Baylor, and just ahead of former F.A.R teammate Jason Thomas. Thomas showed up at round four with privateer efforts for the first time this season on a KTM two-stroke and after experiencing a crash early on, Thomas rounded out the XC2 podium spot.
Obermeyer Yamaha/Raines Riding University/Offroadviking.com’s Brad Bakken stayed consistent all day, ultimately edging out Jesse Robinson for fourth place. The Husaberg/RidePG.com backed Robinson got out to the early XC2 lead before running into some mid-race problems that forced him to ride mid-pack for the second half of the race.
South Carolina’s Grant Baylor took home the Top Amateur Award in the PM race with 14th overall, while West Virginia’s Layne Michael finished second to Baylor in 250A, and came in a close 19th overall for the day.
Kailub Russell (center), Paul Whibley (left) and Charlie Mullins (right) rounded out the podium at the Big Buck GNCC in South Carolina.
South Carolina’s very own Vance Earl made his return to GNCC this weekend, topping the Masters A (50+) class, in addition to taking the AM overall win. Super Senior A (45+) winner Michael Grizzle took second overall and Factory FMF/KTM’s Maria Forsberg grabbed the final podium position, and her fourth consecutive Women’s class-win this season.
Raines Racing and Riding University’s Jason Raines (YAM) topped the Sportsman A class by around four minutes over Georgia’s Alex McRee (KTM) and North Carolina’s Casey Leatherman (KTM) who finished within one second of each other in the final laps.
Indiana’s Michael Witkowski (KTM) once again topped the Youth overall, ahead of Landrum, South Carolina’s Jonathan Johnson (KTM) and Taylor Johnson (HON), who went 1-2 in the Super Mini (14-15) class.
Round five of the 2012 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series heads to Park City, Kentucky, April 28 and 29 for The Can-Am Mammoth GNCC. For more information, go to www.gnccracing.com.
XC1 Pro Results:
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Paul Whibley (YAM)
3. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
4. Thad DuVall (HON)
5. Rory Mead (KTM)
6. Garrett Edmisten (KAW)
7. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
8. Jimmy Jarrett (HON)
9. Jordan Ashburn (YAM)
10. Nathan Kanney (HON)
XC2 Pro Lites Results:
1. Steward Baylor Jr (KTM)
2. Andrew DeLong (HSQ)
3. Jason Thomas (HSQ)
4. Brad Bakken (YAM)
5. Jesse Robinson (HSB)
6. Jedediah Haines (YAM)
7. Cody Gragg (YAM)
8. AJ Stewart (YAM)
9. Scott Grills (HON)
10. Michael McGinnis (KTM)
XC1 Pro Standings:
1. Paul Whibley (101/1 win)
2. Kailub Russell (99/3 wins)
3. Charlie Mullins (86)
4. Thad DuVall (70)
5. Cory Buttrick (64)
6. Rory Mead (60)
7. Garrett Edmisten (54)
8. Jordan Ashburn (52)
9. Chris Bach (48)
10. Nathan Kanney (44)
XC2 Pro Lites Standings:
1. Steward Baylor Jr. (120/4 wins)
2. Jesse Robinson (84)
3. Jason Thomas (79)
4. Jedediah Haines (64)
5. Brad Bakken (64)
6. Glenn Kearney (42)
7. AJ Stewart (41)
8. Cody Gragg (40)
9. Andrew DeLong (38)
10. Scott Grills (35)
$250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award: Paul Whibley (YAM)
$100 Motosport.com Holeshot Award: Ryan Lojak (YAM)