Kailub Russell has secured his eighth-consecutive AMA Grand National Cross Country title with a courageous podium performance at Round 11 of the 2020 Series. Overcoming the injuries sustained in a crash two weeks previously, the FMF KTM Factory Racing rider fought his way through to third at Mason-Dixon to claim victory in the championship with two rounds to spare.
In what will be Russell’s final season of professional GNCC racing, the 30-year-old enjoyed another hugely successful start to 2020, dominating the first four races. Runner-up at round five, Kailub went on to top the next three GNCC races before claiming another podium result at round nine with third at The Mountaineer.
Looking to maintain his strong run of form, Russell went into round 10, the Burr Oak GNCC, confident of a strong result. Following a good start, the FMF KTM Factory Racing star was pushing hard, challenging the race leader. An uncharacteristic mistake caused Kailub to hit the ground hard, winding him and twisting his knee. He was forced to withdraw from the race after only two laps. Doctors confirmed through an MRI that he had sustained a PCL and lateral meniscus tear, along with some damage to smaller ligaments and a bone bruise on his femur.
Thankfully, the injuries didn’t sideline the champion-elect for too long, and just two weeks later the KTM 350 XC-F rider was back on the bike for round 11. Despite the pain and the grueling, dusty conditions at the Mason-Dixon GNCC, with the support of his team, Kailub did exactly what was needed, finishing on the podium to claim an impressive eighth AMA Grand National Cross Country title.
Kailub Russell: “To win one title is tough and to back it up is even harder, so to keep it going and go eight-straight is unreal. I never would have dreamed it was an actual possibility. There are too many variables in offroad racing – there’s too much going on, too much time out there on the track and too many different conditions. Today, the track today was completely brutal. If we hadn’t have done two filter swaps there’s no way we would have made it – it was pure silt from the drop of the gate. I banged myself up a couple weeks ago at the last race and I was a little unsure of how it was going to go but we took it easy the last couple of weeks and I really just wanted to get this thing out of the way so I just kept my nose to the ground today and we were able to make it happen. I have to give it up to the whole team, without Antti and everybody that supports us, this would never be possible. It’s been a real honor to race for the factory KTM team my entire career and finish it out with them, and to go out on top is awesome.”
Team Manager, Antti Kallonen: “Congratulations to Kailub and the entire team. Eight consecutive GNCC Championships speaks volumes of Kailub and the team that has stood behind him from day one. It has been true pleasure working with Kailub for all of his eight championships and this last one tops his amazing GNCC career.”
Kailub Russell - 2020 AMA Grand National Cross Country Results
1st - Round 1 - Big Buck - Union, SC
1st - Round 2 - Wild Boar - Palatka, FL
1st - Round 3 - The General - Washington, GA
1st - Round 4 - The Bulldog - Washington, GA.
2nd - Round 5 - Camp Coker - Society Hill, SC
1st - Round 6 - High Point - Mt. Morris, PA
1st - Round 7 - John Penton - Millfield, OH
1st - Round 8 - High Voltage - Maidsville, WV
3rd - Round 9 - The Mountaineer - Beckley, WV
DNF - Round 10 - Burr Oak - Millfield, OH
3rd - Round 11 - Mason-Dixon - Taylortown, PA