Round 14 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship saw the riders in The Rolling Thunder Show return to the Illinois State Fairgrounds for the running of the Springfield Mile II and the close of the Midwest part of the season's schedule, and if anyone left disappointed, it wasn't for the lack of great racing or the surprise winner on the day.
3-Time AMA Grand National Twins Champion Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. won his second mile of the season aboard the #2 Zanotti Racing/Moroney's H-D/Burt Ives Honda-sponsored Harley-Davidson XR750, and although he didn't dominate the day's events in the same way he had in early August in winning at the Indy Mile, he left no doubt in anyone's mind that he is far from done winning in the greatest racing show on two wheels in the world.
After qualifying in the 7th-place spot, The King of Cool set the tone of the day right out of the box by winning fast heat race #1 and letting everyone know that he still has it to do what it takes to get the job done in the most competitive form of racing there is. The Dave Atherton-tuned XRs as supplied by team owner Dave Zanotti have helped keep Coolbeth in the top-4 of the championship standings all season, and his fourth win of the year at Springfield helped to put a stamp on Coolbeth's return to the top of the box in what was his 33rd AMA Grand National Championship victory, and his win over track favorite Bryan Smith by just .010 seconds showed everyone on hand last Sunday that the forty-some year-old XR750 isn't dead in the water just yet over the more modern Kawis that have dominated the big tracks as of late.
Championship contenders Jared Mees on the #9 Rogers Racing/Blue Springs H-D/Las Vegas H-D-sponsored XR750 and Jake Johnson on the #5 Ramspur Winery/Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Parkinson Brothers Racing-backed Kawasaki lined up for the first practice session of the day ready to go out and keep points leader Bryan Smith in reach at the Springfield Mile II last Sunday.
Mees got 2nd in the first heat behind winner Coolbeth, after qualifying in the 4th-place spot, and Johnson also got 2nd in heat 2 behind winner Smith.
In the Dash for Cash, Johnson won his second Dash in the last four races, but this time on the LBM Kawasaki after winning at Indy on the team's Ducati, and Mees followed him home in 2nd-place after the four-lap affair. In the National main, however, Mees was able to grab a 3rd-place finish behind winner Coolbeth and runner-up Smith, while Jake slipped back to the 6th-place spot. Mees now sits nine points behind Smith in the standings, while Johnson slipped to 23 points in arrears with the two remaining west coast rounds left to contest the season at the Calistoga Half-Mile on September 27 and the Pomona Half-Mile on October 11.
Bryan Smith's mile winning streak at Springfield may have stopped at one with Kenny Coolbeth's last lap pass on the final go around last Sunday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, but in the big picture of things the rider of the #42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio/Howerton Products-backed Kawasaki EX650 did what he needed to do to stay out in front in the championship picture, and also extend his lead over Jared Mees by three more points (247-238) and 23 points over Johnson (224) with just the two half-mile rounds left in what could be his run to claim his first AMA Grand National Championship. And with his record-setting half-mile win at the Hagerstown round earlier this summer to his credit (to go along with his Springfield I, Sacto and Colonial Downs mile wins) the chances of his grabbing that #1 plate are closer than ever for the rider considered the preeminent mile specialist on the circuit.
2013 AMA Grand National Champion Brad 'The Bullet' Baker took the top qualifying spot at Springfield on the #1 Harley-Davidson Motor Co/Screamin' Eagle Racing Parts/Dunlop-sponsored factory Harley-Davidson XR750 over Bryan Smith by just .044 seconds, but a 5th-place in heat race 1 (just .043 seconds away from a direct spot into the main), the Washington State resident was forced to put it into the show via his win in semi race #1. The defending champ finished the day in the 9th-place spot in the National main, but still holds onto a solid 6th-place in the overall standings with two rounds left to go and looking at a top-5 to finish the season up with at Calistoga and Pomona, where he won his second Expert National main at last year to clinch his title.
