With round 3 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship at the Springfield Mile I in the rear view mirror, the teams, rider, sponsors and fans are looking ahead towards next weekend's round 4 at the Knoxville Speedway in Iowa. But we have some reviewing to do in advance of next Sunday's event to help set up the rest of the season.
With the first race in some time in the can without the fuel restrictors in place, The Rolling Thunder Show still saw the rocket Kawasaki of rider Bryan Smith on the #42 Crosley Radio/Villa Ezparza/Shoei entry take the win at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, but the overall tone of who could stay with him and actually draft him changed dramatically, as noted in the shot above from around lap 9 of the 25-lap National main at the halls of speed on the Illinois mile oval.
Also spending time at the front for four laps of the event was Jake Johnson on the #5 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Ramspur Winery/Parkinson Brothers Racing Ducati. After qualifying 2nd behind Smith and winning his heat, Johnson showed without a shadow of a doubt that he has come to terms with what is still a fairly new gig on the big LBM mount after some early season testing on the machine helped them to get a better base setting for the former 2-Time AMA Grand National Champion. Johnson's 4th-place finish was the best finish for the LBM squad since former team member Henry Wiles' 2nd-place at Lima in 2012 and 4th-place at Indy also in 2012
Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. also spent a lap at the stripe out in front on his new ride on the #2 Zanotti Racing/Burt Ives Honda/Moroney's H-D-sponsored and Dave Atherton-tuned XR. Coolbeth ran second to winner Smith all day long after qualifying 4th, and showed that this wily veteran of the sport was not ready to step aside after being released from the H-D factory team after last year's season. Although team mate Stevie Bonsey's end results didn't show the progress the team made over the off-season in getting ready for the new 'sans restrictors' era, look for these two to step up as the season progresses.
Jared Mees' 3rd-place finish on the #9 Rogers Racing/Las Vegas H-D/Blue Springs-backed and Kenny Tolbert-tuned XR was textbook Mees' and Tolbert journeyman work at Springfield. Mees 2nd-place finish in his heat behind Wiles and 4th-place finish in the Dash were the stepping stones that champions use to put together a solid season run for the big crown, and Mees obviously knows a little bit about grabbing that crown, while Tolbert is undoubtedly one of the tuning kings when it comes to keeping the long-used alloy XR solid and humming along.
And although he didn't spend time at the front after dominating in last year's doubleheader at Springfield, last year's 3rd-place man in the overall championship Brandon Robinson, had a solid day with a 7th-place finish in the main after almost stealing the glory from Johnson in there extremely close heat race. Robinson and the #44 USC Kawasaki/Hart Racing/Hot Shot-sponsored EX650 were in no way overshadowed throughout the day, but with a little massaging of the team's off-season moves the former 2008 Basic Twins Champion and crew chief James Hart should have the new-look effort buzzing along at the front before too long.
Defending AMA Grand National Champion Brad Baker took his new ride on the #1 Harley-Davidson Motor Co/Screamin' Eagle Racing Parts/Dunlop-backed XR-750 at Springfield just over six weeks after breaking his arm just a few weeks after the season-opening rounds in Daytona. Baker took home a solid 5th-place finish in the main while staying with the crowd at the front during all of the red flag restarts.
Nichole Cheza-Mees newly-adorned paint job on her #15 Harley-Davidson/Black Hills H-D/Mr.Sign-backed XR sits in waiting in her pit area at Springfield, and the now Mrs. Jared Mees took home her best result of her career at Springfield with a hard-earned 8th-place finish.
After Stevie Bonsey's first get-off in turn 1, the restart saw four of the eventual top-4 and five of the top-6 finishers up front. Henry Wiles on his new ride on the #17 Don's Kawasaki/DPC Racing/EA Racing-sponsored Kawasaki took home 6th-place after winning his heat race over Mees and Willie McCoy on his #59 H-D of Wausau/Tucker Rocky/Independence Harley-Davidson-backed XR-750. Here Smith leads Coolbeth, Mees, Johnson, Wiles and McCoy heading into turn 1 on lap 13's restart.
