Coming off of GNCC’s traditional summer break, Kailub Russell took an exciting, down-to-the-wire victory at the inaugural Parts Unlimited Black Sky GNCC in Harbursville, New York, September 15. The KTM rider edged out Am Pro Yamaha’s Ricky Russell by a scant .02 seconds to kick off the last four rounds of the 2019 Grand National Cross Country Series.
Kailub Russell Squeaks Out Black Sky GNCC Win
Holding a comfortable lead over Ricky Russell going into the final lap, Kailub clipped a tree and went down, allowing the Washington native to close to within striking distance.
“Halfway into the race my right hand guard fell off, and then later I clipped a little sapling with my front brake lever, and it just sent me tumbling, and I dinged myself up pretty good, so he moved in on me,” said Kailub. “Ricky was charging, just hitting everything smooth. You couldn’t really attack the track; it was so rough. There was a limit to it, I felt like. Riding in a tall gear and just being smooth was the key to success today.”
With about a mile remaining in the race, and with Ricky now hot on his tail, another tip-over by Kailub allowed Ricky to take the lead. But with just a few turns before the finish, Kailub managed to fight back and sneak around Ricky to take the win in dramatic fashion.
“I didn’t realize Ricky was quite that close,” said Kailub. “I was taking my time coming into the grass track and all of a sudden he blew by me. I was like, ‘whoa.’ Luckily, I got him back. I just took a different line down there a quarter-mile from the finish and was able to sneak back around him and get the win.”
The victory was Kailub’s sixth of the year and the 60th of his career. The nearest rider to Russell on the all-time GNCC win list is Scott Summers with 46 wins. And Russell shows no signs of slowing down.
Ricky Russell has been on an upward trajectory since returning to the series from an injury that kept him out of the first four rounds. His runner-up finish marked his best finish of the year.
Having won the race just before the summer break, Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Thad Duvall was sitting second in the standings, 43 points behind the leader Russell, and hoping to cut into that lead with another win. After getting off to a slow start, Duvall managed to pick up the pace on the last two laps to claim a third-place finish.
Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Steward Baylor got off to his signature slow start, just inside the top 10, only to pour it on during the final two laps, powering the South Carolina rider to fourth overall.
Trail Jesters KTM’s Ben Kelley finished just seven seconds behind Baylor for fifth overall, but more importantly, clinched the XC2 250 Pro-class Championship with three rounds still to go. At the Black Sky race, he claimed his 10th straight win for what is so far a perfect record this year.
“It feels awesome; I’m stoked to get another championship and to back up last year’s title, but it wasn’t easy,” said Kelley. “Craig Delong was keeping me honest there for a while, but I just stayed smooth and stayed off the ground and was pushing the whole time as best I could. The track was fast, but you had to be on your toes. I had a few close calls, but overall just stoked to get another win and the championship.”
Babbitt’s Monster Energy Kawasaki’s Jordan Ashburn ran near the front of the pack, along with Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Trevor Bollinger and Husqvarna-backed Layne Michael, during the first few laps, and eventually settled into six overall where he remained until the finish.
Bollinger followed Ashburn in seventh, while DeLong and Michael rounded out the top 10. Delong was also second in the XC2 250 Pro class.
Michael led the race on the opening lap after passing Ricky Russell and Ashburn a few turns into the race, but then he crashed and got mud in his brake lever, which locked up the front wheel.
Third place in the XC2 250 Pro class went to 11th place overall finisher Evan Smith on his Husqvarna/Max Motorsports/FXR-backed Husqvarna.
Trail Jesters KTM Racing’s Jesse Ansley took the win in the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class. He was the only rider in the class to do the full eight laps.
Yamaha-mounted Chase Colville took second in the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class in 42nd overall, while XC Gear/ Enduro Engineering/Husqvarna’s Jake Froman finished 44th overall for third in the class.
Husqvarna’s Tayla Jones topped Fly/Maxxis/Pro Circuit/KTM’s Becca Sheets by 10 seconds to win the WXC Women’s division, with Am Pro Yamaha’s Rachel Archer, from New Zealand, in third, another eight minutes back. CN
2019 Amsoil GNCC Series
Black Sky GNCC
Harbursville, New York
RESULTS: September 15, 2019
- Kailub Russell (KTM)
- Ricky Russell (Yam)
- Thad Duvall (Hus)
- Steward Baylor (KTM)
- Ben Kelley (KTM)
- Jordan Ashburn (Kaw)
- Trevor Bollinger (Hus)
- Grant Baylor (KTM)
- Craig DeLong (Hus)
- Layne Michael (Hus)
Click here for complete results.