Although mostly over shadowed by his team mate this season, Stevie Bonsey is still having a great year by most standards. Showing up at Springfield with two different looks on the #80 Zanotti Racing/Classic Harley-Davidson/Top 1 Oil-backed XR750s, with the normal front end set-up (L) and an 'upside-down' front end (R). After trying the new look out during the first practice session, the Steve Polk-tuned rider went with the standard set-up to qualify 12th and get a direct-to-the-main transfer with a 3rd-place finish in heat race #3, where the 2-Time National winner brought it home with a strong 8th-place finish for his tenth top-10 of the year.
Sammy Halbert was back on track after missing the Peoria and Virginia rounds due to his Peoria heat race crash, and again was back on a modified version of his #7 South East H-D/White's H-D/Specialty Fabrication-sponsored Kawasaki, which he had originally debuted at Indy in early August. The Slammer qualified in the 10th-place spot and got his direct transfer to the main via his 4th-place in heat race #1, but reported electrical problems with his Kawi dropped him to 13th-place in the final. Note the newly-modified side-mount radiator (behind the number plate) Sammy debuted at Springfield, instead of the normal C&J-framed 'under the steering neck mount' that most of the teams utilize.
In one of the rider and team changes that happened between the Virginia and Springfield mile rounds, the Albion, NY-based Waters Autobody KTM team showed up with two new riders on their mounts for the Springfield Mile II on Sunday, August 31.
After a mutual split from the Iowa-based Weirbach Racing team, Illinois resident Rob 'Bugs' Pearson hopped aboard the Dave and Rhonda Waters-owned and built #27 KTM/GE Capital/Waters Autobody-sponsored KTM LC8 950 twin, while former Pro Singles contender and Canadian Mikey Labelle debuted on the #20T like-sponsored Waters Autobody KTM. Although Labelle didn't make the National, his first time on the machine looked good for the part time rider.
Pearson on the other hand, qualified 11th in his 2014 debut on the KTM (Pearson also had a one-off ride with the team during the 2013 season at the Virginia Mega Mile). A direct transfer to the National via a 4th-place finish in heat race #2 behind Smith, Johnson and Brandon Robinson put Pearson in the big show in his first time back on the big orange and blue KTM, and a solid 12th-place finish and the best result of the season for the hard working team. Per team owner Dave Waters, they will be contesting the final two rounds of the season on the left coast with hopes of continuing on together for the 2015 season.
Probably the most noticeable and prominent rider change between the Virginia round and Springfield was 2013 Springfield Mile double winner Brandon Robinson, who was back on the #44 TJ Burnett Farms/Bob Lanphere's Beaverton Motorcycles/Dan Wall Racing-backed Kawasaki. After things hadn't been going 'to his liking' for the season, BRob44 made the decision to pull the plug on his ties with the USC/Hart Racing team on the Monday just after the Mega Mile and just six days before returning to the place where he had done the double with team owner and Southern Illinois resident Burnett just a year earlier.
After a ground wire came off the bike during the first timed qualifying session, the team got some help from the Lloyd Brothers Motorsports team, who all busted their rear ends to get Robinson ready on one of their Ducatis for the second round of qualifying, where Robinson even rolled out with the #5 number plate of Jake Johnson's still affixed to the bike. The session was held up, allowing the TJ Burnett team to finish up repairs in time for the full round, and Brandon was able to go ahead and qualify his normal #44 Kawasaki in the 26th-place spot. Robinson got a strong 3rd-place finish in his heat, and fell out of the draft just a third of the way through the 25-lap National main, but still came home in the 10th-place spot on the day.
Both Robinson and team owner Burnett spoke highly of their return together, saying it 'felt like old times again' and Robinson noting it was a lot less stressful than what the first part of the season had been, and feeling great to be back under the 'family fold' that Burnett and him had held during their strong run together in 2013. They will be together for the final two rounds of the season and as of now also expect to move forward for the 2015 season ahead.
