In what was another exciting day of racing that saw multiple lead changes around the track and three leaders at the line in the National main, Bryan Smith came out the victor again at the Springfield Mile I yesterday in round 3 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship. Riding the freshly built Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio/Dreyer Motorsports Kawasaki, Smith took his fourth overall victory at the Illinois State Fairgrounds over Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. and Jared Mees after earlier in the day setting fast time while breaking the track record, winning the fastest heat race and taking the Dash for Cash win.
After all the discussion over the off-season about the removal of the restrictors in the Twins Series class, the rocket Kawasaki still came out on top. The effort, now spearheaded by Bryan's father, Barry, and Jeff Gordon and Dink Glidden, two of the original members of the Howerton Motorsports squad, took the original equipment minus the ground breaking Howerston frame and built a new C&J-framed chassis that delivered all day long. But, the overall racing has tightened up much more then what we have seen the last two seasons prior, and the on-track battles were much more tightly wound of what long-time enthusiasts are familiar.
Not one make took off and hid as had been the case in several of the mile events in 2012-2013, and the Harley-Davidson XR-750 camps obviously have done their homework without suffering from any major failures during a long, grueling 25-lap National mile event main. And with four red flags for yesterday's event brought out by two Steve Bonsey get-offs in turn 1 on the #80 Zanotti Racing XRs, a get off between turns 1-2 by Mikey Martin on the #91 Bonneville Performance Triumph and an electrical malady that affected one of the restarts with the starting lights, there were plenty of chances to extend the engine life and serviceability of any/all the XRs in the field, but just didn't happen. And the racing has tightened back up noticeably throughout the field as through the first 13 laps before the first red light we saw two, distinct groups of racing that brought sheer delight to the slim but enthusiastic crowd on hand.
Smith's efforts now see former wrench spinner and team stooge Gordon and right-hand man Glidden taking care of the engine development work out of Gordon's Speedway Engines on Gasoline Alley in Indy, while Flyin' Bryan and Barry Smith are now putting the efforts together out of their home base in Michigan. All have obviously done their share of homework as they were able to squeak out the win over the best of the XR camps in Coolbeth and Mees by just .041 seconds and .153 seconds after the final five lap dash to the checkers.
Coolbeth was credited with leading lap 10, and although Mees never led at the stripe, he was in the front battle all day long. Credit the homework that the Zanotti Racing and Rogers Racing squads have done over the off-season to get their mounts ready for the new, non-restrictor year of racing this season. Since it had been over 25 years since the restrictors hadn't been present in the big bike class, not one rider who raced yesterday had ever ridden without them. And the racing was better then ever.
From the podium shot above, 2nd-place finisher Coolbeth listens as AMA Pro Flat Track announcer Barry Boone tells the crowd about The King of Cool's day, while Mees takes possession of the 3rd-place trophy and Smith tries to cool off after holding off the best of the field during the annual Memorial Day weekend classic.
Riders get ready for the first start of the 25-lap main at Springfield late yesterday afternoon. Heat winners Jake Johnson on the #5 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Ramspur Winery/Parkinson Brothers-backed Ducati 1098/1100, Smith on the #42 Esparza/Crosley effort on the inside pole, and Henry Wiles, in his first outing on the #17 Don's Kawasaki/DPC Racing/EA Racing-sponsored EX650 took heat race #3 over Jared Mees on the #9 Rogers Racing/Las Vegas H-D/Blue Springs-backed XR by just .037 seconds to secure his spot in the middle of the front row.
Johnson led three laps on the big Duc in the main, and was a factor all race long and has obviously made major strides for the LBM/PBR team after a partial season on the big Italian 'L' twin last year, Wiles looked great in his heat race win in just his first time on the newly-built C&J-framed Don's/DPC mount and stayed with the lead group throughout all the restarts to card a 6th-place finish, albeit 3+ seconds back on the final five lap dash. Robinson was in the front wave all afternoon as well and finished 7th, and perhaps had the most impressive of movement in positions in his heat race when he got a slow start and was in the fourth-or fifth-place spots only to gain some massive ground just past the half-way point to catch and pass Johnson, although momentarily.
Runners-up in the heats besides Mees on the front row also saw Coolbeth just .041 seconds behind Smith after their 8-lap affair with Coolbeth putting constant pressure on Smith and becoming quickly acquainted with his new team and the #2 Zanotti Racing/Burt Ives/Moroney's H-D-backed and Dave Atherton-tuned XR. Robinson, who passed Johnson in the closing moments of the last lap of their heat only to have Jake motor by him at the line by just .014 seconds, took the outside pole on the #44 USC Kawasaki/Hart Racing/Hot Shoe-sponsored EX650.
