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Kailub Russell Conquers 31st Annual Wiseco John Penton GNCC
Craig DeLong And Zack Hayes Earn XC2 and XC3 Class Wins

The 2020 Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Series presented by Specialized, an AMA National Championship, continued with day two of racing at the 31st Annual Wiseco John Penton GNCC on Sunday, June 28, 2020. Sunday Creek Raceway in Millfield, Ohio plays host to The John Penton GNCC each year, which continues to be the longest running event on the circuit.

As racing got underway it was FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell jumping off the line first to earn the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Open Pro Holeshot Award. During the opening lap Russell would have company from his teammate Ben Kelley, who moved into the lead as they came around to timing and scoring. Russell would make the pass for the lead on the second lap, and never look back. Russell would lead the way for the remainder of the race, pushing his gap to 58 seconds by the time the checkered flag flew after three hours of intense racing. Russell earned his 66th career overall win, and continues to hold the points lead after seven rounds of racing.

Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Josh Strang was off to a top three start, and would move into second overall on the third lap of racing. Strang would push for the duration of the race, reaching almost complete exhaustion by the time the checkered flag came out. Strang continues to hold second overall in the National Championship points standings, with just 33 points separating him and Russell.

After a top five start to the day, FactoryONE Sherco’s Grant Baylor was on a mission to land on a podium finishing position for the second time this season. Baylor would put his head down and push through the dusty, hot conditions to move into third overall by lap three of racing. Baylor would continue to push, and on the last lap would come through timing and scoring just 4 seconds behind Strang. After seven rounds of racing Baylor sits fourth overall in the XC1 Open Pro standings.

Grant Baylor (FactoryONE Shercro) came through to earn third overall on the day in Ohio. PC: Ken Hill

FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Benjamin Kelley came through leading the opening lap of racing in Ohio, but would soon be faced with multiple battles at what would be his second race back after recovering from his shoulder injury. Kelley continued to battle with Strang and Baylor for the first half the race, eventually settling into the fourth place position for the last couple of laps.

Finishing fifth in XC1 and sixth overall on the day was Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki’s Jordan Ashburn. Ashburn would start the day out coming through fourth overall on lap one. He would continue to hold his position, battling with fellow XC1 competitors for the first half the race. Ashburn fell into the fifth place position on lap three of six, and would hold that position until he was met with the checkered flag.

Coming through eighth on lap one was FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Joshua Toth. Toth would put his head down and push, making the necessary passes to finish out the day sixth in the XC1 Open Pro class. Continuing his stay on the East Coast was FMF/Maxxis/RPM KTM/KLIM/SIDI’s Dante Oliveira. Oliveira would come through to earn seventh in the XC1 class after a hot and humid three-hour race.

S&S Motorsports/Twin Air/Kenda Tire’s Levi Keller earned eighth in the XC1 class after battling through his fellow competitors and race conditions. Making his return to GNCC Racing was Husqvarna/FXR/Thornhill Automotive’s Cory Buttrick. Buttrick would come through to earn ninth in the XC1 class.

For Phoenix Honda Racing’s Andrew DeLong it was not the race finish he was hoping for. After getting a great jump off the line and setting himself up in a top five position, his day was over before he knew it. DeLong would make his way into the Penton section of the track, which is only used for the 1 p.m. motorcycle race, however he would be unable to race out of that section. A mechanical issue would ultimately take him out of contention for the seventh round of racing.

Craig DeLong (Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing) took home the XC2 250 Pro class win at round seven. PC: Ken Hill

In the XC2 250 Pro class it was Rockstar Energy Husqvarna Factory Racing's Craig DeLong coming through to take the class win, as well as finishing fifth overall on the day. DeLong would finish over two minutes ahead of his fellow XC2 competitors. This was DeLong’s third win of the season, which also moved him into the points lead in his class.

Factory Beta USA’s Cody Barnes earned his first podium finish of the season in the XC2 class with a second place finish. Barnes had a great jump off the line and would set himself up in the third place position to start off the day. On the third lap of racing, Barnes made the move into second and would continue to push for the remaining laps of the race.

Trail Jesters KTM’s Jonathan Girroir had work his way up to a podium finish after starting off the race back in fifth place. Girroir steadily made his way through the pack of riders, making the necessary passes he needed to earn a spot in the top three. After the seventh round of racing, Girroir sits third in the XC2 points standings.

Coming through to take the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class win was Moose Racing/Coppersmith/XC Gear’s Zack Hayes. Hayes would grab the early lead, and without looking back he would continue to hold that lead position all the way to the checkered flag. Hayes remains the points leader in the FMF XC3 class as the series heads to Indiana for round eight of racing in two weeks.

Husqvarna/FXR/Enduro Engineering’s Jake Froman battled his way to second in the FMF XC3 class for the third time this season. Froman holds third in the points standings, just 27 points behind second. Canyon Motorsports/FXR/JDP Suspension’s Michael Delosa earned his first podium finish of the season on Sunday afternoon, coming through third in the FMF XC3 class.

Becca Sheets (BABS Racing Yamaha/Maxxis) earned her sixth WXC class win of the season on Sunday in the 10 a.m. race. PC: Ken Hill

In the 10 a.m. race it was BABS Racing Yamaha/Maxxis’ Becca Sheets coming through to earn the WXC class win, her sixth class win of the season. Sheets had her work cut out for her after coming through fourth on the opening lap. However, she would put her head down and push, moving into the lead by the second lap of racing. Sheets remains the points leader in the class with just one more round before summer break.

AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer made her way into second place after starting her day out in third. Archer continued to push throughout the morning race, but would be unable to catch Sheets in the lead. Archer remains third in the WXC points standings.

Rockstar Energy/Lan Mills XC’s Tayla Jones held the early in Ohio, but would soon be faced with battles as she fell back to fourth in the class on the second lap of racing. Jones would pick up the pace, making the move past Factory Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish to overtake third place in the WXC class once again. Jones would hold onto third until she made her way across the finish line, followed by Gutish to come through in fourth.

In the 8 a.m. youth race it was Team Green Kawasaki’s Grant Davis coming through to take his fifth overall youth win of the season. Davis’ day would start out in the second place position behind Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Lane Whitmer. Whitmer and Davis would battle throughout the race, with Davis making the pass stick on lap three of racing. Whitmer would hold on to take second overall, with Noah Cooper came through to take third overall in the youth ranks.

Andrew Segars, Sawyer Carratura and Chase Landers were the top three YXC2 Super Mini Jr. (12-13) riders to come through and take fifth through seventh overall finishing positions.

KR grabbed the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Holeshot Award at The John Penton this past weekend. PC: Ken Hill

For more information on the GNCC series, visit the official website at www.gnccracing.com

Report Kayla Bolton

Photos Ken Hill