One of several rider changes that happened between the Virginia Mega Mile eight days earlier and Springfield was 2013 AMA Pro Flat Track Rookie of the Year Jake Shoemaker #55 taking over the USC Kawasaki/Hot Shots/Hart Racing-EX650 after it was vacated by Brandon Robinson earlier in the week. Shoemaker turned a 6th-place qualifying effort into a 2nd-place direct transfer in his heat into a spot in the Dash for Cash, where he scored a point for his 5th-place finish. Although he was in the lead pack for the majority of the 25-lap National main, he never led a lap but still came home with his third best result of the season with a 4th-place finish, just .363 seconds behind winner Coolbeth.
Another rider making a team switch at Springfield was Chad Cose National #49, who took over Jake Shoemaker's Montgomeryville Cycle Center Kawasaki. Qualifying in the 21st-place slot, finishes of 10th in his heat and 7th-place in semi race #1 kept the ERT/Rod Lake/Saddlemen-sponsored Californian out of the National main, but not for lack of trying.
Semi race #2 heads off the line at the Springfield Mile II last Sunday, with brother and sister combo Cory Texter on the #65 Racing Unlimited/McElroy Packing/Invisible Glass-sponsored Kawasaki in the front, center and Shayna Texter on the #25A Latus Motors Triumph. The two would end up sandwiching Weirbach Racing's new recruit, Wyatt Maguire on the #16 Weirbach Racing/Kirkland Racing/KTM Forest Products-backed Kawasaki 750 for the final three transfers to the main. It would make for the second main in-a-row in history that a brother and sister would qualify for a National main together.
Also seen in the shot above (L-R) are Jeffrey Carver, Jr. on the #23 Lombardi's H-D/Carver's BBQ/Motion Pro-backed XR750, Danny Koelsch on his #93X Koelsch Farms/Steven Cycle Sales/Branda-Hump Racing-sponsored XR750 and Cody Johncox on the #96B Dick Ford/Sunnyside/Brush-Eaken Racing-backed XR750.
Team co-owner Ted Weirbach talked to us at Springfield, and mentioned the team switch that happened during the short break between the Virginia and Springfield events. After regrouping after the Virginia event, which saw original rider Pearson riding another team's Suzuki on the east coast, the team and rider Rob Pearson decided they just 'weren't having fun anymore' and decided to part ways, albeit a friendly parting of the almost two-year pairing. Pearson as noted moved the the Waters Autobody KTM team, while the Iowa-based Weirbach team picked up Rookie of the Year contender and former Pro Singles rider Wyatt Maguire.
Maguire's Kirkland Racing team had purchased the Weirbach Racing Suzuki SV650 during the off-season, and thusly were familiar with one another from their work together throughout the early part of the season. Maguire finished the day in the 15th-place spot in the National for his first ride on the Weirbach Kawasaki, and the pairing is looking forward to finishing out the season with the two remaining west coast rounds at the end of September and in mid-October.
Creve Coeur, Illinois resident Molly Terry has come a long way since the first Pro Twins race of the season at Springfield in late May, and won her heat race on the #11P B&B Racing/Gaylon/Foundry Rats M/C-sponsored Harley-Davidson XR750 and then brought it home in the 2nd-place spot behind winner Jarod Vanderkooi. This young lady did one heckuva job, and other than Nichole Mees or Shayna Texter got the most applause and roars from the big crowd on hand.
Honorable mention goes out to Clermont, Indiana's Dan Ingram for qualifying the #31 Clint Erickson-built Denny Haarsma/Zanna Racing/JD & 3 Bears Racing/Dollar Bill Racing-sponsored Buell in the 14th-place spot out of the 40 Expert riders who took a timed lap on Sunday. The 50 year-old rider made us old guys proud in spite of crashing out of his heat and an eventual 7th-place finish in semi race #2. With his leg healed from his Indy Mile crash (which thankfully didn't require surgery), Dapper Dan is looking to finish out the season on the west coast rounds while riding the Fred Johnson Racing Kawasaki at the Calistoga and Pomona finale half-miles.
