Round 5 of the 2014 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Maxxis, an AMA National Championship, showcased some of the most exciting action of the season on Sunday afternoon. As an unpredictable chain of events unfolded, it was Factory FMF/KTM's Charlie Mullins who remained poised and consistent to capture a big win at the third running of the Dunlop Limestone 100. Ricky Russell had a breakout performance, capturing his first XC2 Pro Lites victory of the season and an impressive fourth overall for the day.
Factory FMF/KTM's Kailub Russell came into the fifth round in Springville, Ind. with a two-point advantage over his teammate Mullins but after three long hours of battle through the woods of the Lawrence County Recreational Park, the 2011 GNCC National Champion Mullins left with a seven-point lead in the championship standings.
N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Paul Whibley kicked off the afternoon with the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Holeshot Award, where he diced it out with Factory FMF/KTM's Steward Baylor Jr. on the opening lap. However, Russell quickly moved to the lead position with Whibley, Mullins, Baylor, Thad DuVall and Jordan Ashburn close behind.
After three laps of leading the pack, Russell experienced a big crash that sent the reigning champion end-over-end and to the ground.
"I don't even know what happened really, I grabbed the front brake and my front end just went sideways. I was wide open out of the straightaway and I went flipping several times," Russell said of his crash.
Russell remounted his KTM almost immediately but he lost a substantial amount of time when he was forced to stop in the Factory KTM pit where his crew switched out an exhaust that got ruined in the crash.
Mullins capitalized on the opportunity to take over the lead on Lap 4, while RideMPS.com/AMSOIL/Honda's Thad DuVall moved himself into the second place position. Mullins was able to keep a steady pace in the final laps where he progressively increased his gap on DuVall with each lap. Despite a big charge on the final lap, DuVall wasn't able to catch Mullins to contest the lead position.
"I'll be straight up, I just got tired out there," DuVall said. "I rode good, I just wish I wouldn't have let Charlie get away. I tried to push as hard as I could but I think I pushed a little too early."
Meanwhile, a hard-charging Russell continued to push his way through the pack from outside the top ten overall. With two laps to go, Russell had made his way into third place in the XC1 Class, but once again the XC2 Pro Lites front-runners interjected into the lead battle on the adjusted time clock. So not only was Russell battling his XC1 class competitors physically on the track, but he was also competing with XC2 leader Ricky Russell for the third and final position atop the overall podium.
Kailub Russell caught up to DuVall on the final lap and it was a head-to-head battle throughout the final moments of the three-hour race. Despite a valiant comeback effort by Russell, it just wasn't enough to make the pass on DuVall at the end. Only 00.375 separated the second and third place finishers.
After the race DuVall mentioned, "I had a pretty good lead on Kailub at the end but I just about threw it away. I crashed just before the finish with a mile to go and by the time I picked it up Kailub was right on me so I just tried to push it into the finish."
Sunday's Limestone 100 victory was a big one for Charlie Mullins, as he not only put an end to Russell's three-race winning streak but he also reclaimed the points lead heading into the mid-way point of the 13-race series.
"Kailub had a good pace going in the beginning and it looked like it was going to be a battle but he ended up going down hard. I knew all I had to do is ride steady and that's what I did," Mullins said. "It was long the last few laps but I felt better than I have been as far as riding goes so it was a good day."
Raines Riding University/Atlas Cycles' Ricky Russell had a stellar day of racing as he secured his first career victory in the XC2 Pro Lites class. Russell and XC2 competitor Maxxis/KLIM/DirtWise KTM Race Team's Jesse Groemm set a fast pace early on but it wasn't until they latched on to a hard-charging Kailub Russell that they were able to move so quickly into overall podium contention.
Groemm dropped back to the third place position as R. Russell and KTM support rider Grant Baylor both went by in a battle for the lead position. However, Russell turned it up in the final laps, where he eventually finished less than one minute away from landing atop the overall podium from the second row.
