Mount Morris, Pa.—Round eleven of the 2020 Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series, an AMA National Championship, took place on Sunday, October 11 in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania. Mathew’s Farm hosted its 3rd Annual Parts Unlimited Mason-Dixon GNCC race, where FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell wrapped up his eighth-straight GNCC National Championship by taking third-place overall finish.
“To win one title is tough and to back it up is even harder, so to keep it going and go eight-straight is unreal. I never would have dreamed it was an actual possibility,” said Russell in a FMF KTM team statement. “There are too many variables in off-road racing – there’s too much going on, too much time out there on the track and too many different conditions. Today, the track today was completely brutal. If we wouldn’t have done two filter swaps there’s no way we would have made it – it was pure silt from the drop of the gate. I banged myself up a couple weeks ago at the last race and I was a little unsure of how it was going to go but we took it easy the last couple of weeks and I really just wanted to get this thing out of the way so I just kept my nose to the ground today and we were able to make it happen. I have to give it up to the whole team, without Antti and everybody that supports us, this would never be possible. It’s been a real honor to race for the factory KTM team my entire career and finish it out with them, and to go out on top is awesome.”
Prior to the season, Russell announced the 2020 GNCC campaign would be his last.
“Congratulations to Kailub and the entire team,” said Team Manager Antti Kallonen. “Eight consecutive GNCC Championships speaks volumes of Kailub and the team that has stood behind him from day one. It has been true pleasure working with Kailub for all of his eight championships and this last one tops his amazing GNCC career.”
Russell’s championship run only took some of the headlines for the event, as Steward Baylor’s remarkable run with AmPro Yamaha is now up to three-straight wins.
“It was a struggle today being buried in the back for the most part of the day, knowing guys had changed filters and were still ahead of me had me wondering if I even had a shot at a podium,” Baylor wrote on Instagram. “With 2 laps left I knew the guys all had to pit and if I could close the gap I could make some passes fast, with the dust I knew it was my only shot and that’s what I did, just found myself at the right place at the right time and put my head down, @benkelley530 didn’t make it easy on me at all but I was able to pull it off again. Huge props to the @yamahamotorusa no filter changes was a huge advantage today!”
As the famed “10 seconds” was called and the green flag waved, it was AmPro Yamaha’s Layne Michael reaching the line first to grab the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Pro Holeshot Award. Michael was accompanied by Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki teammates Jordan Ashburn and Josh Strang as he led the way into the woods.
Michael would continue to hold the lead position for the first four laps of racing as he tried to place a gap on the rest of the field in dusty conditions, however, Michael would be unable to hold off Baylor and FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Ben Kelley. Michael would check in third overall as he came through timing and scoring on the fifth lap, with Baylor and Kelley coming through in the top two positions.
After working his way up from a mid-pack start Baylor would hold the lead as the white flag was waving. Kelley sat 13 seconds behind him but was on the charge and looking to battle throughout the last lap of racing. Michael, who sat third overall, would make a costly mistake and go down at the end of pro row and lose two positions. Kelley kept pushing, but as the checkered flag came out Baylor Jr. would come through with just a 1.8 second gap ahead of Kelley to earn his third-straight overall win of the season. Kelley would finish out the day second overall.
“Today was tough, it seemed like everything was going wrong,” said Kelley. “I started my bike too early and shut it off trying to do the right thing but I ended up with a dead last start and I got stopped for 15 seconds on the first lap. But, I just pushed as best I could to get through. I was able to reel in Stu but it was like a mile from the finish and when I caught him there was nothing I could do with that dust. I’m happy with second but this one hurts a little compared to the last two because I was so close and I felt like I could have gotten it done but hats off to Stu and in another two weeks we’ll try again.”
Russell, who came into the race after sustaining a PCL and lateral meniscus tear two weeks ago in Ohio, found himself digging deep to push through the three-hour race. Russell was able to battle towards the front of the pack for the first half of the race, but he would lose some time as he would make two precautionary pit stops to have his air filter swapped out due to the extremely dusty conditions. Russell would find himself running third overall as he made his way to checkered flag. Russell’s third overall would be enough to wrap up his eighth-straight title in his final year of Pro GNCC Racing.
Making his return to GNCC Racing this weekend was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Thad Duvall. After suffering a knee injury before the start of the season and proving too much to take when the season began in February, Duvall had undergone knee surgery and has been on the road to recovery. Duvall began his day in fourth overall as the lead group came through timing and scoring after completing one lap. Duvall would push himself, running third overall on lap three but would fall back to fourth after that. However, Duvall would find himself running just 1 second behind Russell as the duo made their way through the course on the last lap. Duvall came through the finish 1.3 seconds off of Russell, and with two rounds remaining Duvall is looking to finish out the season and prepare for 2021.
“This was my first GNCC back in six months after knee surgery and I was pretty nervous but I got off to a really good start and just kind of tried to ride my own race,” DuVall said in a team statement. “I wasn’t sure where my fitness would be for a whole three hours but I paced myself and I felt good the whole race. I gave it my all in those last two laps and I’m happy with fourth.”