Henry Wiles had his best finish of the season on the big tracks at Springfield on the #17 Don's Kawasaki/DPC Racing/EA Racing-sponsored Kawasaki EX650. Debuting the machine at the May running at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, the team showed up with two almost-identically prepared mounts for The Hammer, and he made the best of his first season on the new machines in front of the packed house at the Illinois State Fairgrounds mecca of speed.
Qualifying in the 3rd-place spot, winning heat race #3 (above, the closest of the day over Jake Shoemaker by just .008 seconds) and a 4th-place finish in the Dash, The King of Peoria and former 2-Time AMA Grand National Singles Champion showed everyone on hand that he may have finally found a mount that he is capable of running up front with on the big tracks. After running in the lead pack all day and leading 3 of 25 laps in the National, Wiles brought it home in the 5th-place spot just .883 seconds off of winner Coolbeth. It was his first top-5 on a Twins Series machine for the season (after finishes of 6th-place at Springfield I and Indy) and a great show of confidence all around for the talkative and friendly Crystal, MI. resident, and added to his two wins on the season in the Singles Series (Castle Rock and Peoria) and left him in 5th-place in the standings heading west for the final two rounds of the year.
Heat race #2 was a hard-fought affair between these four riders, none of which was on the series' long standing Harley-Davidson XR750. Kawasaki mounted Jake Johnson #5 and Bryan Smith #42 lead the KTM of Rob Pearson #27 and the other Kawasaki of Brandon Robinson #44. Smith came out on top over Johnson, with Pearson and Robinson swapping the 3rd and 4th-place spots headed to the National. The margin of victory between the four riders was just .132 seconds after the 8-lap affair.
Jarod Vanderkooi on his #17F Johnny's Vintage Motorcycles/Dave's Cycles/Scott Drummond-sponsored Kawasaki leads Brandon Wilhelm on his #24J Sylvester Farms/Phillips Racing/Buck's Barbershop-backed XR750 at the half-way flags during their heat race during the AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Twins heat #1, where Ohio-based Vanderkooi again came out on top. The two were running this close in the Pro Twins final when Wilhelm's bike went away and Vanderkooi went on to the win over Molly Terry.
In the Dash for Cash four-lap extra points event, Jake Johnson on the #5 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Kawasaki leads Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. on the #2 Zanotti Racing XR, Jared Mees on the #9 Rogers Racing XR, Bryan Smith on the #42 Villa-Esparza Kawasaki and Henry Wiles on the #17 Don's Kawasaki to the white flag lap just ahead. Johnson went on to win his second mile Dash of the season after having done so earlier in August on the LBM Ducati.
Shayna Texter had a much better finish at the summer-ending round at Springfield than what her debut with the #25A Latus Motors/Triumph/Castrol Oil-sponsored Triumph Bonneville team had experienced in late May. Although the 'pogoing' that the bike experienced in late May wasn't present, the diminutive rider from Lancaster, PA. still noticed some missteps in the bike's handling throughout the day. She ended the day in the 16th-place spot after qualifying 33rd, and finishes of 9th-place in heat race #3 and earning her spot in the National behind brother Cory's semi race #2 win and her 3rd-place which was a hard-fought affair on her part.
The 18-rider National main roars off the line at the Springfield Mile II on Sunday, August 31, in what was without a doubt one of the best big track races witnessed by all in some time. The constant pack running, drafting and swapping of leads all around the track, let alone at the stripe made for what was a standing room only affair for the fans on-hand and for all of those able to witness the final Midwest race of the season, and left the championship still up in the air with the two final rounds remaining. Four riders led throughout the day, with runner-up Bryan Smith #42 grabbing 20 laps of the lead, Henry Wiles #17 taking three laps to his credit, and Jake Johnson #5 and Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. #2 each leading a lap at the start/finish line. Around the track, their very well could have been three or four times that many lead changes with all of the swapping go around. Mile racing at it's best, unless you don't have a pulse!