2012 Rookie of the Year Briar Bauman's 9th-place finish was a great result after missing the program entirely in the Labor Day weekend running of last season's Springfield Mile II. The #14 Werner-Springsteen Racing/Monster Energy Kawasaki/Cometic Gasket-backed effort probably suffered more from the day's outing due to a glitch in AMA Pro Flat Track's records for the event after he and the team were announced during rider intros without their sponsor's names being mentioned. Needless to say, the presence of Monster and long-time tuner and all-time winning tuner Bill Werner during the day's events left little doubt as to whom helped foot the great effort that helped get Bauman and the team a solid top-10 finish.
Although she missed the main, probably the ride of the day belonged to Shayna Texter in her new outing on the #25A Latus Motors/Castrol Oil/Crosley Radio-sponsored Triumph Bonneville effort. Suffering from a series of angst-inducing head and tail shaking along the straights at Springfield, the former Pro Twins/Basic Twins double winner from last year's Labor Day weekend fought the ride of her life in keeping the big parallel Triumph twin upright, without it planting her in the ground where a much lesser rider may have ended up. Without a doubt it was a great effort on her part to keep it from doing so, and with some chassis tweaking and adjustments that were made and will be need to be made she showed the crowd on-hand that she will never say die. A superb effort that never saw the outcome that it should have in her first race as a Grand National Expert rider, Shayna and the team will prevail and the great looking effort on all parts of the team should pay off come the rest of the season.
One of the other new rider and team combinations for this season comes in the form of former AMA Supermoto Champion and Scott Powersports Kawasaki-pilot Johnny Lewis and the #10 KTM/GE Capital/Waters Autobody-backed KTM LC8 950 team. After spending last season working with the Latus Motors Triumph squad and riding three different machines during last Labor Day's Springfield doubleheader outing, Lewis and the Waters team had their first outing together on the beautiful orange and blue KTMs. Showing his usual flair and body english style throughout the day, Lewis and the team finally got the settings right for him to take the win in semi race #1 after a slow start over Nichole Cheza-Mees that put them into the National main in their first time on the track together. Although their day only lasted 15 laps, Lewis and the big and vibrant-looking KTM looked to be a good match for the new season ahead and something for the WAB KTM to look forward to after all their hard work in campaigning the big KTMs for the last five seasons.
Heat race #3 at Springfield saw Willie McCoy #59 dominate the first seven laps of the event, with 2012 AMA Grand National Champion Jared Mees holding his own in keeping the two extremely close throughout. But it wasn't to be for either, as Henry Wiles got them both on the last lap to take his first heat race win on his new #17 Don's Kawasaki/DPC Racing/EA Racing-EX650 effort.
Mikey Martin and the #91 Bonneville Performance/Triumph Factory Racing/Castrol Racing-sponsored Triumph Bonneville team have made some significant strides in what is now their third season together, evidenced by Martin taking the final direct transfer to the main in heat race #3 behind Wiles, Mees and McCoy. Unfortunately, Martin and the slick-looking Bonneville Performance Triumph went down just after the completion of lap 20 (causing one of the four restarts of the day) to bring home a rough 14th-place finish.
With former team head Rick Howerton mothballing the Howerton Motorsports effort after leading Bryan Smith and the team to a double AMA Grand National Twins Championship effort in 2012-2013, team member Jeff Gordon and returning team wrench Dink Glidden regrouped over the off-season to put together what is looking to be another stellar effort for the #42 team. Taking everything but the frame from the last two seasons' work, Gordon and Glidden took the engine work in-house and between them and Dreyer Motorsports' dyno and eBay purchases, built another winning effort out of JG's Speedway Engines shop on Gasoline Alley on the west side of Indy.
Smith's Dad, Barry, put it all together out of his Michigan-based shop and the team hardly missed a beat without Howerton heading up the effort-although he was on hand to see it, in what appeared to be 'advisory mode.' At the end of the day, big JG had removed himself from 'team stooge'-status to cement himself into the elite list of winning AMA Grand National Championship crew chiefs, tuners and wrench masters. A job well done, and the student of the sport for years that obviously showed that he knows a little bit more about building engines for something other than Indy Lights cars! Not too bad for his first race as a crew chief in the most competitive form of two-wheel, bar banging racing.
