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New Points Leader Russell Leads Field to Snowshoe

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MORGANTOWN, W. Va. This weekend, June 21 and 22, the 2014 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series presented by Maxxis, an AMA National Championship, makes its way to Snowshoe Mountain Resort for the eighth running of the AMSOIL Snowshoe GNCC. The ninth round serves as a pinnacle moment in the 13-race championship as it's one last opportunity for riders to build confidence before heading into a two-month break for the summer. For XC1 Pro points leader Kailub Russell, momentum hasn't been a problem this season and the reigning champion looks to keep the ball rolling with a third consecutive win this weekend.

The Snowshoe GNCC is the toughest, most spectacular and most unique race on the entire GNCC circuit, as the race is set in the upscale ski village at West Virginia's largest ski resort -Snowshoe Mountain. However, with all the beauty that Snowshoe has to offer, there are a whole slew of obstacles to keep racers on their toes. A few miles of the course make up simply the roughest, toughest section of GNCC track riders will see all year. Deep mud bogs, massive tree roots and hills going both up, and down, are enough to stop almost everyone.

Kailub Russell looks to earn his third consecutive win at Snowshoe this weekend. Photo: Ken Hill

But can it stop Factory FMF/KTM's Kailub Russell and his bid for a second straight XC1 championship? This season, Russell will attempt to become the next back-to-back champion on the bike side since the UK's David Knight came over and dominated in 2008 and 2009. Furthermore, Russell could be on his way to becoming the next American-born champion to win back-to-back since Rodney Smith last pulled it off in 2001 and 2002.

GNCC's level of competition has increased to a point where multi-time champions are becoming few and far between, but Russell has the opportunity to make history this season. With five rounds remaining in the 2014 season, there are approximately 15 hours of racing left to go, and not to mention a hard-charging field of competitors looking to stand atop the center of the podium.

Perhaps the rider who can taste it the most is Rocky Mountain ATV*MC/N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Josh Strang, who has finished in the third place position at six of the first eight rounds. Strang, who currently sits third in the championship standings, is working toward surpassing FMF/KTM's Charlie Mullins for the second place position. But in order to do so before the summer break, Strang must secure an overall win on Sunday, which awards 30 championship points. Of course, a race win is ultimately what Strang is looking for, and it's not out of the question as the 2010 GNCC Champion emerged victorious at Snowshoe in 2011.

Jordan Ashburn has finished fourth in the past two races, and sits fourth in points not to far behind Josh Strang. Photo: Ken Hill

N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Jordan Ashburn isn't far behind Strang with fourth place in the championship standings. Ashburn heads into round nine with a pair of fourth place finishes behind him, where he just missed the overall podium at the last round when XC2 Pro Lites rider Grant Baylor pulled off a fast lap at the end to steal second place overall from the second row. The young Baylor, who currently leads the XC2 Pro Lites championship standings, has been successful in challenging the overall leaders with two second place overall finishes (beating all but one XC1 Pro rider) through the first nine rounds. Baylor's advantage comes from the adjusted time clock as he starts on the second row at approximately 30 seconds behind the XC1 Pro Class. 

However, Snowshoe has unique starting structure where riders line up on a paved road in groups of five based off the overall point standings and each row takes off 10 seconds apart. For this round only, Baylor will start on the front row as the fifth place rider in the standings, thus pitting him directly against the fastest riders.

Thad DuVall returned from a shoulder injury not to long ago, and theres no doubt the West Virginia native will be a crowd favorite heading into Snowshoe. Photo: Ken Hill

One rider who may be able to capitalize on the time adjustment at this round is RideMPS.com/AMSOIL/Honda's Thad DuVall, who currently sits 11th in the championship standings. Mechanical issues and a shoulder injury, both of which have caused him to score points in only four rounds this season, have plagued DuVall this season. As a result, DuVall will begin on the third row at Snowshoe, which is approximately 20 seconds behind the front-runners. DuVall earned a podium finish at Snowshoe in 2013, where he even led some of the race, so there's no doubt that the West Virginia native will be a favorite heading into Sunday.

