2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race Report

Kailub Russell takes sixth victory in seven rounds and clinches title.

Thad Duvall races at the 2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race.
Thad Duvall was in the hunt for the win but just couldn’t find that last bit of speed.Shan Moore

Round 7 of the Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series took place at Rockcrusher Farm, which lies on the North Carolina and Georgia border in the cities of Hayesville and Young Harris, respectively, where Kailub Russell claimed his sixth win of the season. With the victory, the FMF KTM Factory Racing rider also wrapped up the 2019 series title with one race remaining on the schedule. Russell's win also makes him the first rider to repeat as Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series champion, having also won the title in 2015.

“It’s always nice to wrap up a championship a race early, which kind of takes the pressure off,” Russell explained. “This series is a different mindset. I enjoy doing these because it’s five to nine minutes at a time. You get to take a break and relax, where GNCC is just brutal on your body, physically and mentally; it’s more of the long haul. But at these, you just go all out for the entire distance, but it’s a lot of shorter races. I enjoy that aspect of it. I do a lot of moto and that kind of translates from that to this.”

Thad Duvall races at the 2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race.
Thad Duvall was in the hunt for the win but just couldn’t find that last bit of speed.Shan Moore

In all, Russell won seven of the 12 tests at the two-day event, winning four Enduro tests and three Cross tests to finish with a 31-second advantage over runner-up Thad Duvall. The Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing rider had good speed all weekend, and despite suffering a rear brake issue in one of the tests, Duvall finished the event on a high note by winning the last two tests of the weekend.

“I felt like I had the speed today for sure, but [was] just a tad off Kailub,” Duvall admitted. “I just couldn’t limit the mistakes and when I did, I was able to get a couple of wins. I just need to be better on Saturdays and stay within striking distance for Sundays.”

Josh Strang races at the 2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race.
Josh Strang was good in the Cross tests but needs to find some speed in the Enduro tests.Shan Moore

Third overall went to Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Josh Strang, who posted the fastest time in the Cross test three times; although the defending series champ lost considerable time in one of the other Cross tests when he wrapped his rear brake around his footpeg.

“My times in the Cross test were good and competitive; I think I won three out of six, which is good,” Strang said. “In the Enduro test, I was just a little off. I felt like I was riding well. On five out of the six I felt comfortable and fairly good, just not as fast as Kailub and Thad. Then [during] the second [Cross] test on Saturday I wrapped the brake pedal around my footpeg, so I kind of ruined Saturday. That kind of messed me up a little bit for the overall.”

Layne Michael races at the 2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race.
Layne Michael put his Husqvarna in fourth in North Carolina.Shan Moore

Just missing the podium was Layne Michael. The Husqvarna-backed rider broke his collarbone at the start of the season and had to have two different surgeries to repair the damage and just returned to racing four weeks before the Rockcrusher event.

“I’ve been back for about a month now and I’m feeling good,” Michael said. “I’m making huge leaps forward every time. I’ve just got to keep building and get back to where I should have been the past couple years. Right now, I just appreciate being back at the races battling and making that progress. I’m seeing it. I’ve just got to keep working.”

Evan Smith races at the 2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race.
Evan Smith started slow but came on strong on Sunday.Shan Moore

Rounding out the top five was Babbitt’s/Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Jordan Ashburn, who spent most of the weekend looking for more speed in both tests.

“These Sprint Enduros this year really went to another level; everybody is really pushing each other hard and we’re just a little bit off,” Ashburn said. “We’re searching for time on every test. Sometimes we’re a second off and sometimes we’re three or four seconds off. It just adds up over the weekend. It’s been a tough weekend for sure, just trying to find time in [areas].”

Jesse Ansley races at the 2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race.
Jesse Ansley kept his KTM 125 SX on the pipe all weekend to finish seventh overall and second in the Pro 2 class.Shan Moore

Evan Smith was sixth overall and first in the Pro2 class. The Max Motorsports/FXR/Husqvarna rider has dominated the Pro2 class and now has a comfortable lead in the class standings with just one race remaining.

“I had a slow start,” Smith explained. “I didn’t feel very good at the beginning yesterday, but about halfway through the day I started to figure it out. Today went pretty well. I didn’t go as fast as I wanted to go, but still won.”

Tayla Jones races at the 2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race.
Tayla Jones wrapped up the Women’s Pro title one race early, despite riding with a hand injury.Shan Moore

Seventh overall went to Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Jesse Ansley, who rode a 125 SX against the bigger bikes. Ansley was also second in the Pro2 class. Eighth overall and third in the Pro 2 class was Beta USA’s Mike Witkowski. Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Craig DeLong finished ninth, while Ben Parsons rounded out the top 10 on a Husqvarna.

Jordan Ashburn races at the 2019 Rockcrusher Farm Full Gas Sprint Enduro Race.
Jordan Ashburn struggled for the most part but still managed fifth overall.Shan Moore

Tayla Jones returned to action following a hand injury and took the overall win, which also wrapped up the Women’s Pro championship title.

“I had a few crashes, but nothing major and my hand held up pretty good,” Jones said. “While I’m riding my fingers don’t hurt, but as soon as I finish is when all the pain hits. So every time I stopped, it hurt a lot more.”

Second overall in the Women’s Pro class was MEP MX KTM’s MacKenzie Tricker, with Maxxis KTM’s Becca Sheets rounding out the podium in third.

2019 North Carolina Sprint Enduro Overall Results

Position Rider Brand
1 Kailub Russell KTM
2 Thad Duvall Husqvarna
3 Josh Strang Kawasaki
4 Layne Michael Husqvarna
5 Jordan Ashburn Kawasaki
6 Evan Smith Husqvarna
7 Jesse Ansley KTM
8 Mike Witkoswki Beta
9 Craig DeLong Husqvarna
10 Ben Parsons Husqvarna

2019 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Championship Point Standings

Position Rider Brand Points
1 Kailub Russell KTM 392
2 Thad Duvall Husqvarna 314
3 Josh Strang Kawasaki 299
4 Jordan Ashburn Kawasaki 225
5 Craig DeLong Husqvarna 177
6 Josh Toth KTM 168
7 Layne Michael Husqvarna 109
8 Ben Kelley KTM 63
9 Cory Buttrick Husqvarna 50
10 Steward Baylor KTM 44