Round 1 Race Report: Kailub Russell Strikes First in 2020

GASTON,SC (FEB 8-9, 2020) FMF/KTM Factory Racing’s Kailub Russell drew first blood in the 2020 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series presented by AOMC with a decisive victory at the opening round at the GTR Complex in Gaston, South Carolina. With nearly 500 racers in attendance, it was by far the largest race in series history.

Kailub celebrated his 30thbirthday on Saturday after topping the time charts by nearly a minute over Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Ricky Russell, while Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Josh Strang finished third. 

Kailub backed up that performance on Sunday by winning five of six tests for the overall victory. 

Kailub Russell made a statement with his win in the sands of Gaston, SC. // Photo: Shan Moore

“I felt pretty decent and I was pretty happy with where I was on the track and physically,” said Kailub. “Everything was kind of flowing and I was not trying overly hard to put in the times that I was putting in. So that was a plus. We made a bunch of changes throughout the weekend with the bike, playing around with it. Just trying to figure out which direction to go when the track gets a certain kind of condition. We went back and forth and made a bunch of changes and everything seemed to work pretty well all around for the most part. It was a really solid weekend of tuning and testing and having good results, too.”

On Saturday, Kailub won four of the five tests, finishing second in test three when he dropped his front wheel in a hole and went down. Am Pro Yamaha’s Layne Michael took advantage of the situation to nip Kailub by about 1.5 seconds at the finish for the test win. 

Kailub took Saturday’s win by 6.3 seconds over Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Ricky Russell, who went 6-2-6-3-2 in the five tests. His worst two scores (two sixths) came in the Cross Test. 

Ricky Russell was a last-minute entry for round one but made it count. // Photo: Shan Moore

“I usually struggle in the Cross Tests, they’re just different. I think it’s a European-type thing, but I think going to Six Days last year helped me,” said Ricky Russell, who switched to Coastal Racing Husqvarna during the off-season. “I normally don’t do the sprint races and when I do I tend to over-ride the tests and struggle a bit. I’m on a new bike and I’m gradually getting used to it, so I’m hoping for good things this year. I’m pretty stoked about today because I’ve never done well at these things.”

Strang rounded out Saturday’s top three, about 4.5 seconds behind Ricky Russell, while Layne Michael, Coastal Racing Husqvarna’s Craig DeLong, Tely Energy Racing KTM’s Liam Draper and Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Jordan Ashburn finished out the top seven. 

On Sunday, Kailub showed he meant business by winning the opening test by nearly eight seconds over Ricky Russell. Draper turned in one of his best performances of the weekend for third.

For the rest of the day, Strang, Michael and Ricky Russell battled over second, while Kailub dominated out front.

Josh Strang was 3rd on day one. // Photo: Shan Moore

In the final test, with the race well in hand, Kailub finished second to a hard-charging Michael, who grabbed his second test win of the weekend. 

Kailub, of course, took the overall, with Ricky Russell edging Michael by 5.3 seconds for the runner-up slot.

Ricky was a last-minute entry and, in fact, debated about even racing at all as late as Friday afternoon.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted to race the Full Gas series, because I don’t usually do well in these and I’m not really chasing the series,” said Ricky. “All we were planning on doing was test the bike. Kailub was off in a world of his own, checking out and killing it, while everyone else was really tight. Me, Layne, and Strang were all within ten seconds of each other. It was tight racing. They’d get me on the cross, and then I’d get them a little bit on the enduro. We’d go back and forth and then before I know it I’m in the hunt. It was good fun.”

Layne Michael snagged a podium in his debut ride for AmPro Yamaha. // Photo: Shan Moore

Michael might have had a better shot at second had he not wrapped his brake pedal around his foot peg on Saturday, which cost him a lot of time. 

“Yesterday was going pretty good,” said Michael. “I stayed pretty mistake-free all day, just kind of started off slow. I was picking up speed as the day went and I felt really good and then in the last test I didn’t know what happened. I just kind of went against the bank and then I was on the ground. I was pretty confused because I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong, but after looking at the track I saw there was just a little hidden stump kind of in the track, or where we banked off and it just happened to grab my foot peg and broke the brake tip off. Then it actually bent the rest of the pedal that was left on top of my foot peg, so I couldn’t even have my foot hardly on the peg and it cost me a lot of time.”

Michael made up for the incident by winning a test each day to salvage third. 

Strang was frustrated with fourth overall. The 2018 series champ had looked as though he would finish second on Saturday, but test five had to be thrown out for the Pro class due to a banner that got taken down, which dropped him to third.

“It was a bit disappointing,” said Strang. “I think I might have finished third if we had that test in. I struggled a little bit all weekend, but other than that, it’s good to be back racing. The track got really rough this weekend, so I think compared to last year it was maybe rougher. The sand was a little wetter than normal and it created some more bumps. But it was good. For the most part I felt decent, but not as good as I feel like I should have. But it’s all right.”

