Kailub Russell, who announced at the beginning of the 2020 season that his would be his last, will go out on top, as he clinched his eighth straight GNCC title at the Mason-Dixon GNCC (round 11 of 12) in Taylortown, Pennsylvania, October 11.
Russell came into the race dinged up, having injured his knee at the previous race in Ohio, but he gritted out the three-hour race, finishing third overall, which was more than enough to clinch the championship with one race left on the calendar.
“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,” the long-time FMF KTM rider, Russell, said. “I never would have dreamed it was an actual possibility. 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 [precautionary] 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 [Kallonen, FMF KTM Team Manager] 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.”
“Eight consecutive GNCC Championships speaks volumes of Kailub and the team that has stood behind him from day one,” said Kallonen. “It has been true pleasure working with Kailub for all of his eight championships and this last one tops his amazing GNCC career.”
Steward Baylor Jr. was the day’s overall winner. Aboard the AmPro Yamaha, Baylor made up for a mid-pack start, passed early leader Layne Michael (AmPro Yamaha) and then Ben Kelley (FMF KTM) to get the win. Baylor survived a late-race charge by Kelley to get the win by just 1.8 seconds. It was Baylor’s third GNCC win in a row. Michael was running third late in the race but a crash cost him two positions to Russell (third) and Thad Duvall (fourth).
Josh Strang, on the Babbitt’s Kawasaki, took sixth, followed by Jordan Ashburn (Kawasaki), Grant Baylor (Sherco), Michael Witkowski (AmPro Yamaha) and Cody Barnes (Beta).
Witkowski took the XC2 250 Pro-class win by just 12 seconds over Barnes. And Barnes had just three seconds on the third XC2 rider Craig Delong (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna).
Jonathan Girroir (fifth in class on the day) leads Delong in the XC2 Championship by just four points.
Becca Sheets clinched her second WXC (Womens) GNCC Championship. The BABS Racing Yamaha/Maxxis-backed rider only needed to finish sixth or better to seal the deal, and a fourth did just that.
AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer captured her fourth consecutive win in the WXC class. She took today’s win with 40 seconds to spare over Rachel Gutish (Beta).
Brooke Cosner (Sherco) was third for her first podium appearance.
2020 GNCC Mason-Dixon Results Overall
1. Steward Baylor Jr. (Yam)
2. Ben Kelley (KTM)
3. Kailub Russell (KTM)
4. Thad Duvall (Hus)
5. Layne Michael (Yam)
6. Josh Strang (Kaw)
7. Jordan Ashburn (Kaw)
8. Grant Baylor (She)
9. Michael Witkowski (Yam) XC2
10. Cody Barnes (Bet) XC2