Kailub Russell earned his second straight win at the third round of the GNCC Series in Morganton, NC.
Factory FMF/KTM's Kailub Russell began the 2012 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country season somewhat under the radar after an injury kept him from finishing the first race of the season, but Russell bounced back with a round two win that was perhaps thought of as an act of opportunity after Mullins and Whibley nearly exhausted themselves in Florida. However, it was evident that Russell made more than a statement after Sunday's race as he went on to secure his second straight XC1 Pro class victory at the FMF Steel Creek GNCC in Morganton, N.C.
Although AmPro Yamaha's Paul Whibley grabbed the $250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award right away, it was the Factory FMF/KTM
duo of Kailub Russell and Charlie Mullins who set the early pace for the seven-lap race. Shenandoah Honda/Offroadchampion's Thad DuVall kept himself in close proximity to Mullins for the first three laps, waiting for the opportunity to make a move on the past champ, while Whibley used his veteran knowledge to size up DuVall's every move. By the end of lap three, the top five zipped into Pro Row about the same time, making for an even tighter race as they exited the pits in a slightly different order than they arrived.
It didn't take long for defending XC2 Pro Lites champ Steward Baylor Jr. to put his KTM 250 two-stroke into the overall lead according to the adjusted time clock, not to mention riding into the physical battles taking place among the top four XC1 contenders. This isn't the first time that 17-year-old Baylor has made an attempt at winning a race overall, as he took third overall in round one.
Defending XC2 Pro Lites champ Steward Baylor Jr. put his KTM 250 two-stroke into the overall lead according to the adjusted time clock.
By lap four DuVall had reeled in Mullins to take over the second spot, and Mullins continued to drop off the lead pace, in what he later called a health issue that took away most of his energy during the race. Whibley finally made the pass on DuVall about two hours in, as the former AmPro Yamaha teammates diced back and fourth through the famous Steele Creek bridge section, but it was FMF/KTM's Cory Buttrick who blasted past both riders when they stopped for fuel near the end of lap five. Buttrick was forced to pit the next lap around, allowing Whibley to take over second place, where he would eventually finish for day. Buttrick came in around a minute behind Whibley for third to secure his first podium finish of the season, but Baylor bested Buttrick in the top three overall honors. In fact, on adjusted time, Baylor was able to top Whibley by less than one second to secure second overall behind Russell.
"It feels great to get another win today," said Russell. "I feel like my conditioning is where it needs to be and the bike is working awesome this year. Everything is starting to come together and I couldn't be happier."
And defending champ Charlie Mullins finished out the day in sixth; salvaging valuable championship points and now sits third overall, just behind Whibley and Russell.DuVall just missed the podium once again, taking fourth in XC1 and fifth overall for the day. AmPro Yamaha's Jordan Ashburn put in a solid day of racing with an impressive fifth place finish in XC1, the rookie's highest finish yet this season.
Local North Carolina boy Jesse Robinson rode the wheels off his Husaberg 250 two-stroke to finish second in the XC2 Pro Lites class in front of his hometown crowd. Obermeyer Yamaha
/Raines Riding University/Offroadviking.com's Brad Bakken and Jedediah Haines put in a solid 3-4 finish for the team, in addition to a couple personal best finishes for the season.
Factory FMF/KTM's Maria Forsberg landed second overall and another victory in the Women's class.
The Top Amateur Award came down to an all-out battle to the finish between 250 A winner Aaron Plessinger (YAM) and Open A winner Corey Macdonald (YAM). Plessinger topped Macdonald by a mere 43 seconds after the two ran within just seconds of each other during the entire three-hour race.
The 10 a.m. race boasted record numbers as spectators and racers filled the starting line for the FMF Steele Creek GNCC. Two of the day's biggest classes came from the Sportsman A and B riders, which are non-points paying classes but offer some of the most intense racing in the morning. Six-time AMA Hare Scramble champion Jason Raines (YAM) finished out front once again, with Casey Leatherman (KTM) and Matt Crouch (KTM) coming rounding out the top three in the Sportsman A class.
Masters A (50+) winner Mark Patterson topped the AM points-paying podium, while Factory FMF/KTM's Maria Forsberg landed second overall and yet another victory in the Women's class, while Masters A (50+) Randall Riggs rounded out the overall podium in third.
Indiana's Michael Witkowski (KTM
) once again topped the Youth overall, ahead of South Carolina's Jonathan Johnson (KTM) in the Super Mini (14-15) class and fellow Super Mini (12-13) rider Kaleb Ward (KAW) of Pennsylvania finished third overall and second in his class.
Round four of the 2012 Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series heads to Union, South Carolina, April 14 and 15 for the VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC. For more information, go to www.gnccracing.com
XC1 Pro Results:
Paul Whibley came in at second with Kailub Russell in first and Cory Buttrick rounding out the podium in third.
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2. Paul Whibley (YAM)
3. Cory Buttrick (KTM)
4. Thad DuVall (HON)
5. Jordan Ashburn (YAM)
6. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
7. Garrett Edmisten (KAW)
8. Jimmy Jarrett (HON)
9. Takeshi Koikeda (KTM)
10. Chris Bach (BET)
XC2 Pro Lites Results:
1. Steward Baylor Jr (KTM)
2. Jesse Robinson (HSB)
3. Brad Bakken (YAM)
4. Jedediah Haines (YAM)
5. Scott Grills (HON)
6. Jason Thomas (HSQ)
7. Cody Gragg (YAM)
8. Andrew DeLong (HSQ)
9. Zack Nolan (KTM)
10. Nick Davis (KTM)
XC1 Pro Standings:
1. Paul Whibley (76/1 win)
2. Kailub Russell (69/2 wins)
3. Charlie Mullins (65)
4. Thad DuVall (52)
5. Cory Buttrick (50)
6. Rory Mead (44)
7. Jordan Ashburn (40)
8. Garrett Edmisten (39)
9. Chris Bach (39)
10. Takeshi Koikeda (36)
XC2 Pro Lites Standings:
1. Steward Baylor Jr. (90/3 wins)
2. Jesse Robinson (68)
3. Jason Thomas (58)
4. Jedediah Haines (49)
5. Brad Bakken (46)
6. Glenn Kearney (42)
7. Dustin Gibson (29)
8. AJ Stewart (28)
9. Cody Gragg (26)
10. Cole Kirkpatrick (26)
$250 Motosport.com Holeshot Award: Paul Whibley (YAM)
$100 Motosport.com Holeshot Award: Cody Gragg (YAM)