The California-based Zanotti Racing squad, the 3-Time AMA Grand National Champions ('79, 2010-2011) have released their race report for the Springfield Mile I round on May 25, which as most everyone knows now was the first Twins Series race of the season and the first race in decades that featured the big bikes sans fuel restrictors.
The team came out ready to do battle after a long off-season of race preparations and team shuffling. After losing long-time crew chief Ted McDermitt late last year, the team was still also in transition with long-time associate and first year Grand National rider Stevie Bonsey who was recruited mid-season after 2-Time AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson had parted company with the team mid-summer. And then within weeks of the end of the season, 3-Time AMA Grand National Twins Champion Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. was signed to the team after having been released at the end of the season from a seven year association with the Harley-Davidson factory race team.
From the get go, it was pretty obvious that the veteran squad had been doing some serious homework on their XR-750-based team, which was cemented on the track after one of the team's associates contacted us the evening prior to the event to fill us in on some of the 'behind the scenes' work that had been happening during the off-season in their west coast shop.
Last year's championship-winning crew chief, Dave Atherton, was aligned with preparing the bikes of new signee Coolbeth out of his Michigan-based shop, while Dave Zanotti and Steve Polk were hammering away on the XR-750s of rider Bonsey out of their San Jose locale. Dyno runs were made and the team had managed to find the perfect set-up for the wide-open expanses expected at what also the first mile event of the season, and horsepower figures-which were mentioned but were also mentioned as a 'no-no' to talk about-were at their peak for optimum performance on the 125mph straights at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. And in spite of what many expected with the loss of the restrictors, the five-decade old design of the alloy XR did not see action that would wind the motors so tight that dependability or endurance would be lost in a 25-lap National main.
However, just like in all forms of racing, luck also played into the overall factor on-track as the team had what could best be described as a 'book-end' day, with new rider Kenny Coolbeth (above, heading out for heat race #1 on the #2 Zanotti Racing/Burt Ives Honda/Moroney's H-D/Pint Motorsports-sponsored XR, with tuner Atherton seen standing along the fence in the right, rear of the shot with the black hat on) finishing in 2nd-place all-day long to the dominant machine of the event in Bryan Smith's #42 Crosley Radio Kawasaki. Coolbeth finished his heat, Dash for Cash and National main behind Flyin' Bryan in all three events, but within breathing distance to give the team big hopes for the season ahead, as well as taking the points lead heading into round 4 at the Knoxville Half-Mile next weekend.
On the other end of the bookshelf, team rider Stevie Bonsey (seen above, during rider intros for the Springfield Mile I with tuner Polk and the #80 Zanotti Racing/Classic Harley-Davidson/Top 1 Oil/K&N Filters-backed XR, along with team consultant/rider-coach/starter box man, former 7-Time AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr) was not so lucky.
Although he just missed the Dash event by just over .7 second after finishing in 3rd-place behind heat #2 winner Jake Johnson and runner-up Brandon Robinson, what started off as a strong day unfortunately went downhill fast right at the halfway point of the 25-lap main event in Springfield, when Bonsey lost it going into turn 1 when defending AMA Grand National Champion Brad Baker accidentally took out his handlebars.
Bonsey and the team regrouped quickly for the restart on their back-up mount, ever as stout at their primary, but after advancing from the back on the restart nearly halfway through the field when he made contact with another rider, forcing him down and out for the rest of the day for what was eventually a 16th-place finish on the day. Fortunately, he was relatively unscathed in both mishaps and will be able to race another day, but he can definitely hold his head high knowing the type of movement he was able to make in the restart, albeit a quick end after such a great job of moving forward.
In retrospect, the Zanotti squad is poised to go for the rest of the season, in spite of two machines that kissed the dirt hard at Springfield and the overall picture is that they are definitely where they need to be in order to take on the ever-growing Kawasaki contingent in the five remaining mile events for the 2014 season moving forward. And with the solidity of this team overall their pursuit of another AMA Grand National Championship may not be too far off!
Check out their official press release below and don't be surprised to see Coolbeth back at the front again in the upcoming races and Bonsey regroup quickly to get his way back to the front where he surely belongs, as well. Round 4 of the season is coming up quick at the Knoxville Speedway in Iowa on June 15, and the first half-mile of the year could very well turn the tide back in favor of the long-time competitors from the Zanotti Racing team. As the saying goes, time will tell......
Press release courtesy of Zanotti Racing, 3-Time AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Champions.