Jake Johnson on the #1 Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer's H-D/Southland Pro Suspension/Arai-sponsored Honda CRF450R during the final qualifying session at round 12 of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship season at the Springfield Short Track, and taking the overall fast-time out of the 48 riders who timed-in for the final National event to be held at the Illinois State Fairgrounds Multipurpose Arena. Johnson would go on to win his heat race, take a hard-fought 3rd-place finish in the Dash for Cash and then brought home a 5th-place finish in the 25-lap National main.
Johnson and the Zanotti Racing team had a great year by just about anyone's standards in the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship season, just not by their's. After taking back-to-back Grand National Championships in the '10-'11 seasons, the team finished out last year ranked in the 3rd-place spot in the overall standings. And for the first time in their three years together, also failed to win a National main, although Jake's string of podium finishes from round 3 until just before the Indy Mile in mid-August sure made it look like they were awfully close to knocking down the door.
During the off-season, the team went back to the drawing board, and with the help of one former 2-Time AMA Grand National Champion/3-Time 500cc World Champion by the name of Kenny Roberts, as well as engineering work from former grand prix stalwart Warren Willing, the team set out to right what they considered their wrongs from the 2012 season, by building a Kawasaki 650R-based Twins Series mount. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, right!?
And that's exactly what has been moving down the pike for the California-based team, with steps moving closer as the 2013 schedule takes a break after the Daytona season-opening rounds last week. When the first Twins Series event rolls around in mid-May, this team will roll out their first-ever Kawasaki-based twin in order to lay claim to the #1 plate they rightfully feel belongs back on their machines.
With Jake leaving Daytona in the 3rd-place standings in the championship hunt, it's worth noting that they are off to a strong start. Johnson rode like a man on fire during both rounds 1 and 2, and his efforts in his heat race, semi and the National main in round 2 on Friday night last week were stuff legends, and champions are made of.
After colliding with the previous night's winner, Mikey Rush, in their heat race, Johnson was forced to line up for the restarted heat on the back row. Although only making it back to the 5th-place spot and semi bound, his slicing through the field was amazing. Coming back to win his semi to qualify for the 25-lap National main, Jake again set sail from the back row and a 15th-place starting spot, to work his way into a 4th-place finish by the time the checkers flew. Possibly the only other rider with as stellar of a ride that night was put in by first-time winner Brandon Robinson. And with 2nd-place finisher Brad Baker losing his points for the evening (although he has filed an appeal to try and get those re-instated), Johnson and the Zanotti team left Florida with some very solid points in their run to reclaim that #1 plate.
Check out the full press release below (with some in-house pics from the team of their new Kawasaki effort) and see what Zanotti Racing and Jake Johnson have up their sleeve and planned for the rest of the season, and check out what Jake has to say about their southern swing to kick-start the new season of racing in The Rolling Thunder Show, the best racing on two wheels in the world!
Press release courtesy of Zanotti Racing, 3-Time AMA Grand National Champions.
March 21, 2013
(Note all photos: right click, open in new window to view.)