N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Paul Whibley currently sits back in sixth overall in the championship standings. While Whibley has made it clear that he's not a fan of the treacherous conditions that Snowshoe has to offer, the two-time champ will be an expected front-runner.

Although he holds the second place position in the championship standings, 2011 GNCC Champ Charlie Mullins will miss his second consecutive race due to injury. Mullins currently has two injured wrists, both of which he underwent surgery to repair, and it is not certain when he will return to GNCC Racing this season. 

XC2 Pro Lites has a pretty close battle for the title with Grant Baylor and Ricky Russell. Photo: Ken Hill

KTM Support rider Grant Baylor took over the points lead in the XC2 Pro Lites class, where he continues to battle with Raines Riding University/Atlas Cycles' Ricky Russell for the title. The duo has switched off winning every other round lately, and both riders have proven to be strong contenders as they sit only three points apart in the championship standings. XC2 Pro Lites rookie Trevor Bollinger holds the third place spot in the class with consistent finishes and one victory thus far. 

With eight wins through the first nine rounds, Factory FMF/KTM's Kacy Martinez continues to hold the top of the WXC class point standings heading into Snowshoe. Ohio's Mandi Mastin continues to hold the second place position, just two points ahead of N-Fab AmPro Yamaha's Becca Sheets in third.

Youth bike racing will take place Sunday at 8 a.m., followed by amateurs and Women at 10 a.m., while the top amateurs and pros race at 1 p.m. Local racers are invited to compete at this event, as GNCC Racing offers classes for riders of all skill and experience levels. The amateur racer entry fee is $40 and riders can sign up at the track. 

Adult (12+) gate admission is $25 for the full weekend and $15 for kids (6-11). Kids five and under are free. All admission includes a ski lift ticket. For more information on the series, please visit www.gnccracing.com.

Tune into RacerTV.com on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST to catch LIVE coverage of the Pro Bike race at Round 9. For more information on GNCC Live coverage, visit www.racertv.com.

Stay up-to-date with exclusive content from the AMSOIL GNCC Series by following the series Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Previous Round Results

Wiseco John Penton GNCC
Millfield, Ohio
Round 8 of 13
Sunday, June 8

XC1 Event Results:

  1. Kailub Russell (KTM)
  2. Josh Strang (YAM)
  3. Jordan Ashburn (YAM)
  4. Paul Whibley (YAM)
  5. Steward Baylor (KTM)
  6. Chris Bach (HON)
  7. Thad DuVall (HON)
  8. Andrew Delong (HSQ)
  9. Takeshi Koideka (HON)
  10. Jason Thomas (KTM) 

*Overall National Championship Standings:

  1. Kailub Russell (203)
  2. Charlie Mullins (180)
  3. Josh Strang (153)
  4. Jordan Ashburn (129)
  5. Grant Baylor (116)
  6. Paul Whibley (115)
  7. Ricky Russell (99)
  8. Andrew Delong (98)
  9. Steward Baylor (86)
  10. Chris Bach (79)

*Indicates that the Overall National Championship Standings will determine the 2014 National Champion.

XC2 Event Results: 

  1. Grant Baylor (KTM)
  2. Nick Davis (KTM)
  3. Ricky Russell (YAM)
  4. Trevor Bollinger (HON)
  5. Layne Michael (HON)
  6. Sam Evans (KTM)
  7. Michael McGinnis (KTM)
  8. Derrik Allen (KAW)
  9. Chris Douglas (KTM)
  10. Ryan Lojak (YAM)

XC2 Series Standings:

  1. Grant Baylor (202)
  2. Ricky Russell (199)
  3. Trevor Bollinger (160)
  4. Layne Michael (116)
  5. Shane Hufford Jr (105)
  6. Callan May (93)
  7. Jesse Groemm (90)
  8. Sam Evans (88)
  9. Chris Douglas (84)
  10. Jedediah Haines (74)

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