FMF/KTM’s Kailub Russell claimed the 2020 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro title with a close victory at this weekend’s Silver Hawk Plantation Sprint Enduro, the series finale, held at the Silver Hawk Plantation in Buffalo, South Carolina. The title was Russell’s third Full Gas Sprint Enduro championship and second in a row.
AmPro Yamaha’s Layne Michael gave Russell a good battle, and in fact, led the race by two seconds with two tests remaining. However, as he often does, Russell dug deep and made up the distance to take the overall win.
“It was good to get the overall win, but it was kind of strange how it worked out,” said Russell. “I won one test on Saturday and I won the day, and then I won all but one today and almost lost. It was a tough weekend. I was a little unsure how Saturday was going to go because I was a little bit off and you don’t have to be off by much to be pretty slow here. But I rode better on Sunday, and that was enough.”
In all, Russell won six tests, one on Saturday and five on Sunday. However, two crashes in test four on Sunday cost him dearly as the North Carolina rider finished the test 12 seconds behind Michael, moving him into the lead.
“I came out swinging today and rode good,” said Russell. “I had awesome times the first three tests and then test four I kind of threw it away and had a couple falls. My front brake lever fell down and I couldn’t get it back up. It was so far down I was having a hard time getting to it, so my timing was a little bit off. But I was able to pull it together and win the last couple tests. So five out of six on the day.”
Although Michael won five tests over the weekend, the race marked the second round in a row where he was in position to take the overall win, only to lose out in the final test.
“It’s frustrating because he got me at the last one in the last test and got me on this one in the last test,” said Michael. “But it was a good weekend, nonetheless. I fought hard. I was there all weekend and pretty consistent. One little mistake kind of cost me, but like I said, he had a big one that kind of put me back in it. All in all, a good weekend. Any time you’re batting with Kailub it’s good.”
“I was a little off the pace,” said Strang. “I almost didn’t come this weekend just because of my shoulder. I still have a little bit of pain. To do these things, you have to go at 100% to be competitive, and I just wasn’t comfortable going as hard as I would have liked. There were some sections where I noticed I was just kind of riding around instead of attacking the track. But overall, it was a good day.”
Strang’s Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green teammate Lyndon Snodgrass has improved with each race and finished an impressive fourth overall, which was also good enough for first in the Pro 2 division.
Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Liam Draper was fourth in the Pro class and fifth overall.
“On Saturday I started off kind of slow, but I figured out the Cross test a lot better this weekend than I have in previous rounds,” said Draper. “It was close racing all weekend with me, Jordan Ashburn and Josh. Then Jordan had some problems. So, it was good. It was a good year. I had fun racing these.”
Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Jesse Ansley turned in his best finish of the year with a sixth overall and second in the Pro 2 class. The Florida rider has made big strides this year and his finish at the series finale was a good way to cap off the season.
“I feel like I was really tight on Day One,” said Ansley. “I wasn’t on the bike all week and I think it showed on Saturday. I felt like I really shined in the woods test and I was sitting fifth overall going into the last Enduro test and then I just made a dumb mistake, which dropped me back to seventh overall for the day. I don’t know what I was thinking, I just went for a line that wasn’t there and ended up getting stuck between two trees and it must have cost me about 10 seconds. I gave up a little time on Saturday in the Cross test, so on Sunday, I just concentrated on that test and was able to pick up some time, which put me up into sixth overall and second in the Pro 2 class.”
Pennsylvanian Ben Nelko has been solid all year and finished seventh overall and third in the Pro 2 class this weekend. Nelko is backed by 760 Husqvarna.
Cole Mattison was the top-finishing Pro Am rider in eighth overall on a Husqvarna, and secured the Pro Am class championship with his class win. Ohio’s JoJo Cunningham topped the Lites A division with a solid ninth overall finish and also won the Lites A class series championship.
Dalton Seals was 10th overall on a Yamaha and second Pro Am rider, Brewer Cawley rounded out the Pro Am podium.
Trail Jesters Racing KTM’s Johnny Girroir, who wrapped up the Pro 2 championship at the round before, skipped the race due to a sore knee. Meanwhile, Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green Jordan Ashburn was turning in some solid rides in the Pro class, but suffered an unfortunate DNF on Sunday.
“Tayla (Jones) and Kenzie (Tricker) were out with knee injuries, so I didn’t have those two to contend with,” said Archer. “All in all, it was a good weekend and I managed to win every test. I made a couple of silly mistakes today, just my suspension was a bit soft. In the last test I wadded my shoulder pretty good, so that’s a bit sore. But other than that, it was a fun track, a good day.”