Full results of last Sunday's race can be found here thanks to AMA Pro Flat Track, while a complete blow-by-blow rundown of the race as penned by ace Cycle News Associate Editor Larry Lawrence is a must read here.
The series takes a three week break before heading to the penultimate round of the year at the Calistoga Half-Mile on September 27 in what will undoubtedly be a great fight for the 2014 AMA Grand National Championship between the finest warriors on the circuit. Stay tuned as this train hasn't stopped rolling yet and won't until the final checkers of the season fly at Pomona on October 11!
And don't forget to check out the great racing from Springfield in the link below to watch what was some of the best racing of the season and in some time that transpired last Sunday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds. You won't be disappointed!
|Springfield Mile II Opening Ceremonies|
We kick off the second running in 2014 of the legendary Springfield Mile with opening ceremonies. Announcers Barry Boone and Scottie Deubler begin the show with rider awards, sponsor interviews and much more.
|Springfield Mile II Heat Races|
The second running of the 2014 Springfield Mile gets underway with heat racing in both the Grand National Championship (GNC) and Pro Twins classes. In the GNC class, the top-four finishers advance to their main event, while in the Pro Twins, the top-seven advance.
|Springfield Mile II Dash for Cash, Semi-Final Races and Pro Twins LCQ|
The action doesn't stop in the second 2014 running of the Springfield Mile with the Grand National Championship (GNC) Dash for Cash, Semi-Finals and the Pro Twins class Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ).
|Springfield Mile II Pro Twins Main Event|
As expected, AMA Pro Flat Track's rising stars in the Pro Twins division delivered another thrilling main event during the 2014 Labor Day edition of the Springfield Mile. May winner Jarod Vanderkooi looked to pull a repeat victory, but faced opposition from the likes of Molly Terry, Dalton Winkler and Brandon Wilhelm.
|Springfield Mile II Grand National Championship Main Event|
The 2014 Labor Day Weekend edition of the Springfield Mile was an absolute barn burner, and the battle kept fans on the edge of their seats until the very last turn.
|NEXT ROUND: Ramspur Winery Calistoga Half-Mile|
After a two year absence, AMA Pro Flat Track heads to Calistoga Speedway for the Ramspur Winery Calistoga Half-Mile for the penultimate round in the 2014 AMA Pro Grand National Championship. Current points leader Bryan Smith finished third when he last raced at the picturesque venue.
Coolbeth edges Smith to claim coveted Springfield Mile victory
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 3, 2014) - And then there were two.
Just a pair of races remain on the AMA Pro Flat Track schedule, but three riders have separated themselves in the championship hunt following the second running of the Springfield Mile on Sunday.
Bryan Smith and his No. 42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio Kawasaki lead Jared Mess, pilot of the No. 9 Rogers Racing Harley-Davidson by just nine points after the two finished second and third, respectively, in Springfield. It was Kenny Coolbeth on his No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson atop the podium however, winning his fourth race this season, tied for the most this year in Grand National Championship competition with Smith.
In addition to the lion's share of the purse, Coolbeth also pocketed an extra $500 from D&D Exhaust for being the top-finishing rider using their exhaust system.
Rampur Winery's Jake Johnson, the only rider to finish in the top 10 in every event this season, is third and very much in the title picture, but has his work cut out for him. Following a sixth place showing at the Springfield Mile, Johnson is 23 points back of Smith.
Bryan Smith #42, Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. #2 and Jared Mees #9 lead the pack early in the Springfield Mile II main event on Sunday, August 31. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
Even with the grandeur of the Springfield Mile, and in a race that was anyone's the win, the focus was on the ultra-tight championship battle.
"It was a good race, we got third," Mees said. "And nothing against Bryan, I'm glad he got second. We're in a tight points battle. I wanted to come out of here within 10 points, whether it was 10 or seven, I needed 10 points, and we're nine points out, so that's awesome."