Liam Draper rounded out the top-give on his Tely Energy KTM. // Photo: Shan Moore

Draper, the 2018 Pro2 champion, was fifth in the Pro class. 

“I started off rough,” said the New Zealander. “Day one, test one I crashed. It just put me back, but today I rode good. I was happy with that. Mixing it up with the top boys. I’m up in the Pro Class now so it’s no joke, really. You got some fast boys out there. Hopefully round two goes better.”

DeLong had several good tests, but a few rough ones to go along with it and finished sixth. 

“Obviously Saturday was better,” said DeLong, who was riding a 350, although he normally rides a 250. “I was kind of in the mix for a podium for most of the day until the end and then I kind of fell apart. Today I was just struggling. I tried to make some adjustments to try to make it better as the track got rougher, but it didn’t seem to work out in the beginning of the day. I had a decent test halfway through but then in the woods test I struggled the most. I’m not sure if it was me or the bike or just a combination, but I just couldn’t seem to find the speed that everyone else was riding with.”

Ashburn rounded out the top seven in the Pro division.

Aussie Lyndon Snodgrass made an impressive debut in Pro2 on his new Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki. // Photo: Shan Moore

Team Babbitt’s Online/Monster Energy/Kawasaki Team Green’s Lyndon Snodgrass, from Australila, won the Pro2 division on a by 7.4 seconds over Trail Jesters KTM’s Johnny Girroir. 

Snodgrass won every test on Saturday except for the final Enduro test, which was won by Girroir.

On Sunday, Snodgrass and Girroir went back and forth, with Snodgrass taking the overall thanks to his strong performance on Saturday.

“Johnny beat me by a few seconds today, but we’ve got the overall for the weekend, so that’s pretty cool,” said Snodgrass. “I’ve enjoyed myself out here. We finished up with no injuries or nothing, so that’s good as well.”

Johnny Girroir took 2nd in Pro2 in his first-ever Full Gas Sprint Enduro. // Photo: Shan Moore

Third went to former Pro motocrosser from Pennsylvania, Ben Nelko, on a Seven Sixty Motorsports Husqvarna.

“I’m not really a sand rider but I was able to make it work,” said Nelko. “I ended up third in Pro 2 and ninth overall, so it was a good weekend.”

The ProAm class went to local boy Cole Mattison. The Husqvarna rider topped Georgia’s Josh Lee by 1.57 seconds with Pennsylvania rider Neil Enman finishing third.

“I took a digger on the first cross test, but other than that I just tried to hold my lead and bring it in home with the win,” said Mattison.

Despite getting stuck in a mudhole on Saturday and losing considerable time, Rockstar Husqvarna Lan Mills XC rider Tayla Jones beat out BABS Racing/Maxxis/Fly Yamaha’s Becca Sheets by nearly 15 seconds for the win in the Women’s Pro class. On Sunday, Jones won every test. 

Tayla Jones returned to her winning ways in the Women’s Pro Class. // Photo: Shan Moore

“The tracks are super rough, but overall I had a lot of fun,” said Jones. “The first race of the season went really well, so I can’t really complain. Saturday, I ended up getting stuck in a mud hole and lost like a minute thirty, so I had to come back from that. So that kind of sucked and put me behind going into the last couple tests, but I ended up making up the time. I won yesterday and today, so I’m pretty stoked.”

New Zealand’s Rachel Archer was third on an AmPro Yamaha, while Beta USA’s Rachel Gutish finished fourth and Canadian Shelby Turner was fifth. 

The Open A class was won by Andrew Matusek, with Cope Beckert in second and Zack Tussell in third. 

The 2020 Kenda Full Gas Sprint Enduro Series resumes on February 29-March 1 at Lane Farm MX in Garfield, Georgia for round two of the series. For more info on the series go to

11kailub russellboonville, NC1101:17:57.180
2212Ricky RussellDuvall, WA1101:19:24.092
3523Layne MichaelBoonville, NC1101:19:29.417
4114Joshua StrangDenver, NC1101:19:36.451
5198Liam Draperhodges, SC1101:20:18.458
Pro 2
1178lyndon snodgrassdenver, NC1101:19:29.562
2969Johnny GirroirSouthwick, MA1101:19:36.985
3558Ben NelkoAliquippa, PA1101:21:21.995
4328Jesse AnsleyMyakka City, FL1101:22:03.027
5300Ben ParsonsOrlando, FL1101:23:06.619
129Cole MattisonInman, SC1201:29:32.155
2210Josh LeeStatesboro, GA1201:31:30.576
3764Neil EnmanBangor, PA1201:32:17.790
4117Dalton SealsLexington, SC1201:33:02.345
5201Zachary NashSharpsburg, GA1201:33:17.033
Women’s Pro
11Tayla JonesBelton, SC1201:37:34.248
2551Becca SheetsCircleville, OH1201:38:49.026
3652rachael archertravelers rest, SC1201:40:14.702
4417Rachel GutishTerre Haute, IN1201:40:27.027
550shelby turnerbarons, AB1201:40:34.449


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