Steward and Grant Baylor, once again, were both atop of the leaderboard at the conclusion of the Gobbler Getter National Enduro in Alabama, in what was the penultimate round of the 2020 Kenda AMA National Enduro Championship, November 1.
Photos by Shan Moore
This time it was the elder brother, Steward, getting the overall victory with approximately a minute to spare over Grant. Steward pretty much dominated the day’s racing. The AmPro Yamaha Team rider, Steward, won five of the six tests on the day, missing out on the sweep by just a few seconds to his brother, Grant, in the fourth test. Otherwise, it was a perfect day for the Yamaha rider.
The win keeps the pressure on Grant in the championship. With one round to go, Grant still enjoys the championship lead and needs to finish 10th or better at the final to seal his first career AMA National Enduro Championship. It will also be Sherco’s first in the U.S. if Grant can hang on. Steward already has four titles to his name.
“The last two races have been tough, I’ve come up a little bit short, but today we got the first test win and just kept it going from there. It’s just too little too late,” said Steward. “At this point, as far as the championship goes, obviously anything can happen, so we will go to the last round in Texas and hope for the best.”
Grant is typically a slow starter, but a second in the opening test was a good sign and the FactoryONE Sherco rider backed it up with two seconds, a third and a fourth in the remaining tests.
“It was a good day here in Alabama,” said Grant. “I started out a little off the pace, but I stayed consistent and then won test three and that was good enough. Steward was just killing it all day. He usually does well here so I was expecting it. It was an awesome day for me and the championship points. I’m happy to gain more points here and have a comfortable points gap going into the last round. Theoretically all I got to do is kind of ride around the last round and bring it home.”
Grant’s ride, as good as it was, was not without a bit of drama.
“It kind of scared me, especially with the championship on the line, but I dropped my bike in a deep water hole in that last test,” said Grant. “As soon as I did, it I was like, man, that was kind of stupid. We were on the trail and it didn’t look like the trail was sunk in very far. Then the trail just kind of turned into water. I imagined it would be about four inches of water, so I just rode off into it and it ended up being about three to four foot and I went straight over the bars. My bike fell over in the water and I kind of caught it. Luckily it didn’t go too far down in the water to cause any damage. It kind of scared me though and made me think about the rest of the tests.”
Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Thad Duvall claimed his second podium finish in a row with a third overall after returning to action just a few weeks ago.
“I was consistent all day, finishing in the top three in every test except the last one, and I had brake issues in that one with a few miles to go,” said Duvall. “I feel like I’m getting better with each race, just knocking those cobwebs off. It’s been a long time since I went that fast. This was the Baylor’s back yard, for sure, and any time I’m within striking distance of those two I feel like I’ve had a good test.”
FMF/KTM’s Ben Kelley switched to a 350 XC-F for the Alabama round in hopes of shaking things up a bit, but a couple of mistakes kept him off the podium.
“I had a pretty solid ride today to finish fourth, not too far off the podium,” said Kelley. “Jumping back on the 350 for this weekend felt a little awkward at the beginning but I found my flow throughout the day and really enjoyed the bike and trails.”
Husqvarna’s Evan Smith hadn’t raced a major race since April due to injury, but turned a few heads with a solid fifth overall.
“It feels so good to be racing again,” said Smith. “My first two tests were quite an awakening, trying to remember how to go fast in tight woods, but around test four or five I started feeling good. I started feeling like my old self and started having fun.”
FMF/KTM’s Josh Toth, who underwent surgery to repair an injured ring finger prior to the last round, had a string of bad luck, including getting turned around on the third test and losing valuable time trying to find his way back on the course. In the next test, he had a good pace going but made a last-second decision to change lines in a mud hole to avoid a slower rider but instead he got caught in a sink hole, which stopped him dead in his tracks. Despite his problems, Toth still managed to salvage sixth place.
“Not the day I was looking for leading into today,” said Toth. “I started off kind of slow, and test two was about the same. I think it was test three I ended up getting lost. Then the next test I felt like I rode really well, but unfortunately hit just a sink hole and buried it and wasted a bunch of energy and time. Real rookie mistake. So not really the day I was looking for. Just tried to finish out strong and salvage some points.”
Beta USA’s Cody Barnes headed up the NE Pro2 class with a seventh overall finish. Barnes was trailing Rockstar Energy Husqvarna’s Craig DeLong by four seconds heading into the final test but managed to pull out the class win with a strong ride.
“Yeah, super close,” said Barnes. “I was behind going into the last test and in my mind, it was just kind of all I can do is give it a hundred percent. That’s what I did. I won the test by I think six or seven seconds and that was enough to get the win.”
DeLong led for most of the day but tried to change things up in the final tests, which may have cost him the win.
“It was a little bit of a nail-biter there at the end,” said Delong. “Just close racing. I had a decent lead for most of the day and then in test five I tried to ride a little bit different in the tighter stuff and tried to be smoother and see if I could kind of tie the stuff together instead of being so sporadic and super aggressive. It kind of bit me in the butt and I lost a lot of time. On the last test I had about four seconds on Cody. I gave it everything I had the last test and it just wasn’t enough.”
Jonathon Johnson was ninth overall and third in the NE Pro 2 class on a privateer Honda.
“Stalling the bike out and having to kick it a couple times cost me a good bit of time in the fourth and fifth test, but I picked it back up there after that,” said Johnson. “Cody and Craig were just on it today. So, I didn’t have nothing for them there at the end. But we ran well the first little part of it, so it was good.”
Zack Hayes rounded out the top 10 on a Coppersmith KTM.
In the Women’s Elite division, Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish won three of five tests to beat out Sherco’s Brooke Cosner by over a minute for the win. The win was Gutish’s third of the season.
“It was a blast,” said Gutish. “The dirt was almost perfect. I’m super impressed given that the roads aren’t even cleared yet that they managed to get a lot of debris out of the way. You could see where they had to cut logs and stuff out. So I’m really impressed with how well the club coped with the recent storm. It was a blast. I’ve always liked this place and it was good to me today.”
Cosner was pleased with winning the final two tests.
“I had a really fun day,” said Cosner. “The dirt, like Rachel said, was absolutely prime today. I’ve never seen enduro so good. A little tighter than I was used to. Rachel definitely had me there. But we stayed close today and it was a lot of fun.”
Ashlee Applewhite rounded out the podium on a KTM. It was her first podium.
KTM-mounted Will Sievenpiper took the win in the AA class, beating out KTM rider Kole Henslee and Sherco rider Alex Luger.
- Steward Baylor (Yam)
- Grant Baylor (Shr)
- Thad Duvall (Hus)
- Ben Kelley (KTM)
- Evan Smith (Hus)
- Josh Toth (KTM)
- Cody Barnes (Bet)
- Craig DeLong (Hus)
- Jonathon Johnson (Hon)
- Zack Hayes (KTM)