N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Paul Whibley maintained a third place position for a majority of the race but the two-time GNCC National Champion fell back a couple spots in the end, finishing fourth in the XC1 Pro class and fifth overall for the day just behind the XC2 winner Russell.
Grant Baylor landed second place in the XC2 Pro Lites division, finishing out sixth overall just ahead of his brother Stu in seventh. HR Motorsports-backed Takeshi Koikeda put forth a stellar ride at the fifth round, running in the fourth place position for a majority of the race. Koikeda, a former Japan National Cross Country (JNCC) Champion, put in a season-best finish of sixth place in the XC1 class and eighth overall for the day.
N-Fab/AmPro Yamaha's Jordan Ashburn finished ninth overall for the day, while Rocky Mountain ATV*MC/N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Josh Strang rounded out the top ten.
Groemm finished third place in the XC2 Pro Lites class, which earned the New Jersey native eleventh overall for the day.
Chris Douglas grabbed the $100 DigitalOffroad.com XC2 Holeshot Award, finishing twelfth in the XC2 class for the day.
Factory FMF/KTM's Kacy Martinez grabbed her fourth win of the season in the WXC Class, as well as second overall for the day. Ohio's Mandi Mastin made her second appearance to the WXC podium this season with a second place in the class, while N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Becca Sheets finished third in the class.
In the 8 a.m. Youth race, South Carolina's Cole Mattison secured his second consecutive victory at the fifth round. Mattison also topped the Super Mini (14-15) class, followed by Tennessee's Sam Thurman in the second place position. North Carolina's Conner Smith rounded out the overall podium with a third place finish in the Super Mini (14-15) class.
The 2014 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series resumes May 10 and 11 with the Parts Unlimited Loretta Lynn's GNCC. For more information on the series, visit www.gnccracing.com
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Dunlop Limestone 100 GNCC
Round 5 of 13
Sunday, April 27
XC1 Event Results:
1. Charlie Mullins (KTM)
2. Thad DuVall (HON)
3. Kailub Russell (KTM)
4. Paul Whibley (YAM)
5. Steward Baylor (KTM)
6. Takeshi Koikeda (HON)
7. Jordan Ashburn (YAM)
8. Josh Strang (YAM)
9. Chris Bach (HON)
10. Jason Thomas (KTM)
*Overall National Championship Standings:
1. Charlie Mullins (125)
2. Kailub Russell (118)
3. Josh Strang (90)
4. Jordan Ashburn (77)
5. Paul Whibley (75)
6. Steward Baylor (71)
7. Grant Baylor (67)
8. Ricky Russell (62)
9. Thad DuVall (61)
10. Andrew Delong (55)
*Indicates that the Overall National Championship Standings will determine the 2014 National Champion.
XC2 Event Results:
1. Ricky Russell (YAM)
2. Grant Baylor (KTM)
3. Jesse Groemm (KTM)
4. Layne Michael (HON)
5. Jedediah Haines (YAM)
6. Trevor Bollinger (HON)
7. Callan May (YAM)
8. Shane Hufford Jr (KTM)
9. Derrik Allen (KAW)
10. Sam Evans (YAM)
XC2 Series Standings:
1. Ricky Russell (123)
2. Grant Baylor (121)
3. Trevor Bollinger (105)
4. Shane Hufford Jr (78)
5. Callan May (70)
6. Layne Michael (69)
7. Rory Mead (56)
8. Sam Evans (56)
9. Jesse Groemm (52)
10. Chris Douglas (45)
About GNCC Racing
The AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country series presented by Maxxis is America's premier off-road racing series. Founded in 1975, the 13-round championship is produced exclusively by Racer Productions. Cross-country racing is one of the most physically demanding sports in the world. The grueling three-hour GNCC races lead as many as 1,500 riders through tracks ranging in length from eight to 12 miles. With varied terrain, including hills, woods, mud, dirt, rocks and motocross sections, GNCC events are tests of both survival and speed. The series draws talent from all over the U.S., Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. GNCC Racing is televised weekly on NBC Sports and RacerTV.com. For more information, please visit www.gnccracing.com.