2017 Big Buck GNCC: Steward Baylor Strikes First

SRT/KTM’s Steward Baylor Jr. kicks off the 2017 AMSOIL GNCC Series with a win at the VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC in South Carolina.

Steward Baylor Jr. got off to a strong start in the 2017 AMSOIL GNCC Series by winning the series-opening Big Buck GNCC in South Carolina, March 5. PHOTO BY KEN HILL.

Steward Baylor Jr., has never won the AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country (GNCC) Championship, but the SRT/KTM rider got his 2017 GNCC campaign off to a good start at the season-opening VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC in Union, South Carolina, yesterday.

It wasn’t easy, as Baylor had to fend off four-time and reigning AMSOIL GNCC Champion Kailub Russell for the XC1 Pro win.

Rockstar Energy/Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Josh Strang claimed the All Balls Racing $250 Holeshot Award when the XC1 Pro field got underway, but Strang’s lead didn’t last long as he yielded the point position halfway through lap one while dealing with a nagging ankle injury that slowed his pace. Strang later stopped to help an injured XC2 rider and ultimately pulled out of the event altogether.

Baylor held the lead comfortably through the first three laps of the race, but Russell was on a charge after recovering from a poor start, and the champ made a pass for the lead. Baylor refused to back down, however, and he latched onto Russell to keep the lead battle interesting. Meanwhile, Rockstar Energy/Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Thad Duvall and Coastal Racing’s Ryan Sipes engaged in a spirited battle for third place. it ended when Duvall was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop to replace a bent brake rotor. hen he stopped in the pits with a bent rotor.

Ryan Sipes had his strong run in the Big Buck GNCC spoiled by lappers. Even so, Sipes finished third in the XC1 Pro class. PHOTO BY KEN HILL.

With Duvall out of the picture, Sipes began to run down Russell and Baylor, but lapped riders hampered his progress, and he ultimately setteld for third place.

“I started in sixth but I eventually caught up with Baylor and Russell and was right on their back wheels when the lappers got pretty bad,” Sipes said. “They were both riding really good and when I lost them it was hard to make up time.”

Russell also ran into trouble with lapped riders when he made contact with one on a hill climb. As close as the lead battle was, it was just enough to deny him a chance at the win.

“We had a pretty decent day,” Russell said. “Baylor was riding really well, and he had the pressure on me. Right when I got into the lead, I ended up coming together with a lapped rider on the hill climb and Baylor was able to pull a lead. He put about 30 seconds on me, and I could just never close the gap. I was trying and trying, but tops to him for being so fast today.”

Despite Russell’s effort to get back to the front, Baylor crossed the finish line with a lead of just under a minute and a half.

“I knew coming into this race that Russell and Duvall would be the guys to be with,” Baylor said. “I put myself in a position to ride with them. Once Russell made his mistake and I had a clear trail, I gave it everything I could to get a big lead knowing that every second counts because Russell is the fastest guy on the line. I just knew I couldn’t make a mistake and it feels great to pull off my first win not only at the season opener, but also in front of my friends and family.”

Josh Toth kicked off his XC2 Pro 250 campaign with a win in the class at the Big Buck GNCC. PHOTO BY KEN HILL.

Josh Toth kicked off the new season by taking home the XC2 250 Pro class win. XC2 250 rookie Chris Vendittipulled the holeshot over the in the 30-rider field to earn the Pro Hot Cams Holeshot Award, but a leg injury kept him from hanging on to the lead. N-Fab/Am Pro Yamaha’s Toth took full advantage to move out front and go on for the overall win. Coast Racing Husqvarna riders Layne Michael and Craig Delong, finished second and third respectively.

“I got off to a good start, and was able to work my way into the lead on the first lap,” Toth said. “I knew Michael was right behind me so I just kept pushing and it paid off.”

In the FMF XC3 125 Pro-Am class, Coastal Racing’s Jack Edmondson claimed his first ever GNCC class win. Jason Thomas was second, and former GNCC champion and N-Fab/Am Pro Yamaha’s Paul Whibley was third.

2017 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Championship (GNCC) Series
VP Racing Fuels Big Buck GNCC
Union, South Carolina
Results: March 5, 2017 (Round 1 of 13)
Sunday, March 5

XC1 Open Pro

1. Steward Baylor Jr.-KTM
2. Kailub Russell-KTM
3. Ryan Sipes-Hus
4. Trevor Bollinger-Hon
5. Ricky Russell-Yam
6. Russell Bobbitt-KTM
7. Chris Bach-KTM
8. Grant Baylor-Hus
9. Jordan Ashburn-Bet
10. Cory Buttrick-KTM

2017 AMSOIL GNCC Overall National Championship Points Standings (after 1 of 13 rounds)*

1. Steward Baylor Jr.-30/1 win
2. Kailub Russell-25
3. Ryan Sipes-21
4. Josh Toth-18
5. Trevor Bollinger-16
6. Ricky Russell-15
7. Russell Bobbitt-14
8. Layne Michael-13
9. Chris Bach-12
10. Grant Baylor-11
*Indicates that the Overall National Championship Standings will determine the 2017 National Champion.

XC2 250 Pro
1. Josh Toth-Yam
2. Layne Michael-Hus
3. Craig Delong-Hus
4. Michael Witkowski-KTM
5. Austin Lee-Hon
6. Benjamin Kelley-KTM
7. Chris Venditti-Yam
8. Jesse Groemm-KTM
9. Ryder Lafferty-KTM
10. Zack Hayes-KTM

2017 AMSOIL GNCC XC2 250 Pro Series Points Standings (after 1 of 13 rounds)

1. Josh Toth-30/1 win
2. Layne Michael-25
3. Craig Delong-21
4. Michael Witkowski-18
5. Austin Lee-16
6. Benjamin Kelley-15
7. Chris Venditti-14
8. Jesse Groem-13
9. Ryder Lafferty-12
10. Zack Hayes-11