Jake Shoemaker recorded his second top five in as many races as his rode his No. 55 Hot Shot Motors Kawasaki to fourth in Illinois.
Henry Wiles rounded out the top five on his No. 17 Don's Kawasaki. Wiles has been quietly consistent this season and sits fifth in points following what was his fifth straight top 10. "It's a great Springfield for me, I led a few laps, was in the lead multiple times," Wiles said. "It was great. Bryan, he seemed to have a stranglehold on this place. ... I was able to draft by him a few times, it felt really good. It's just one of those things, you gotta get the right things working for you and that's pretty much what we saw today for me and my team. We got some of the right things in place."
Willie McCoy (No. 59 Harley-Davidson of Wausau) and Stevie Bonsey (No. 80 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson) finished seventh and eighth, respectively. Defending GNC champion, Brad Baker, rode his No. 1 Factory Harley-Davidson to ninth for his eighth straight top 10 finish. Brandon Robinson rounded out the top 10 on his No. 44 T.J. Burnett Farms Kawasaki.
In AMA Pro Twins action, Ohio's Jarod Vanderkooi completed the season sweep of the Springfield Mile. Returning to the site of his first pro race and victory, Vanderkooi expertly rode his No. 17F Johnny's Vintage Motorcycle Kawasaki to a 2.257-second victory over Molly Terry on her No. 11P B&B Racing Harley-Davidson.
An Illinois rider, Terry drew the crowd to its feet each lap as she stuck with the leaders from the start. Brandon Wilhelm was riding in second, but had a mechanical late in the race and didn't finish on his No. 24J Sylvester Farms Harley-Davidson. Wilhelm did, however, post the race's second best lap (36.166 seconds).
Dalton Winkler put his No. 35S Van Leeuwen Distributing Kawasaki on the podium in third for the first time in his career. The Maryland rider was excited to have such a strong showing at such a big event. "It feels awesome in front of all these people and everything," Winkler said. "It was an awesome race."
Jamison Minor (No. 27U Roy Miller Kawasaki) and Jeffery Lowery (23F The Lodge in Springfield Kawasaki) rounded out the top five, respectively.
AMA Pro Flat Track Expert Main Top 10 Finishers
1. Kenny Coolbeth (Harley-Davidson)
2. Bryan Smith (Kawasaki)
3. Jared Mees (Harley-Davidson)
4. Jake Shoemaker (Kawasaki)
5. Henry Wiles (Kawasaki)
6. Jake Johnson (Kawasaki)
7. Willie McCoy (Harley-Davidson)
8. Stevie Bonsey (Harley-Davidson)
9. Brad Baker (Harley-Davidson)
10. Brandon Robinson (Kawasaki)
AMA Pro Flat Track Expert Top 10 In Points
1. Bryan Smith 247
2. Jared Mees 238
3. Jake Johnson 224
4. Kenny Coolbeth 194
5. Henry Wiles 170
6. Brad Baker 159
7. Sammy Halbert 145
8. Brandon Robinson 140
9. Stevie Bonsey 135
10. Jake Shoemaker 99
AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Twins Main Top 10 Finishers
1. Jarod Vanderkooi (Kawasaki)
2. Molly Terry (Harley-Davidson)
3. Dalton Winkler (Kawasaki)
4. Jamison Minor (Kawasaki)
5. Jeffrey Lowery (Kawasaki)
6. Tyler Butts (Harley-Davidson)
7. Ryan Varnes (Kawasaki)
8. Macintosh McGrew (Honda)
9. Andrew Butler (Kawasaki)
10. J.R. Addison (Harley-Davidson)
The stars of AMA Pro Flat Track will head to Calistoga, Calif., for the Calistoga Half-Mile on Sept. 27, 2014. For tickets and information regarding the event, please visit http://www.showclix.com/events/19173.
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,