On one of the final restarts, Smith grabs some major throttle to leap off the line leading the seven men who would end up in the top-7 at the end of the marathon stop-and-go day at Springfield. Only Willie McCoy #59 would be the odd man out after lowsiding into turn 3 on the final lap to end up in the 13th-place spot after spending all day running in the top six or seven while breathing the draft at the front.
To get some more perspective on the great day at Springfield from two weeks ago, Larry Lawrence put together another great story for Cycle News and helped to make my outing to, at and from Springfield another super day of bench and track racing. Read his official spin here from The Master of the pen ,er, keyboard and lens.
And North Dakota's own, Dan Jacobson, Sr. also made the trek to the halls of speed in Springfield, and filed this report with Today's Cycle Coverage.com.
And you can also take a look at all of the official results here thanks to AMA Pro Flat Track.
If you're like me, you can never get enough of watching The Rolling Thunder Show perform in what is the best two wheeled racing series in the world, so you can watch the Springfield Mile I in it's entirety here thanks again to AMA Pro Flat Track and FansChoice.TV.
The full press release review from AMA Pro Flat Track is also below, as we get ready for next Sunday's round 4 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship at the Knoxville Half-Mile!
AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship Recap: Springfield Mile
|DAYTONA BEACH, Fla (May 30, 2014) - Despite AMA Pro Flat Track's decision to remove the restrictors for the first time in over a decade this season, Bryan Smith's No. 42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio Kawasaki reigned terror over the competition at the Springfield Mile this past weekend, proving once again he is the best in the business on mile-long circuits. With the win, Smith has placed himself fifth in the overall point standings heading into Round 3.|
"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."
Springfield Mile I winner Bryan Smith on the #42 Crosley Radio/Villa-Esparza Kawasaki leads the field out of turn 4 on the first lap of the 25-lap National main at the Illinois State Fairgrounds on May 25 in the first Twins Series event of the season and the first without the fuel restrictors in place in over a decade. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
Kenny Coolbeth knifed his way to an impressive second place finish as he gave Smith all he could handle coming down the frontstretch on the final lap. Coolbeth looked as if he might rip the lead from Smith on several occasions throughout the main event but the No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson competitor never could find the edge. Coolbeth's runner-up Springfield Mile effort places him first in the overall points. "I had it all planned out," said Coolbeth. "I was going to just try and hang with Smith for as long as I could and the pass at the end. On the last lap I wanted to blow around outside but he ran it in there deep and I got right alongside of him but came up just a little short. I'm really looking forward to the season with Zanotti."
Jared Mees rode his No. 9 Rogers Racing Harley-Davidson to a solid third place finish after battling with Jake Johnson for the final podium spot. "Before the restart, we had to make our way out there and it was like all of a sudden my bike just came right around, it was hooking so good and tracking through the corner just awesome," said Mees. "We started having those red flags and Jake (Johnson) was just beating me to the corner every time. It was like 'rewind and play, rewind and play.' We had some really good corner speed and the motorcycle was phenomenal."
Even though Johnson, who finished fourth aboard his No. 5 Ramspur Winery Ducati, missed the podium last weekend, the defending champion has looked solid in the season's first three races and currently sits second in the points.
Fifth place finisher Brad Baker didn't get the result he was looking for, but the defending Grand National Champion will take a top five finish at Springfield with at least mild satisfaction after breaking his arm just five weeks prior to the event. Baker now sits 11th in the points and should crack the top 10 next round at the Knoxville Half Mile in Knoxville, Iowa.
Emerging from the second pack of riders was sixth place finisher Henry Wiles aboard his No. 17 Don's Kawasaki. The Winn, Mich. native now sits seventh in the overall points. After completing the sweep in last season's Springfield Mile doubleheader, Brandon Robinson earned a seventh place finish last weekend on his No. 44 USC Kawasaki. Robinson's consistent start to the 2014 season has him sitting fourth in the point standings. Sammy Halbert only completed two laps in last weekend's main event as the No. 7 South East Harley-Davidson rider suffered a bike malfunction on lap three that forced him out of the race. Halbert now sits third in the overall points.
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