On the second row, left, Sammy Halbert came in third behind Smith and Coolbeth their heat, but suffered a mechanical on his #7 South East H-D/White's H-D/Specialty Fabrication-sponsored XR after completing only two laps in the main, Brad Baker in his first ride on the #1 Harley-Davidson Motor Co/Screamin' Eagle Racing Parts/Dunlop-sponsored factory XR-750 came home fourth behind Halbert in their heat, but stayed in the lead group to bring it home in the 5th-place position just over six weeks after breaking his arm in a training accident.
Shawn Baer on his #32 Baer Racing Products/KB5/Karn's Peformance-backed KTM LC8 950, after campaigning Kawis the last couple of seasons, finished fourth in the second heat behind Johnson, Robinson and Bonsey, and held tough in the National to card a 10th-place finish in his first GNC effort on big KTM. Mikey Martin, who is starting to really come to grips with the #91 Bonneville Performance/Triumph Factory Racing/Castrol Racing mount, took 4th-place in heat 3 behind Wiles, Mees and Willie McCoy, but unfortunately slid out in between turns 1-2 after one of the restarts to finish 14th. In his heat, Martin also gained some big ground and just lost time or would have had an even higher finish. And McCoy, on his #59 H-D of Wausau/Tucker Rocky/Independence H-D-backed XR was also in the hunt in the lead group before low-siding into turn 3 late in the last lap of the main and his efforts were worth much more then his 13th-place finish.
Johnny Lewis in his debut on the #10 KTM/GE Capital/Waters Autobody Racing KTM LC8 950 was one of the hardest working guys on the track yesterday from the start of first practice all the way through his early exit from the National main. Lewis showed his usual flair in multi-styling body English to finesse the big KTM into what was one of the semi wins, and if memory serves me, the first time a Waters Autobody entry had won a Grand National event qualifying race. His final 17th-place finish after 15 laps in the National main was not indicative at all of the fine efforts put in by him or the Albion, NY-based crew, and if the rest of the season keeps improving the way things did yesterday, we could finally see that big bright orange and blue KTM on the box before too long.
And last but not least for the riders pictured, Dustin Crow took the #61 Greg Crow Racing/Gardner Racing/Harley-Davidson of Salina-backed XR to the final running spot of 12th-place in the National main, after finishing second behind Briar Bauman (not pictured) in the other semi race.
This was the look of the top-3 battle in the run for the white flag after the four starts on the day, and the final go around wasn't much different, although Coolbeth closed the gap some on winner Smith and Mees fell back about a bike length or two in the final run to the checkers.
If yesterday's first of six mile events didn't get you excited for the action ahead in the rest of the year, you don't have a pulse and can now remove yourself from The Rolling Thunder Show's fan status list. Anyone that tells you different either wasn't there or was as blind as a bat as the action all over was not too much unlike this all day. Although the rocket Kawi again triumphed on the day, the wait to remove the restrictors and what affects it would have on the racing is over, and the action was stellar as put forth by Larry Lawrence in his Cycle News review of the race.
If yesterday's AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Twins racing was any kind of example of the talent and action ahead in the coming years for fans of AMA Pro Flat Track racing, then the years ahead will be filled with some deep and natural talent that will eventually be seen in the Expert-ranked class.
Jarod Vanderkooi on the #17F Johnny's Vintage Motorcycles/Daves Cycle/WKR-sponsored Kawasaki ultimately got the win, but Davis Fisher on the #67M TJ Burnett Farms/Bob Lanphere's Beverton Motorcycles/Dan Wall Racing-backed Kawasaki was definitely the best of the rest in the deep field of riders on hand for the first Pro Twins event of the season.
Both the Ohio-based Vanderkooi and Oregon-based Fisher were making their Pro Twins debuts, having turned 16 over the off season. Fisher did run at Daytona in the short track events, but neither had run in a Pro Twins event at all, but were quickly acclimated to the big mile event and the difference in power and speed of their previous machines and experience.
And both come from some deep roots of racing, Fisher the son of former northwest TT specialist Rex Fisher and Vanderkooi the son of Jerry who was an Ohio cushion track specialist in his day as well. Their strong family upbringing has kept them both very level-headed and grateful for their chances to excel in the greatest racing show on two wheels in the world, and both went out and won their heats to qualify for their big day of racing at the hall of speed in Springfield. Fisher had to work some for his heat win after a slow start, but after coming around he took off. Vanderkooi just took off, in his heat and in the main where he bested Fisher by just over 6.6 seconds in their 12-lap main event.
After seeing these two fine young men compete for the first time on the big bikes, I can personally guarantee that the sport of flat track is alive and well and has a lot to look forward to in the future with these two great kids showing the way down the road.
You can check out the full results of yesterday's events here thanks to AMA Pro Flat Track, and you can check out their full press release below to see the official spin of yesterday's great day on the mile at Springfield.
