With the 2017 AMSOIL Grand National Cross Country Series going on its traditional summer break after last weekend’s Wiseco John Penton GNCC, the National Championship title race is still wide open, although it appears now as if it will come down to just two men. So who will win it?
For the first time in four seasons, four-time and defending series champion Kailub Russell of the FMF/KTM Factory Racing squad has faced a stiff challenge from one of his rivals, Rockstar Energy/Factory Husqvarna Racing’s Thad Duvall. In the past four years, the final four races of this hotly contested cross country series have served as little more than an opportunity for the blazing-fast Russell to put the final nails in the coffin of his competition as he secured each GNCC title, but after reeling off four straight wins in rounds two through five this season, Russell has not found the top of the podium since. Worse yet, he suffered setbacks that left him off the box at the next two rounds, allowing Duvall to keep close in the series points standings.
Duvall, on the other hand, has arguably held the mid-season momentum, having scored back-to-back wins at rounds six and seven while Russell struggled. And, Duvall appeared to be set for a third win at the Wiseco John Penton GNCC, only to be docked one position and awarded second place for a course violation while Russell finished third.
That has left the two combatants at least 50 points ahead of the next closest man in the class, 2017 season-opening winner Steward Baylor Jr. But with four rounds remaining, Russell holds a tenuous three-point lead over Duvall, 205-202.
Thus, the subject of this week’s poll question is simple: We’d like to know who you think will emerge as the 2017 AMSOIL GNCC Champion. Will Russell regain his poise, get back to his winning ways and secure a fifth consecutive National Championship? Or will Duvall’s improved speed and consistency yield him his first National title? Or, unlikely as it may seem, will someone else such as Baylor or the man closest to him, AMSOIL Snowshoe GNCC winner Ricky Russell, come from behind and somehow steal the title?
One thing is certain: The pressure will definitely be on when the 2017 AMSOIL GNCC series resumes for round 10, the Parts Unlimited Unadilla GNCC in New Berlin, New York, September 9-10.