UNION, S.C. – FMF KTM Factory Racing Team’s Kailub Russell had a dominant start to the 2020 AMA Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) season on Sunday as he led the three-hour race from start to finish, capturing the season opening victory in Union, South Carolina. Russell, a seven-time XC1 Open Pro Champion, has set the stage to go after an eighth-consecutive title this season.
On the heels of announcing his last full season of professional GNCC Racing in 2020, Russell came into the opening round on-point and hungry for victory once again. As the green flag waived for the start of the race, Russell powered his KTM 350 XC-F out front right away to capture the holeshot and early lead. He immediately set a pace that proved to be unmatched as he garnered a lead of over one-and-a-half minutes by the end of two hours. He continued to charge through the final hour of racing where he ultimately finished just shy of two minutes ahead of the second-place rider to earn his 61st career victory with 12 rounds remaining in the series.
Kailub Russell: “There’s no way I was going to lose my last “first-race [of the season]” ever! I felt really good and I came in really prepared – I’ve been dialed-in the last seven weeks training hard, working hard and I finally came into the season 100% healthy and ready to go. I feel like I’m back on 2015 form where the race comes to me really easy. I just kept a pace that I thought would wear those guys down and I just held that pace through the whole race basically.”
Russell’s teammate, Ben Kelley, came into the season opener with a pre-existing shoulder injury that was sustained during a practice crash last Monday. In his first full season on the front row, Kelley attempted to line up and salvage points toward the championship but unfortunately the pain was too much to continue on. Kelley will see a doctor this week and re-evaluate his injury and recovery.
Additionally, team rider Josh Toth was forced to sit out of Sunday’s GNCC opener following a practice crash that caused him to re-fracture his right tibia while preparing for the upcoming season. Toth is currently rehabbing his leg and has plans to return to racing in four to six weeks.
Next Race: Palatka, Florida – March 8, 2020
XC1 Open Pro Results – Big Buck GNCC
- Kailub Russell, KTM
- Ricky Russell, HQV
- Josh Strang, KAW
Overall Championship Standings
- Kailub Russell, 30 points (1 win)
- Ricky Russell, 25
- Josh Strang, 21