Steward Baylor’s four-race win streak in the Grand National Cross Country Series is over, as is Josh Strang’s recent run of bad luck. Somewhere in the middle sits the ever-consistent Ben Kelley, who continues to lead the standings.
Strang took his Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green machine to the win after a hard-fought battle with Kelley that came down to the last lap. Kelley led as the white flag came out, but Strang made the move and they both pushed to the verge of exhaustion at the finish, with Strang emerging with the win by just six seconds. It was a hot and humid day and after three hours of racing, the leaders were spent.
“Oh man, it’s round seven now and I feel like I was capable of getting a win at the first round,” said Strang on RacerTV.com. “So to take seven races, I’m bummed out to say the least. The last two races haven’t been all that good for me, so to get a win today, I was pumped.
“I was thinking about it this week. The John Penton is the only race I’ve been to every single year since I’ve lived here. In 2012 I missed the series but the John Penton was the only race I made it back for that year. I’ve never won here, so it’s good to get the monkey off the back, for sure. The last race, we had a freak problem that happened, and it hasn’t happened in the three years we’ve been on the Kawasaki, so it was just out of the blue, unlucky. The race before that I crashed and I broke the bike, that was my fault. All me. The third round I got ran into. Three bad races and four solid ones, so if I could just eliminate the bad ones…but I’ve been doing it long enough to where you think I could get around that, but things happen.”
“Sometimes you get lucky with lappers and sometimes you don’t, and I was unlucky today,” said FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Kelley. “Strang capitalized when he reeled me in and he was putting it to me in the Penton section in all that tight fast track. I was just so tired trying to ride through that fast and I was smoked on the last lap. Stew was catching me on the last lap and it was all I could do to keep moving forward and I held on for second. I really want that win but we’ll get it here soon.”
Am-Pro Yamaha’s Baylor found himself way back after a fumble during his pit stop left him with a lap full of fuel. That led to him stopping to get cooled off…by laying in a mud hole during the race!
Baylor then mounted a massive late-race charge to get Strang and Kelley in sight. He finished just behind Kelley for third.
“It was a struggle, we had a plan going into this race, I didn’t want to get into the lead until lap three, then we were going to go back to back pits and just follow those guys, This is one of those races you don’t really want to lead until late in the day,” said Baylor. “We had the strategy, we just didn’t execute. It’s a bummer, both races I haven’t won here this year wasn’t my fault. That’s pretty upsetting, I actually had to go cool off at the rig. Not like these boys, I wasn’t falling out, I was actually back at the rig punching stuff. I’m frustrated to say the least. We don’t have a lot to work with, we need to make hay while the sun shines. To come from almost two minutes down to run right up on these guys, I think we had everything we needed, there was just one mishap.
“This is one of those days, it should have been a different outcome. I want to get to where I can relax, and it’s just not working. As soon as we catch a breath of fresh air, something else happens. We’ll be stronger at the next one. I know what I need to work on: I think we need to go back to the drawing board and focus 100 percent on GNCCs instead of other series.”
Baylor has been racing—and winning—in GNCC, AMA National Enduro, and U.S. Sprint Enduro all at once this season.
When the green flag waved it was Coastal GasGas Factory Racing’s Ricky Russell getting a good start off the line, earning the $250 All Balls Racing XC1 Open Pro Holeshot Award. Russell would hold the early lead as the riders made their way into the woods. As the race wore on Russell would begin to feel the pressure from Kelley.
Heading to the finish line to complete lap three, Kelley would find himself in the number one position with Josh Strang also making his way around Russell for the second place position. Kelley and Strang would continue to battle at the front of the pack, and as the pair came around on the last lap Strang would take over the lead position right before the Penton section of the track to earn his first win of the season.
Kelley would hold onto second for the day, but not without pressure from the hard-charging Baylor. On lap one, Baylor would come around in the fifth place position and would have to continue to push throughout the duration of the race. Baylor would find himself as far back as sixth on lap three but would put his head down and make his way up to third by the time the white flag came out. Baylor would end up rounding out the top three overall finishers in Ohio.
After holding the early lead Russell would fall back to fourth on the day and find himself emersed in another battle with FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Joshua Toth for the last couple of laps. Russell would hold off Toth by 15 seconds for fourth. Toth would have a bit of a tough day after a second turn crash and then another on track incident bent his rear brake lever under his engine. After the first lap Toth would have to make a pit stop to adjust the lever, costing him some valuable time. Toth would once again go to work as he made his way back into the woods, working his way up to fifth by the time the checkered flag flew.
Magna1 Motorsports/Husqvarna’s Jordan Ashburn had a consistent day in Ohio as he continued to battle for a top five finish. Unfortunately. Ashburn would be unable to hold onto fifth as Toth made his way around. Ashburn would be able to continue to race in the sixth place position for the last two laps of racing and remains fifth in the points standings after seven rounds of racing.
Battling for the seventh place position in the XC1 class throughout the day were KLM Milwaukee GasGas’ Grant Baylor and Rockstar Energy Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Trevor Bollinger. Both Baylor and Bollinger were swap the seventh place position multiple times throughout the three-hour race, with Baylor being able to cross the line just 18 seconds ahead of Bollinger for that position. Bollinger would finish eighth in XC1 and 10thoverall on the day.
RedBull/MCS Racing Sherco-backed rider Benjamin Herrera came through to earn ninth in the XC1 class after battling the grueling heat and humidity for three hours. AmPro Yamaha’s Layne Michael derailed a chain, which caused damage to his bike. He was unfortunately only be able to complete one lap of racing at round seven.
