2019 X-Factor Whitetails GNCC Race Report

Kailub Russell claims third win of the 2019 Grand National Cross Country Series

Kailub Russell rides through water.
Kailub Russell struggled on the final lap when he tipped over in the water. “I watered out my gloves, and it’s really tough to hold on when you do that,” Russell said. “Just one little tree root wrong [and] your bars can just slip out of your hand super easy. I just had to be mindful of that for the next 10 minutes or so because they were still wet.”Darrin Chapman

FMF KTM Factory Racing's Kailub Russell claimed his third win of the season and second in a row with an impressive performance at the Yamaha Racing X-Factor Whitetails GNCC in Peru, Indiana, this past weekend. Russell is the only rider to have more than one win in the five rounds held so far in the 2019 AmsOil Grand National Cross Country Series, after Tely Energy Racing KTM's Steward Baylor Jr. won the opener and Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Thad Duvall topped the third round of the series.

Thanks to 4 inches of rain the week before the race, the X-Factor Whitetails GNCC was one of the most challenging tracks of the year, and Russell put himself in a good spot by getting into the lead shortly after the start. Once up front, Russell began pulling away and built a lead that stretched to nearly a minute and a half at one point.

Thad Duvall rides through trees.
Thad Duvall had the speed to catch Russell but not the consistency. “I just kind of like would make up time, then I’d crash and lose time,” Duvall said. “Just kind of back and forth all day. I tried to pour it on at the end, but it was too late.”Darrin Chapman

Duvall ran second for most of the race but was able to close the distance on Russell on the closing lap, finishing the race just eight seconds behind Russell. As easy as it looked, Russell’s 57th win of his career had its moments.

“We got in the lappers really quick because the track was so short and so rough that we were just going so much faster,” Russell said. “I think I only had maybe one or two clean laps where I didn’t fall down. One minute miscalculation and you were on the ground. There on the last couple laps, I fell and water got in my gloves. I saw I still had a minute, so that last lap I just trail rode.”

Duvall struggled to stay with Russell during the early stages of the race, but was able to gain ground during the final lap.

“I kept looking ahead and I didn’t see Kailub, but I could see tire marks so I knew I was in second,” Duvall said. “I came around and it was like 30 seconds. I just kind of like would make up time, then I’d crash and lose time. Just kind of back and forth all day.”

Josh Toth rides up hill.
Josh Toth hit his head three weeks before at round 4 of the GNCC series and was forced to drop out of that race. However, he was healthy and ready for the X-Factor race. “The last few weeks I had some time to reflect, rest my head, and just get refreshed and be excited to get back on my bike,” Toth said. “I think mentally that was the biggest difference coming out here. I was like, ‘I’m just going to have fun riding my dirt bike,’ and that’s what I did.”Darrin Chapman

FMF KTM Factory Racing’s Josh Toth rounded out the podium by claiming the first overall podium of his career. The XC Pro1 rookie turned in his best performance of the year.

“The conditions were really gnarly,” Toth said. “Luckily, I got off to a great start and was in third place from the first corner. I mixed it up with a couple different guys, but I was in third place pretty much the whole day. I rode with Ricky Russell and a few others throughout the beginning, and then we all kind of got separated and found our own grooves. I just rode my own race and I never saw anybody.”

Steward Baylor kicks up mud on off-road trail.
After winning the opening round of the series, Steward Baylor has been trying to duplicate that performance.Darrin Chapman

After a couple of mistakes, Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Steward Baylor Jr. was able to salvage a credible fourth, but still sits third overall in the series standings. Meanwhile, Trail Jesters KTM’s Ben Kelley was fifth overall, giving him his fifth XC2 class win in five rounds.

“Another win in XC2 and I’m stoked,” Kelley said. “I had a really good jump off the start and drove it in there. I was third coming around the third corner, but one of the guys went down in front of me and I had to go off the track, so I got passed and was kind of mid-pack. It took me two laps to work through the field. I tried to put in a charge that last lap and get within a minute of Stew, but there was a guy down [in front of me] and I couldn’t make it.”

Ben Kelley races in forest.
Ben Kelley has dominated the XC2 250 Pro class and after five rounds holds a commanding lead in the series standings.Darrin Chapman

After grabbing the holeshot to start the race, Ricky Russell rode a steady race to finish sixth, three minutes behind Kelley. Still recovering from reconstructive surgery on his shoulder during the off-season, Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Grant Baylor managed a solid seventh.

Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Craig Delong managed to beat his brother Andrew, a Phoenix Racing Honda rider, for eighth, while Phoenix Racing Honda’s Austin Lee finished 10th.

Jesse Ansley races on off-road trail.
Jesse Ansley won the FMF XC3 125cc Pro-Am class ahead of Beta USA’s Cody Barnes second and Yamaha-mounted Chase Colville.Darrin Chapman

In the FMF XC3 125cc Pro-Am class, Trail Jesters KTM’s Jesse Ansley was first with Beta USA’s Cody Barnes second and Yamaha-mounted Chase Colville in third.

Meanwhile, in the WMX class, Husqvarna-backed Tayla Jones took the win by nine seconds over Maxxis KTM’s Becca Sheets by nine seconds to win the WMX class, with Rachel Archer in third.

Tayla Jones does wheelie at Grand National Cross Country finish line.
Tayla Jones edged Becca Sheets for the win in the WMX class.Darrin Chapman

2019 Camp Coker Bullet GNCC Overall Results

Position Rider Brand
1 Kailub Russell KTM
2 Thad Duvall Husqvarna
3 Josh Toth KTM
4 Steward Baylor Jr. KTM
5 Ben Kelley KTM
6 Ricky Russell Yamaha
7 Grant Baylor KTM
8 Craig Delong Husqvarna
9 Andrew Delong Honda
10 Austin Lee Honda