And tune in here as we will have more from yesterday's event by the end of the week. There is much more to cover and we'll have some wrap-up of the who's and why's of yesterday's season-opening Twins events.
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 25, 2014) - Bryan Smith overcame four staggered restarts and a last-second effort by a surging Kenny Coolbeth to earn the coveted AMA Pro Flat Track Springfield Mile victory at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on Sunday, May 25. Smith beat Coolbeth to the stripe by a mere .041 seconds to claim his fourth win at the legendary venue, and with the win, he now sits fifth in the overall point standings.
Bryan Smith #42 leads Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. #2, Jared Mees #9 and Jake Johnson #5 coming out of turn 4 in the waning laps of the Springfield Mile I yesterday. The four finished in this order and not much further apart than shown. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
"I couldn't ask for a better day," said Smith following his victory. "It's been one heck of an effort by my team getting this motorcycle ready for this race and I can't thank them enough. There are a lot of the same features on my bike this year but it's also very different than last year's at the same time. I'm very excited about this win and I'm excited for what the future holds for the rest of the season."
After dominating his heat, the Dash for Cash, and even setting a new track record along the way, the No. 42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio Kawasaki mounted Smith looked as if he'd be well on his way to destroying the competition after getting out to a fast start in the main event. This wasn't the case at all, as Smith found himself in an old fashioned dogfight with several riders throughout the course of the race and was never really able to break away from the pack.
Kenny Coolbeth was Smith's biggest threat of the main event aboard his powerful No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson. Coolbeth is off to an exceptional start to the 2014 season, having won at Daytona and scoring a second place finish today at Springfield, the Morris, Conn., native sits atop the overall point standings after three rounds.
Jared Mees, the 2012 Grand National Champion, harassed Smith all day. Mees, mounted on his No. 9 Rogers Racing Harley-Davidson gave himself plenty of excellent opportunities to take the lead from Smith but was never able to find the edge, as he closed out the podium with a respectable third place finish.
Jake Johnson, the 2010 and 2011 Grand National Champion, earned an impressive fourth place finish aboard his Ramspur Winery Ducati to add a third different brand of motorcycle into the mix, while defending Grand National Champion Brad Baker landed his No. 1 Factory Harley-Davidson in the fifth spot to round out the top five.
AMA Pro Twins
In his first professional race, Jarod Vanderkooi broke onto the AMA Pro Flat Track scene on Sunday as he routed the competition aboard his 17F Johnny Vintage Motorcycle Kawasaki. Vanderkooi's 6.656-second win over second place finisher Davis Fisher was an exceptional way to start his 2014 season.
"I just knew I had to get a really good start and get out front early," said Vanderkooi. "Once I was able to get out front, I just kind of put it on cruise control. I wouldn't have had this bike ready without my team. We worked on it every night trying to get it ready for this race and all the hard work paid off."
Vanderkooi proved Sunday he is going to be a name in the AMA Pro Flat Track ranks for years to come and his first ever professional victory couldn't have come at a better venue - the Springfield Mile.
Though a second place finish is always somewhat bittersweet, Fisher's runner-up effort aboard his 67M TJ Burnett Farms Kawasaki had to feel good. Like Vanderkooi, it was Fisher's first career AMA Pro Twins race, and the Warren, Ore., product didn't disappoint as he edged out third place finisher Jamison Minor by less than a second.
Minor closed out the podium aboard his 27U Roy Miller Kawasaki. DAYTONA Flat Track Round 2 winner Brandon Wilhelm earned a fourth place finish on Sunday aboard his 24J Sylvester Farms Harley-Davidson and Mikeal Strable rounded out the top five aboard his 25L Inlakes Sports Center Kawasaki.
The stars of AMA Pro Flat Track will head to Knoxville, Iowa for the Knoxville Half Mile at Knoxville Raceway on June 15, 2014.
How to Watch
FansChoice.tv will be the official home for live streaming coverage of AMA Pro Flat Track and AMA Pro Road Racing events in 2014. The site will also provide coverage of IMSA's development and single-make series, and NASCAR's touring and weekly series.
About AMA Pro Flat Track
AMA Pro Flat Track is a national motorcycle racing series in North America and is considered one of the oldest forms of motorcycle racing. Sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, the Series is highly regarded as the most competitive form of dirt track racing in the world. The 2014 schedule consists of 16 rounds on the country's finest flat track courses. For more information on AMA Pro Flat Track, please visit www.amaproracing.com/ft.
AMA Pro Racing is the premier professional motorcycle racing organization in North America, operating a full schedule of events and championships for a variety of motorcycle disciplines. Learn more about AMA Pro Racing at www.amaproracing.com.
For additional information contact:
AMA Pro Racing Communications, (386) 492-1014, firstname.lastname@example.org