He almost won.
On a 150.
In the end, Kailub Russell took second in Round 12 of the 2014 Grand National Cross Country series on Sunday at Powerline Park in St. Clairsville, OH. He's already won the championship, this time it was a bit for charity and just to see if he could do it.
Giving his KTM 350 4-stroke race bike the rest of the season off, Russell swung his leg over a KTM 150XC 2-stroke. It's been 13 years since a rider won a GNCC race on a small bore two-stroke but this bike, also Russell's ride for the final round, is a lucky raffle winner's prize upon season end. The money the bike raises helps fund Russell's adventure next month in Argentina's International Six Day Enduro and raises money to help Rory Mead, hurt in Round 3, continue spinal injury rehabilitation.
Russell fought for the holeshot but lost to Paul Whibley however, by the second lap, grabbed his familiar spot in the front of the pack. It was Josh Strang, held back for 15 seconds at the beginning after accidentally starting his bike early, who worked his way through the field and caught Russell by Lap 3. An epic duel emerged as the two banged bars the rest of the way.
"It was really rough, especially in the open stuff and not having enough power to go up some of the hills and through the bumps," said Russell, a MotoSport rider. "But I saw Josh (Strang) coming and he was riding well. We kind of came together over by pro pits, but I wasn't going to let up, this is racing."
On the final lap, Russell pulled in to the pits for fuel and lost more time to fix a brake pedal allowing Strang to take his first checkered flag since 2011. Strang, who rides a Yamaha, ended KTM's domination this season and Russell's five-race win streak.
"He's on a 150 and I'm on a 450 so when I caught him I had so much more power," said Strang, the 2010 GNCC Champion, on the closely fought race. "He was just trying to protect the line and we got a little close but it's alright, it's racing. Kailub was riding awesome considering it was such a little bike. I'm happy I won either way. It's good to (win), it's a relief."
Russell's FMF KTM teammate Charlie Mullins also returned to the field, his first race since Round 7. Mullins broke his wrist in a practice run prior to Round 8. He took fourth after Jordan Ashburn passed him on the final lap. Strang's win put him in second-place in the Overal National Championship Standings, eight points ahead of Ashburn. Mullins is 10 points out from a spot on the final podium.
The final round of the 2014 GNCC season is Oct. 26 at the Ironman in Crawsfordsville, IN.
GNCC Round 12 XC1 Pro Results
- Josh Strang
- Kailub Russell - MotoSport rider
- Jordan Ashburn
- Charlie Mullins
- Steward Baylor Jr.
- Chris Bach
- Daniel Milner
- Paul Whibley
- Takeshi Koikeda
- Andrew Delong
Overall National Championship Standings:
- Kailub Russell (318) - 2014 GNCC Champion
- Josh Strang (216)
- Jordan Ashburn (208)
- Charlie Mullins (198)
- Grant Baylor (191)
- Paul Whibley (164)
- Andrew Delong (160)
- Chris Bach (123)
- Steward Baylor Jr. (118)
- Ricky Russell (117)