What was originally scheduled as round 11 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season at the Springfield Short Track over Labor Day Weekend is getting ready to kick-off in fine fashion this afternoon at 4:30 PM EDT/3:30 PM CDT at the Multipurpose Arena on the Illinois State Fairgrounds as round 12.
Two of the top contenders for tonight's race sit in wait above at round 3 ready for practice at the Springfield TT on May 26. Jake Johnson on the #1 Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer's H-D-sponsored Honda CRF450R and Sammy Halbert on his #7 South Ass/Fredericktown Yamaha-backed YZ450F will be two of the protagonists in the battle to win the last short track National to be held at Springfield in the foreseeable future.
Jersey Jake will be looking to add to his legend as a master of the tracks at the fabled events held over the course of the last dozen 10-11 seasons in trying to win his first-ever short track there after carding two Springfield Mile wins on the big oval and the Springfield TT from May 2011. Halbert will be looking to grab another Singles Series Championship to go along with his 2011 #1 plate in the 450 class as the two battle with Singles points leader Jared Mees to close out the Singles portion of the 2012 calendar.
The series will shift to the mile oval for Sunday's running of the Springfield Mile II that was originally scheduled as round 12 and will now make up the 13th event on the 2012 season's calendar. In both previous events at the fastest mile in the country, Texan Willie McCoy hauled his #59 Harley-Davidson of Wausau/Independence H-D-sponsored XR750 to the front and to the top of the podium in the waning moments of each race to capture his first and second-ever Grand National main event wins in his over 25-year career as one of the finest and the fastest in The Rolling Thunder Show.
With tutelage over the years from two of the baddest, fastest and best in the business in the form of 7-Time AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr and his long-time compadre in multi-championship winning tuner, wrench, builder and master of the Milwaukee iron, Kenny Tolbert, McCoy has shown that he not only knows how to haul the mail in the best racing series on wheels in the world, but can build a pretty darn good horse to do so with as well.
Brandon Robinson on the #44 Werner-Springsteen Racing/Big Dawg-backed Kawasaki showed at the Springfield Mile I round he is finally returning to winning form after his '09 Indy Mile crash that curtailed his racing efforts. Although his final result at Springfield back in May was cut short due to a first lap crash and resulting retirement, since that time BRob44 has put it on the podium for his first-ever Twins main event (Lucas Oil Indy Mile) and carded a 4th-place finish at the Sacto Mile and a 7th-place result last weekend at Knoxville to let everyone know he is returning to top form and show legendary team owners and multi-time championship winners Bill Werner and Jay Springsteen that they did no wrong in hiring the former Expert Twins champion.
Jared Mees' runs the last several seasons have carded the transplanted Pennsylvania/Michigan resident to the top of everyone's go-to-it list as he leads the championship overall standings heading into this weekend's doubleheader rounds. Although unlike last season where he took multiple wins Mees' single triumph at Hagerstown earlier this season along with is rock-solid efforts have taken him and the #9 Rogers Racing/Blue Springs H-D XR750 to the top of the list and the one that Johnson and Halbert must run down in the remaining five events of the year if they have any hope for grabbing the big piece of the pie that is the AMA Grand National Championship.
Nichole Cheza will be ready to run with the boys on the #15 Global Products/Harley-Davidson Co-backed XR after the solid efforts she put in last weekend at Knoxville in winning her semi and bringing home an eventual 8th-place finish. One of the finest in the business as well as one of the most popular people in the pits, the Michiganite will sure to be ready to run with and run down the boys come Sunday's green flag to start the day's events.
And Stevie Bonsey is another who has shown again that he has the talent and ability to run up front after his semi win at Indy on the #80 Werner-Springsteen Kawi and his strong efforst early in the season on the Dodge Brothers/Alpinestars-backed XR. The '09 AMA Pro Flat Track Rookie of the Year will be filling in the seat again tomorrow on the Big Green Machine of the iconic duo of Werner and Springsteen and should be a force to reckon with all day long.
The picture above highlights the five mentioned here in their battle during heat race #2 at the Springfield Mile I round in late May. When the checkers flew for this one, McCoy led Mees, Robinson and Cheza home for their direct transfers to the main, while Bonsey raced into the final during his semi race later in the day.
The bike that everyone is hoping to beat or ready to openly complain about will return to the track tomorrow for the third mile effort of the Crosley Radio/Howerton Motorsports powered by Eaken Racing Kawasaki team with Bryan Smith #42 ready to make amends for his SF Mile I 'slip' and the battery failure at Indy that surely would have been another win for the team at Indy.
Although the cries and wails have been heard from those that think they have been out-gunned with the rocket-fast parallel twin, one thing that is sure that with the playing field leveled per AMA Pro Flat Track regulations and a possibility that an extra millimeter of restrictor may be given back to the XR teams for the 2013 season, master builder and craftsman Ricky Howerton and team member Jeff Gordon aren't too worried about being still able to run and run fast. Which means the long-time IndyCar engineer still has something in his back pocket to keep the stunning machine at the front--with the help of Flyin' Bryan's great throttle-twisting ability.
Without a doubt, just as it has been since it rolled out above at the first Twins round at Springfield in late May, everyone will have an eye on the #42 bullet as the fans will flock to get an eye on one of the newest and most innovative machines to grace The Rolling Thunder Show track and paddock and play the game as has been written ala the rules and formulations of the AMA Pro Flat Track guidelines. And the competition could still very well be looking for a close-up view, as well, but it could be from behind if results are determined on the track.
All eyes will also be on the great battle on the track in the 2012 AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles Series events. With Shayna Texter again wowwing the boys and the fans in winning the Knoxville Half-Mile round on her #25A DFW Honda/Herr's-backed mount, the boys will be looking to run her down this weekend as they eventually did as shown at Springfield above in the final dash to the checkers in the Pro Singles main event.
What will or could happen in the junior series will keep the fans on their feet as the ultra-competitive class has proved time and time again that the 450-based class can put on one fine show.
Above Zakk Palmer on the #81C Double Dick Bandits Honda, Texter on her #25A DFW Honda, Stephen Vanderkuur on the #10J Performance Cycle & Dyno Honda, Jake Shoemaker on the #55A Montgomeryville Cycle Center Honda and Jake Cunningham #94L Arai Helmets Honda run for the gold in the closing feet of round 4 of their 2012 season, with Cunningham getting to the line just inches in front of Palmer, Texter, Vanderkuur and Shoemaker in what was one of the fastest, finest and most memorable Pro Singles events in the series' now four years of competition.
Today and tomorrow will be no different, so tune in and keep an eye out for the fastest and the most strategic of efforts from the men and women that comprise The Rolling Thunder Show in what will surely be a remarkable weekend for the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com season and you don't want to miss a move!
AMA Pro Flat Track Returns to Run Long Awaited Springfield Race Weekend
Jake Johnson #1, Jared Mees #9 and Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. #2 are shown in battle during the Springfield Mile I round on May 27, 2012. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
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