By: GNCC Racing
ST. CLAIRSVILLE, Ohio (Oct. 2, 2016) – Powerline Park in St. Clairsville, Ohio greeted the 2016 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series presented by Maxxis, an AMA National Championship on Oct. 2 for the Polaris Ace Powerline Park GNCC. With only two rounds remaining in the 2016 season FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell continued his dominance, where he secured not only the overall win, but also his fourth-straight GNCC National Championship.
As the famed “10 seconds” was called and the green flag waved on the penultimate round, it was Josh Strang who reached the line first to grab the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Pro Holeshot Award. Strang was accompanied by Westfield Powersports KTM Presented by Moose Racing’s Jordan Ashburn and MCS Racing Suzuki/Obermeyer/Kenda/MX Tech/Fly Racing’s Ricky Russell as he led the way into the woods.
After working his way up from a mid-pack start, K. Russell made the pass for the early lead right after the rock garden. Strang continued to push and keep K. Russell in his sights as he battled through his lingering ankle injury, but he soon felt pressure from Rocky Mountain ATV*MC/KR4 Arrive-N-Ride Team’s Thad Duvall. Duvall was able to catch up and make the pass for second by the time the three-hour race reached its halfway point.
Duvall quickly set his eyes on catching K. Russell, who was a mere 10 seconds ahead of him, and by the time the two-lap card was out Duvall had cut down the gap to four seconds and had a visual on K. Russell as they headed through the pits.
As the duo came through the rock garden for the last time K. Russell made a small bobble toward the end, allowing Duvall an extra confidence boost. As Duvall witnessed this he vaulted out of the technical section in hopes of passing K. Russell, but just one mile later Duvall found himself making a small mistake at a hill climb.
“I felt good the whole race. I was on the edge of winning, but I wanted to leave it all on the track,” said Duvall. “On the last lap I reached the hill climb around the five-mile marker and we took a new line and I just couldn’t make it over the log at the top. Once I fell, I was stuck and by the time I got out I realized there wasn’t anyone real close by so I just maintained my pace to hold onto second.”
Meanwhile Strang was also facing some difficulties when his damaged radiator forced him to pull out of the race with only two miles remaining. This issue opened up the door for the third and final podium position. R. Russell took advantage of the opportunity and the hard work he produced throughout the race as he moved into third.
“I rode a little tight the first few laps and then was able to loosen up,” said R. Russell. “I can’t complain with another third-place finish. We’ve been making some changes and they definitely are working. I’m completely confident in my setup and can come out here and do what I know I’m capable of doing.”
With little pressure K. Russell crossed the finish line victorious. Duvall recovered from his tip-over for second overall and R. Russell continued his podium streak by rounding out the top three. Perhaps the most significant victory for K. Russell was not the race win, but his fourth GNCC National Championship.
“I didn’t get off to the greatest of the starts, but I made some moves and got into the lead early on,” said K. Russell. “I pulled a gap and tried to settle into a pace since it was so slick, but it wasn’t fast enough. Thad and Josh were able to catch up and we rode together until Thad went down. I was so focused on the task at hand that I didn’t realize he went down until I got the pit board a few miles after that. It feels good to get the win and the National Championship.”
Unfortunately, Coastal Racing/Rockstar/Husqvarna’s Ryan Sipes was missing from the first row today. During his warm-up Sipes encountered a freak accident with another rider, which ultimately took him out of the race where his status could be further evaluated.
The season finale for the 2016 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series is set to take place in three weeks, Oct. 29-30, in Crawfordsville, Ind. The world’s fastest off-road racers will converge on the historic Ironman Raceway for the 22nd Annual AMSOIL Ironman GNCC.