Photo: Ken Hill

It's quite appropriate to ask, "Who is up next?" when it comes to the 2015 Grand National Cross Country series.

Round 8 is Sunday in Ohio at the Sunday Creek Raceway commonly known as the John Penton and no doubt it's Kailub Russell's championship to lose. The field has tried and only one rider managed to knock him from the center podium, that was Chris Bach who ended Russell's win streak at five.

Other riders have attempted but come up short. Grant Baylor fought the good fight in Round 5 but settled for second and last time out second-year rider Ryan Sipes went bar-to-bar for a couple of laps before Russell took the win, his sixth of the season. No word on whether Josh Strang is healthy. He's been the most competitive against the two-time Champion, running second in the first four rounds. He did not race in Round 7 because of a separated shoulder he endured in practice.

Charlie Mullins, the 2011 Champion, who went down to the wire with Russell in 2013 and traded off wins last year before he broke his wrist in a practice crash before Round 8, was expected back by now but it doesn't look promising for him to return anytime soon. Last month, Mullins had his sixth surgery on his left wrist after a failed bone graft. He posted on Instagram:

"6 months of waiting, wishing, and being patient. To say this past year has been challenging is an understatement. There has been many dark days in this journey. Days of doubt, anger, and uncertainty. However , the good still shines through."

Mullins also stated that he was burned out and ready to retire but since his accident the flame to race is once again burning bright and he can't wait to get back on his bike and into racing.

Prior to Mullins injury last year, he had won three races to Russell's four. After his injury, Russell won five of the last six rounds including the final contest on a small bore 150 bike which he also raced in the second to last round and finished second.

So until Mullins returns healthy, the rest of the field has their work cut out for them as Russell wants to win regardless of the standings. In fact, if he wins out Russell can pass Rodney Smith for second on the all-time wins list. Russell, a MotoSport rider, has had no trouble in the past at the John Penton GNCC winning the last two years and finishing second in 2012.

Sunday Creek brings fast, flowing trails and it's not considered too difficult though it can get rough during the last half of the race. No rain in the forecast but it's going to be hot, near 90 degrees. It all starts at 1 p.m. (EST) Sunday.

2015 GNCC Overall National Championship Standings

  1. Kailub Russell (205) - MotoSport rider
  2. Grant Baylor (126)
  3. Josh Strang (118)
  4. Chris Bach (115)
  5. Thad DuVall (102)
  6. Ryan Sipes (97)
  7. Jason Thomas (75)
  8. Jordan Ashburn (74)
  9. Ricky Russell (60)
  10. Layne Michael (60)