In the XC2 250 Pro class it was Rockstar Energy Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Craig Delong coming through to earn his first win of the 2021 season. DeLong would get off to a good start and would immediately begin to place a gap over the rest of the XC2 field. Around the halfway point of racing DeLong would have around a two minute lead, and as he headed into the final couple of laps of racing, he would continue on to take the win. DeLong remains second in the points standings after seven rounds of racing.
Earning his third podium finish of the season was Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Lyndon Snodgrass. As the riders came through on the opening lap Snodgrass found himself back in the fifth place position, but he would steadily make his way through the pack finding himself in third as the two-lap card came out. With just two laps to go Snodgrass would put his head down and push, making the pass for second just before the white flag came out. Snodgrass continued to hold onto second for the last lap, coming through with a minute gap back to third.
Coastal GasGas Factory Racing’s Jonathan Girroir would come into Sunday’s race a bit under the weather, but he was focused on battling for another win as the race got underway. Girroir started out the day in fourth place but would make his way to second by lap two of the race. In the grueling heat, Girroir would continue to push himself but with two laps remaining he would be unable to hold of a charging Snodgrass. Girroir would come through to finish third in the XC2 class and continues to hold the points lead by 24 points.
The FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class saw a new winner emerge in the Ohio heat. After Jason Lipscomb jumped out to grab the $100 Lojak Cycle Sales Holeshot Award, it would be the familiar face of Magna1 Motorsports/Husqvarna’s Jonathan Johnsontaking the lead on lap one, but Coastal GasGas Factory Racing’s Ben Parsons was ready to battle for his first win of the season after finishing third at the past two rounds of racing. Parsons would make the pass on lap two, and he continue to push for the remaining three laps of racing. Parsons would come through with over a three minute lead on the rest of the XC3 field.
Johnson continued to hold onto second in the class, but he would be unable to push for his seventh-straight win of the season after Parsons made the pass stick. Lojak Cycle Sales/Yamaha’s Chase Colville would push to try to get out to an early lead but would go down in the first turn. After jumping back on the bike, Colville would make his way into the third place position by the time they came through timing and scoring on lap one. Colville would continue to run in third for the duration of the race, rounding out the FMF XC3 class podium.
Earning The John Penton top amateur honors was Kawasaki Team Green’s Joseph Cunningham as he came through to earn the 250 A class win, and 18th overall. Finishing second in the 250 A and on the top amateur podium was Tristian Landrum with his 21st overall finishing position. Will Sievenpiper rounded out the top amateur podium after earning the Open A class win and would come through 22nd overall.
In the 10 a.m. race it was AmPro Yamaha’s Rachael Archer coming through to take the overall win, and her third WXC class win. Archer would move into the leader after Enduro Engineering/MEPMX/Fly Racing/XC Gear’s Mackenzie Tricker grabbed the $100 Trail Jesters WXC Holeshot Award. Archer would continue to lead the way for all four laps of the two-hour race, as she took the checkered flag with over a two minute gap back to second place.
Finishing second in the WXC class was Babbitt’s/Kawasaki Team Green’s Korie Steede as she would move into podium position on the last lap of racing. After running third early in the race, Steede would be forced back to fifth and then make the pass for fourth with one lap to go. Steede would put herself in a great position as BABS Racing Yamaha/Maxxis/Pro Circuit’s Becca Sheets and Magna1 Motorsports/Husqvarna/ Rockstar Energy’s Tayla Jones had an on track incident and would be pushed back further in the pack.
Jones would come through to take the final WXC podium position after battling throughout the entire race for it. Jones would work her way up from fifth to third on the second lap, but then would have to push once again on the last lap trying to hold off the defending champion, Sheets. Jones would come through to the checkered flag 17 seconds ahead of Sheets for the third place finishing position.
In the Youth race it would be Cole Forbes earning his fifth youth overall win of the season, as well as the YXC1 Super Mini Sr. class. Forbes sits fifth in the points standings. Chase Landers finished in the runner-up position in the YXC1 class, but he remains in the points lead. Thor Powell landed another podium finish in the season with a third overall and in the YXC1 class. Powell continues to hold third in class standings.
In the YXC2 Super Mini Jr. class it was Ryan Amancio earning his second-straight win of the season. Peyton Feather came through second on the day in the class but holds onto the points lead in the YXC2 class. Andrew Segars rounded out the top three finishers in the class as he continues to look to battle for a championship.
In the 85cc (12-13) class it was Brody Amos earning the win, while Brayden Baisley earned the 85cc (7-11) class win. Caleb Wood battled back to earn the 65cc (10-11) class win with Hunter Hawkinberry taking home the 65cc (7-9) win. In the Girls (8-15) class it was Ellie Winland earning her fourth win of the season, with Ruby Fustini finishing in the runner-up position. Gage Hill came out taking the Trail Rider class win.
The AMSOIL Moto Hero went to Trevison Brunton, father of Gear Rep and racer Steven Brunton. Trevison is a World War II Veteran, and was drafted into the Korean War, serving in the United States Armed Forces. He is 91 years holding hailing from Port Orange, Florida. Trevison comes from a long line of military service as his father, siblings, wife and kids all served in the military. A Special thanks to AMSOIL, GBC Tires, Columbia Sign and Flag Co., 100% Goggles and ARMA for their continued support of the GNCC Moto Hero program.
The next round of GNCC Racing takes place June 5-6, in Mount Morris, Pennsylvania for the Parts Unlimited Mason-Dixon.