Kailub Russell Wins at FMF Steele Creek GNCC

Mar. 31, 2014 By Scott Rousseau, Photos by Ken Hill/GNCC
Kailub Russell earned the GNCC win at round two.

Reigning AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Champion Kailub Russell prevailed for the second consecutive round of the AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Maxxis by scoring another overall win at round three, the FMF Steele Creek GNCC, in Morganton, North Carolina, Sunday.

A day's worth of rainfall at the event host Steele Creek created another challenging mud race at the 15th running of the Steele Creek GNCC, but Russell and his Factory FMF/KTM teammates were well prepared, and they blasted into the top three slots to start the race as Steward Baylor grabbed the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Holeshot Award, with Russell and round one winner Charlie Mullins right with him.  Russell quickly overtook Baylor, but by the time Mullins settled into second place spot, Russell had built a one minute lead over the field. He never looked back from there.

Mullins would hold tight for the second place position, despite heavy pressure from Australian native Josh Strang on the final lap.

"I tried to ride good and charge but I wasn't really making up any ground," Mullins said. "I rode as hard as I could. On the second to last lap I had a pretty good crash in the sand and Strang caught up to me. He kept me honest that last lap and I had to push pretty hard to keep him back."

Rocky Mountain ATV*MC/N-Fab Am Pro Yamaha's Strang quickly pushed his way through the pack and caught Mullins a couple laps into the race. Strang tried hard to wrestle second place away from Mullins, but at the end of six laps he came through the finish just 20 seconds behind Mullins to capture third overall.

"It took a while to get going out there," Strang said. "The last couple of laps felt pretty good. I caught up to Charlie on the last lap but I just couldn't get by him. But all in all it was a good day. Podiums are always nice but it's been two years since I've won a GNCC, I'm ready for a win!"

RideMPS.com/AMSOIL/Honda's Thad Duvall didn't get the most desirable start but the West Virginia native put his head down and charged his way through the pack early in the race. Despite not having front brakes throughout the first half of the race, Duvall managed to work his way into the top five. On the final lap, Duvall threw down the $150 KR4 Performance Fastest Lap as he made a pass on FMF/KTM's Steward Baylor to take over fourth place, which he held to the finish.

"I lost my front brakes right off the bat,” Duvall said. “I don't know if there was a bubble in the line or what."

Racers fire off the line at the Steele Creek GNCC race.

Baylor’s fifth place finish was his best of the season. N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Jordan Ashburn finished sixth, another minute behind him, while Factory Husqvarna's Andrew DeLong captured seventh place for the day, followed by Johnny Campbell Racing (JCR) Honda's Chris Bach in eighth, Rockstar Energy/WMR/KTM's Ryan Sipes in ninth and Takeshi Koikeda in 10th.

North Carolina's Trevor Bollinger had a big day at his home GNCC by earning his first career XC2 Pro Lites victory in front of his friends and family. Bollinger, an XC2 rookie, was elated to take the class win after an impressive ride in the not-so-favorable conditions. He led every lap of the six-lap race.

"This is a dream come true," Bollinger said. "This is what I've been working toward for so many years, and I still can't believe I finally proved to myself that I could do it and that I belong here."

With Bollinger running alone out front, the battle for second place in the XC2 Pro Lites class was between Raines Riding University/Yamaha-backed Ricky Russell, Factory FMF/KTM's Grant Baylor and Maxxis/KLIM/DirtWise KTM Race Team's Rory Mead.

Josh Strang for off to a great start en route to his third-place finish.

Mead held the second place position until the final lap when the New Zealand native was reportedly involved in a single rider accident. Mead was airlifted to a local hospital with undisclosed injuries.

Ricky Russell secured second place in XC2, with Baylor third and Layne Michael fourth. Imperium Bicycles-backed Chris Douglas secured the $100 DigitalOffroad.com XC2 Holeshot Award and eventually finished fifth in the class.
Super Senior A (45+) winner Stephen Thaxton grabbed the overall victory in the grueling two-hour-long morning race aThaxton was joined on the overall podium by WXC winner Kacy Martinez and Super Senior A runner-up Todd Ghearing. Martinez second overall finish also marked her third consecutive victory in the WXC Premier Women's Class. N-Fab/AmPro Yamaha's Becca Sheets was second in WXC, and Sara Baldwin was third.

In the Youth race, Super Mini (14-15) riders once again prevailed through the muddy track conditions. North Carolina's Conner Smith captured his first ever overall victory, with Tennessee's Sam Thurman second and West Virginia's Brendan Poling third.

XC1 Event Results:
1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
2.Charlie Mullins (KTM)
3. Josh Strang (YAM)
4. Thad Duvall (HON)
5. Steward Baylor (KTM)
6. Jordan Ashburn (YAM)
7. Andrew Delong (HSQ)
8. Chris Bach (HON)
9. Ryan Sipes (KTM)
10. Takeshi Koikeda (HON)

National Championship Standings:
1. Charlie Mullins (70)
2. Kailub Russell (67)
3. Josh Strang (58)
4. Jordan Ashburn (50)
5. Steward Baylor (44)
6. Paul Whibley (43)
7. Grant Baylor (38)
8. Thad Duvall (36)
9. Trevor Bollinger (34)
10. Ricky Russell (33)
*Indicates that the Overall National Championship Standings will determine the 2014 National Champion.

XC2 Event Results:
1. Trevor Bollinger (HON)
2. Ricky Russell (YAM)
3. Grant Baylor (KTM)
4. Layne Michael (HON)
5. Chris Douglas (KTM)
6. Shane Hufford Jr (KTM)
7. Callan May (YAM)
8. Ryan Lojak (YAM)
9. Jesse Groemm (KTM)
10. Sam Evans (YAM)

XC2 Series Standings:
1.Trevor Bollinger (69)
2. Ricky Russell (68)
3. Grant Baylor (66)
4. Rory Mead (56)
5. Shane Hufford Jr (52)
6. Callan May (41)
7. Layne Michael (33)
8. Chris Douglas (32)
9. Sam Evans (31)
10. Ryan Lojak (28)

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