Two of the wily veterans of the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship led the pack home at round 4 of the season at the Knoxville Half-Mile on Sunday, June 15 in what is shaping up to be another exciting season in The Rolling Thunder Show.
Former Harley-Davidson factory rider Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. on the #2 Zanotti Racing H-D XR750 and former Zanotti Racing pilot Jake Johnson on the #5 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports XR were at the head of the rest of the field all day long, and after things got sorted out for Johnson, who suffered from a slow start in the 25-lap National main, led fellow series' veteran Sammy Halbert home to the podium in what was a repeat of their finishes the last time the series appeared at the Sprint Car Hall of Fame venue during the 2012 season.
Coolbeth, who took his second win of the season after capturing glory at the Daytona Short Track II on March 14, has seen his stock rise considerably since being let go by the Milwaukee factory after the end of the 2013 season, and Johnson is also seeing a resurgence in his game after experiencing what he has termed a time in his career where 'it just wasn't any fun any more.' And you can tell by the smiles on both of their faces and their overall demeanor on and off the track that they are both back on top of their game where they both belong.
With only four rounds into the 16-race season, this year is without a doubt shaping up to be a battle of the best involving some of the long-time veterans of the greatest racing series on two wheels in the world. Kawasaki pilot Bryan Smith sits in 3rd-place in the standings (76 points) after leading Coolbeth and Knoxville 3rd-place finisher and former 2012 AMA Grand National Champion Jared Mees home at the Springfield Mile, while Mees sits in the 4th-place of the championship (74 points) heading into the Lima Half-Mile next Saturday, June 28. Fifth through seventh place in the standings are separated by on four points, with Brandon Robinson (66 points), Sammy Halbert (65 points) and 2-Time Singles Series Champion Henry Wiles (62 points) all running strong early in the season.
In the shot above, Coolbeth on the #2 Zanotti Racing/Moroney's H-D/Burt Ives Honda-sponsored XR leads Johnson on the #5 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Ramspur Winery/Parkinson Brothers-backed Ducati during the Springfield Mile I in round 3 of the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship on May 25.
With several of the teams and riders taking advantage of the test and tune session at Lima this last Wednesday, most notably three of the four top men in the standings (Coolbeth, Johnson and Mees), next Saturday's event at the Allen County Fairgrounds is looking to be another barn burner of a race in what is always one of the series' most popular and exciting venues. And you can't count out Halbert, either, the double winner at Lima (2011-2012) and who also has not missed a spot on the podium in the last four races at the pea gravel track (the series suffered it's first-ever rainout at Lima in 2013, or those numbers could very well have been even more impressive for the Washington State rider.)
If you missed the action at Knoxville last Sunday, you came to the right place as you can take in all the action right here thanks to the archived footage from AMA Pro Flat Track's FansChoice.tv.
Check the full press release out below from AMA Pro Flat Track as they wrap up the Knoxville, Iowa event, and if you don't have any plans for next Saturday you'd better be making them now to attend the Lima, Ohio Half-Mile National, as you won't be disappointed!
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2014) - Last Sunday marked the third time in series history AMA Pro Flat Track visited Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa, to take on the half-mile oval. Kenny Coolbeth made headlines last offseason when he announced his plans to join forces with Zanotti Racing this year after sporting the Factory Harley-Davidson ride for so many seasons prior. Coolbeth's win last Sunday and fast start to 2014 indicates he's doing just fine with the transition.
"What can I say? You give me the kind of equipment that Zanotti Racing provides me with and this is what happens," said Coolbeth. "I'm just having fun out there. That's all it takes for me to go fast, is to simply have fun. I have great people to work with and I look forward to weekends now." The three-time Grand National Champion seems healthy and mentally focused for the 2014 season, which isn't good news for his competition.
Second place finisher Jake Johnson has now been the runner-up in all three trips to Knoxville. Johnson, who earned GNC titles in 2010 and 2011, competed aboard his Rampsur Winery Harley-Davidson at Knoxville after riding a Ducati to a fourth place finish at the Springfield Mile three weeks before. "The race went well, you know, third second place finish in a row for me at Knoxville, but I felt I had a good run," said Johnson. "We got off a rough start with a bad first corner. There were guys bumping and banging and I had nowhere to go. I got stuck on the outside and dropped back to like sixth or seventh. Thankfully I was able to pick my way through, though. We're definitely in the hunt this year. I'm feeling good. The last couple of years I've definitely been off a little bit but I'm back."
Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. #2 leads Jake Johnson #5 during round 4 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship at Knoxville Raceway on June 15. Coolbeth came out on top for his second win of the season to take a 12-point lead in the championship standings over Johnson (99-87) heading into round 5 at the Lima Half-Mile on June 28. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
There is something about repeat performances at Knoxville Raceway, as Sammy Halbert, aboard his South East Harley-Davidson came in third place at the Midwest grounds for the third consecutive season. "This was my third, third place finish at Knoxville so I definitely have to step it up," said Halbert. "This isn't really my style of racetrack. It's so big and round and you kind of have to keep the wheels in line, whereas I like to keep it twisted and get it sideways. I had a good race, though. I came off there behind (Stevie) Bonsey and was able to make a nice aggressive pass on him and get my way up into podium position. I fought with Jake (Johnson) and Jared (Mees) there a little bit so it was good company to be battling with."
Former Grand National Champion Jared Mees lost the battle with Halbert for the final spot on the podium. Mees, aboard his Rogers Racing Harley-Davidson, did manage to earn the fastest qualifying time of the afternoon and looks very good to start the 2014 season.
Stevie Bonsey's fifth place performance aboard his Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson completed a dreamlike weekend finish for his team, as both he and Coolbeth are on their ways to stellar seasons for the powerhouse outfit. As expected, defending Grand National Champion Brad Baker broke into the top 10 in the overall point standings last weekend aboard his Factory Harley-Davidson, but his sixth place finish was still very far off the result he was undoubtedly hoping for. Baker knows he needs to get it in gear quickly if he plans on holding onto his No. 1 plate at the conclusion of the season. Bryan Smith entered the weekend after having dominated at the legendary Springfield Mile just three weeks prior. Smith couldn't roll over that momentum to Knoxville, however, as he finished seventh aboard his Villa-Esparza Crosley Radio Kawasaki.
Although she finished well behind the leaders in the main event, Shayna Texter will always remember the event at the Knoxville Half-Mile as a very special day, as it was the first time she qualified for a Grand National main event. Texter took third in a semifinal to do so, but, with the appearance, the Willow Street, Pa. native has officially earned herself a national number plate for the 2015 season. Texter finished 16th in the main event aboard her Latus Motors Triumph. "To get third in the semi and make my first GNC main event was absolutely huge for me," said Texter. "We didn't have the finish we were hoping for in the main event. We had a few issues with the bike early on and I just wanted to stay out there and gather as many points as possible. We have a new team, a new bike and a new chassis this year, so it's all part of the learning curve. Unfortunately, I couldn't go out there and race neck-and-neck with those guys, but we made the main event and now we're one more step in the right direction."
AMA Pro Flat Track will head to Lima, Ohio, for the Lima Half-Mile at the Allen County Fairgrounds on June 28, 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