After his crash on pro row, Michael would pick himself up and get back on the motorcycle. Michael found himself back in the fifth place position, but he would once again try to push throughout the last lap to hold onto that fifth place finish. Michael would hold off the rest of the XC1 riders and cross the line fifth.
Strang was running at the front of the pack in second overall for the first three laps of racing but after a long pit stop to change his air filter after 3 laps of racing, Strang would find himself coming through in the ninth place position. Strang knew he would need to make some necessary passes to earn valuable points in his hunt for the National Championship. As Strang came through to see the white flag he had made his way up to sixth overall, however, Strang would be unable to make any more passes throughout the last lap of racing and would hold onto sixth overall and continue to hold second in the points standings.
Teammates to Strang, Ashburn would continue to push after finding himself outside of the top five XC1 racers. Ashburn made his way to seventh overall after falling back to ninth earlier in the day and continues to sit third in the National Championship points standings. FactoryONE Sherco’s Grant Baylor battled back-and-forth from seventh and eighth throughout the duration of the race. Baylor crossed the line three seconds behind Ashburn to take eighth overall.
Phoenix Honda Racing’s Andrew Delong battled through the dusty conditions throughout the grueling three-hour race. Delong would make the move into sixth place as he came through on lap four, however, he would be unable to hold onto that after engaging in a battle for the next two laps. Delong would cross the finish line after six laps of racing in the ninth place position. Rockhill Powersports/Ti Dezigns/UFO Plast’s Evan Earl came through to take 10th in XC1 after having a consistent race at round eleven in Pennsylvania.
In the XC2 250 Pro class it was AmPro Yamaha/St. Lawrence Radiology’s Mike Witkowski getting a great jump off the line and earning the $100 Hot Cams XC2 Holeshot Award. Witkowski continued to hold the lead as they XC2 riders made their way into the woods, and after six laps of racing Witkowski would cross the finish line with a 12 second gap back to second in his class.
Factory Beta USA’s Cody Barnes also had a great start as he battled Witkowski to the first turn. Barnes would head onto the course second in XC2, putting his head down and pushing to put a gap between himself and third place. Barnes would continue to run second for all but one lap of racing, and as the white flag came out Barnes once again would make the pass to takeover second for the final time. Barnes crossed the finish line to bring home his second runner-up finishing position of the season.
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing’s Craig Delong did not have the start he was hoping for as he came through timing and scoring ninth of the opening lap. Delong continued to push himself, and by the halfway point of racing he had made his way into fourth and then third with his sights set on Barnes. Delong would be able to make the pass as the white flag came out, but Barnes would not let him off the hook that easy. Delong and Barnes would battle for second during the last lap, with Barnes taking it and Delong rounding out the XC2 top three finishers.
Tely Energy Racing/KTM’s Liam Draper crossed the line fourth after working his way up from a seventh place start. Points leader Trail Jesters KTM’s Jonathan Girroir would also have a bad start to the day, working his way up to fifth in the XC2 class after starting at the back of the pack.
Coming through to take the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class win and the National Championship was Moose Racing/Carolina KTM/XC Gear’s Zack Hayes. Earning his sixth win of the season, with eleven rounds counting towards their National Championship, was enough to clinch the number one plate two rounds early.
FXR/KTM’s Jason Lipscomb came through to take second in the FMF XC3 class, his third-straight podium finish of the season. Raines Riding University/Fly Racing/Yamaha’s Jason Raines made his way up to third in the class after starting off the day fourth.
At the conclusion of the 10 a.m. race it was WXC racer AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer taking the overall win and her fourth-straight WXC class win of the season. As the WXC class took off it was Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish grabbing another $100 Trail Jesters WXC Holeshot Award, and TM Racing’s Korie Steede following closely behind.
Gutish would hold the early lead, but after two laps of racing Steede’s motorcycle would not be able to handle the conditions and she would be unable to complete the last two laps of racing. Gutish would battle with Archer, and eventually Archer would make the pass stick on Gutish. By this time FactoryONE Sherco/Moose Racing’s Brooke Cosner had made her way up to third from a fifth place start to the day. Archer would continue to hold the lead, ultimately crossing the finish line 40 seconds ahead of Gutish who held onto second and Cosner would made her first podium appearance of the season.
Team Green Kawasaki’s Grant Davis captured the 2020 Youth Overall Championship after earning his eighth Youth Overall win and YXC1 Super Mini Sr. class win of the season. Coming through to take second overall and in YXC1 was Team Green Kawasaki’s Jack Joy, while Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Lane Whitmer rounded out the youth overall and YXC1 class podiums. YXC2 competitor Nicholas Defeo came through to earn his class win followed by Chase Landers and Logan Pellegrini rounding out the top three in their class.
The AMSOIL Moto Hero was awarded to Junior A/B (25+) competitor, Austin Franklin. Austin hails from Gainesville, Georgia and served in the United States Marine Corps (USMC). Austin served overseas in Afghanistan for 243 days and continued to serve our country as an infantryman on the frontline. Austin currently sits fourth in the Junior A/B points standings. Austin was awarded a free set of Kanati Lite truck tires from GBC Tires, a $250 AMSOIL shopping spree and a commemorative American Flag courtesy of Columbia Flag.
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