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5 Minutes With... Kailub Russell

By Rachel Fluharty

Kailub Russell is a 19-year-old professional racer from Ohio. He rides a 250F for the Shock Doctor KTM factory team and rides and trains full-time in North Carolina. Kailub is a woods racer, and this year he notched his first professional championship by claiming the XC2 Lites Championship in the Can-Am Grand National Cross Country Series. KR’s win record this year was impressive—eight victories in 11 races. But he may forgo moving to the premier XC1 Pro (450) division next year to get more experience in XC2.

How does it feel to have National Championship, Kailub?
It feels really good. It’s a lot of relief I guess.

Do you think you’ll be able to relax before the end of the series? Are you going to take it easy the last two races?
I’m just going to go out to the next two races and do my job and keep winning.

What’s it like racing a 250 four-stroke in the woods? Has the bike been pretty reliable this year?
KTM makes a great bike. They are known for their wood bikes. Reliability really isn’t an issue with a KTM. All their bikes are good. The 250 four-stroke is awesome. I love it.

You practice on a 450; why do you switch it up between the two? Wouldn’t it make more sense to stay on the same bike for practice and racing?
Most people see it that way, but I like practicing on a 450 because when I get back on the 250 it makes it seem like I can ride it harder and I feel like I can throw it around a bit more. It kind of benefits me, I believe.

So will you keep the 250 as a practice bike next year if you move up and race a 450 in XC1? 
I’ll probably just stay on a 450 the whole time then. I might have a 250 to play around on every now and then.

So why do you race in the woods? Have you ever wanted to race motocross?
Well, it really wasn’t my decision. When I was a little kid I started in motocross and my mom didn’t like me racing it. So, I got into woods racing and I’ve been in it ever since.

Do you think now that you have a National Championship you will try racing more motocross?
Yeah, I’m a good motocrosser. I like to ride it, it’s fun. Really, I don’t even practice in the woods; I practice on a motocross track. I do a few motocross races every now and then. As far as competitively racing motocross, I’ll probably do a few things, but nothing too serious.

When was the last time you raced motocross?
Amateur day at Steel city.

How did you do?
I won 4 motos in the College Boy and Four-Stroke classes.

So obviously you’re pretty successful at both then.
When I was younger I wasn’t that great at motocross. It was always one of the things I wanted to do, and I always practiced at it, but I’m still not as fast as the guys that race professionally. I still like to go out and have fun at it.

You come from a racing family and your dad is an enduro champ. I bet they are pretty excited for you after this weekend.
Everyone was really happy for me. I’ve been racing for a long time and working at getting a National Championship for a long time. It’s been one of the goals of mine. It’s a real relief to finally get it.  Now I know where I stand and know what I need to do next year.

I talked to Hollywood, your mechanic, on the podium yesterday and he said that right now you’re considering all offers for next year. Have you made any definite decisions about moving up to XC1 next year?
As of right now everything is still up in the air. We’re trying to get something together and hopefully get it together by the next race in Ohio or Indiana for a deal for next year. We’re just trying to keep all of our options open. We’re playing it by ear right now.

Would you rather stay in XC2 another year and defend your title or do you want to see what you can do again the XC1 guys? I know you’ve gotten into the overall battle several times with the XC1 riders. What’s your preference?
I really want to move to XC1, but I think it would better my career to stay in XC2 and get stronger. It would give me another year and give me time to learn more. I want to move up to XC1 but as of right now I think my best option would be to stay back a year and get stronger.

In the beginning of the season you were battling with your teammate Cory Buttrick and Jason Thomas and Scotty Watkins, but you won a ton of races. How was the season for you competitively? 
The season has definitely been competitive. There have been some races where I’ve just totally checked out from everybody and done my own thing up front. Those guys are going fast and definitely aren’t slouching. I think I had more experience coming into the year and I know how to win races.  It just worked out in my favor.

Take us through your race at the Yadkin Valley Stomp. You settled back in third place behind Cory Buttrick and Steward Baylor in his debut race in XC2. Were you just enjoying the ride or were you having problems at first?
Actually, I got the holeshot and lead for the first five miles, and then I caught up to some pro riders and I got into a real muddy section, made a few bad line choices and got stuck. I got back up in third and Cory was about 50 seconds ahead of me and Steward was 20. I still wasn’t riding that well but around the third lap I finally got into the flow and made a pass on Steward and then Cory. Here lately I haven’t been getting into a rhythm until the third or fourth lap, then I can make some passes and make things happen.

Steward did very well in his first race in XC2. If, hypothetically, you stay in XC2 next year, how do you feel about the competition that will be moving up?
It’s really only going to help the class grow really. I like to see the young guys move up. It’s good for the sport. The class really helps out a lot of people. Steward would probably still be in 200A next year or I would be in 250A if we didn’t have this class as a little stepping stone into the Pro ranks. I think it helps everyone improve on their skill and know where they need to be.

Your teammate Buttrick congratulated you on the podium. You two have been the top competitors for this championship. Do you guys get along off the track?
Yeah we get along pretty good off the track. We grew up 30 minutes from each other. The only two championships he has ever lost have been to me. I feel pretty good about that, but I’m sure he doesn’t like it!

Well, Kailub, congratulations on your championship. Thanks for taking some time out to talk!
No problem. Have a good day.

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