The SRT Off Road team (@srtoffroad) includes over twenty riders competing in the top off-road racing series in the US. The team has become a force to be reckoned with as many of those riders are taking wins and competing for championships. For the 2017 Tennessee Knockout, team SRT will have six riders competing with five of those riders pre-qualified for the Sunday program.
Redmond finished a career best third at the 2016 TKO to join Cody Webb and Wade Young on the podium. He has joined team SRT for 2017 and will be aiming for another podium finish.
Cory Graffunder is now in his third season with SRT and has been a top finisher in Extreme off-road races for years now. He will be looking for his first TKO podium finish.
Wild Wally Palmer is a fan favorite that is capable of top results but seems to favor impressing fans with creative lines over results.
Ron Commo III is a former top trials rider that has transitioned to off-road racing and will look to put those skills to use at the Trials Training Center.
Mark Heresco Jr. excels at tough off-road events and will be aiming to qualify for the fifteen rider main event.
Craig Thompson will be competing during the Saturday amateur competition in the 40 plus Vet class with the goal of qualifying for the Sunday competition. You have to love a company owner that is out there testing products himself in the most extreme conditions and then helping to get some of the top riders to the races to test and showcase SRT products.
Cody Webb (@codywebb2) continued his domination of the Kenda Tennessee Knockout by taking his fourth consecutive win. The Red Bull, FMF KTM rider was never challenged during the four-round competition at the Trials Training Center that culminated with a multi-lap main event in which he lapped the entire field.
South Africa’s Wade Young (@wadeyoung55), one of stars of the international Extreme Enduro scene, looked to have the pace to challenge Webb in the final but had to stop to repair a broken clutch perch. In spite of the stop, Young stormed back through the field on his Sherco to take second position.
Kyle Redmond (@kyleredmond777) rode his factory backed Beta to the final podium position.
Fourth position was taken by a relatively unknown twenty-year old Ben Kelley. The Connecticut native had to ride the Saturday qualifiers to earn a spot in the Sunday program and continued to impress all day. SRT-backed Cory Graffunder rounded out the top five.
Former National Enduro Enduro Champion Steward Baylor finished sixth on his KTM. Max Gerston rode his Beta to seventh. Noah Kepple recovered from an early crash to finish eighth. Husqvarna’s Mike Brown finished ninth and Quinn Wentzel had another strong TKO finish to round out the top ten.
Cory Buttrick, Nick Klapec and Wally Palmer were the other riders to qualify for the main event and finished eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth respectively.
The World’s top off-road riders are invited directly to the Sunday program for the Kenda Tennessee Knockout (TKO). One hundred and eighty unqualified Expert/Pro and amateur riders raced on Saturday with the top 29 finishers earning the opportunity to move on to the Sunday Expert Knockout rounds. On Sunday, riders compete in a very tough and spectator friendly four-round Knockout racing format.
The Sunday program started with a Hot Lap on a mile long “short course”. Webb set the fastest time of 3:13 over Husqvarna’s Colton Haaker, who clocked a 3:35. Redmond was third at 3:37. Brown fourth at 3:44 and Young started the day off with the fifth best time at 3:45. A total of forty eight riders completed the Hot Lap to move onto the first elimination round.
TKO round one sends the riders out in thirty second intervals against the clock on the thirteen mile “long course”. Only the top twenty five riders would move on to TKO two. Webb continued his dominance with a fast time of 52:28. Haaker again set the second fastest time at 53:06. Kelly shocked the field again by taking third with a time of 53:46. Young was fourth at 53:54 and Brown rounded out the top five with a time of 55:32.
For TKO two, the format changes to head to head racing with five groups of five riders competing on the long course with four additional challenging sections added. Only the top three in each group earn a spot in the fifteen rider main event. Just as the riders started, heavy thunder showers hit and dramatically increased the degree of difficulty. Webb continued to sail through despite the tough conditions to win his group over Redmond and Graffunder. Young served notice that he was learning the Trials Training Center terrain by winning his group and setting the second fastest overall time over Gerston and Buttrick. Kepple put in a great ride to win his group over Wentzel and Kelly. Brown took the win in group five over Baylor and Palmer finished just in time to start the main event. Amazingly, Nick Klapec was the only rider to make it to the finish in group two. Haaker lost a lot of time making repairs and did not finish before the main event started so he was knocked out of the competition.
When the main event started, Webb took the early lead and was followed by Young, Brown and Kepple. Kepple suffered a high speed crash that took him out of contention on the first lap while Webb quickly pulled away from the pack putting over 30 seconds on Young by the end of lap one. Young broke his clutch perch in a small crash on lap three and returned to the pits to repair it, seemingly ruining all chances of a podium finish as he went a lap down on Webb.
Brown, Graffunder and Redmond all held second at various points in the race while Young charged back through the field setting the fastest lap times. At the same time, Webb lapped the rest of the field at least once, rarely looking challenged by the incredibly challenging course made more difficult from the rain earlier in the day.
Brown pulled out of the race due to extreme fatigue just past the halfway point in the main event leaving Redmond and Graffunder to battle for the podium spots and hold off the fast closing Young, who would ultimately ride past both and into second. Redmond held on for third while Graffunder was forced to stop for water, which allowed Kelley to take fourth and bump him back to fifth.
Webb completed eight laps in just under 35 minutes of racing in the main event (in addition to the two hours of racing during the qualifying rounds), which was a lap ahead of Young and two ahead of Redmond.
“The day went great. The bike felt like a Trials bike out there and hooked up everywhere in spite of the tough conditions,” Webb said. “I got a big gap on Wade but then my pit board showed that he was running the same pace as me and I knew I had to keep pushing hard because he is a bulldog so it was unfortunate that he had the mechanical problem as it would have been fun to race with him more.”
“This was my first time in the US and it was good,” said Young, who has raced all of the major international Extreme races over the past few years with great success. “I think in terms of difficulty, this event is right up there. This format was shorter and high intensity with no place to rest on the track so if you made one mistake, it carried through to the next obstacle. It was a tough so intense that it made you almost sick but it was good.”
“The day was pretty tough but I started the day with third place in the hot lap, which got my day off to a good start,” said Redmond. “I had a crash in the beginning and I fell back and did not realize that I had worked up to second but then I just did not have the energy to fight off Wade at the end but I am happy to get a good result and make the podium because it was a tough day.”
2016 Kenda Tennessee Knockout results
Cody Webb – KTM
Wade Young – Sherco
Kyle Redmond – Beta
Ben Kelly – KTM
Cory Graffunder – KTM
Steward Baylor – KTM
Max Gerston – Beta
Noah Kepple – KTM
Mike Brown – Husqvarna
Quinn Wentzel – KTM
Cory Buttrick – KTM
Nick Klapec – KTM
Wally Palmer – KTM
Look for a highlight video in the coming days and a full Red Bull TV feature. More information on the air dates will be shared as soon as it is available.