The 2015 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship Twins season got off to a roaring start yesterday at the Springfield Mile I, and an old favorite in the name of Bryan Smith on the #42 Crosley Brands/Howerton Motorsports/Villa-Esparza/Kawasaki-backed Kawasaki EX650 emerged as the winner after the 25-lap Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines National main was complete. Shown leading 24 of the 25-lap event, Smith had the power to stay ahead of 2nd-place Jared Mees on the #1 Rogers Racing XR750, who also held off Brad Baker on the #6 Harley-Davidson Motor Company XR at the line.
Smith was relegated to race one of his back-up bikes, a slight variation of the mount that took him to four wins during last year's campaign, with the C&J chassis. Flyin' Bryan's new mount for the 2015 season, which actually resembles a razor on two wheels, was giving him shock handling problems in the first four lap practice session, so the Crosley/Howerton team parked it in the trailer and went with the combination that worked so well last year. More on the new mount later.
Although Smith and Mees shared the laps led stats at the line, several other riders including Sammy Halbert, Willie McCoy and Brandon Robinson appeared to get the nod on the field, albeit just past the stripe, in first 8-10 laps of the race. Robinson, on the Latus Motors/Castrol Triumph ran with the lead pack during the first part of the race, to slowly fade and eventually drop out with an unknown mechanical problem. McCoy, on his self-built H-D of Wausau XR750, stayed with the lead pack until after the restart caused by Johnny Lewis's Lloyd Brothers Motorsports bucking him off on the front straight (thankfully mostly unhurt, at least to him). McCoy finished 5th, while Halbert stayed in the lead draft on his new ride with the BriggsAuto.com/Johnny Goad-tuned Kawasaki to finish in the 4th-place slot.
Other then some issues with the timing light system on the starts during the heats and semis, both for the GNC1 and GNC2 classes, the day went off with very few hitches, and thankfully the ambulance never had to roll once during the warm, windy and even at one point slightly-wet day. And AMA Pro Flat Track's new house cleaning over the off-months had little effect on the race's running.
An 'in the trailer' shot of Flyin' Bryan's new mount for this year, shows that obviously engineer/flat track maniac and devotee and again-team head Ricky Howerton has his hands back in the mix full time with the Kawasaki team that he originally introduced to the fans and paddock four seasons ago at Springfield.
For those that don't remember, Howerton stepped away at the end of the 2013 season in order to spend more time with his family, due to the commitment to the team and needing to be able to spend more quality time with his boys, now 13 and 14 years of age. While we all knew that this wouldn't last long for a guy who has been around the sport since the early-mid '80s, he was able to return to the competition that he truly loves and that is obviously ingrained in his bloodstream, while making a few arrangements in order to keep the family involved. So instead of working out of his Howerton Products shop on Gasoline Alley in Indy, or out of a race shop set up in the Speedway area just blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the long time flat track nut is now working out of his own house on the far northwest side of Indy, thusly close to home where the boys can now help out Dad and his fellow cronies and stooges as they burn the midnight oil in search of that illusive dream-winning it all in the form of the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship.
Shortly after Christmas of last year, Slick Rick went back to the drawing board and designed a whole new machine to again put underneath star rider, Michigan Man Flyin' Bryan. And redesign is far from complimenting the big re-do that he came up with. Slick and slim as a razor, the new machine sits 3" shorter at the head, and what appears to be at least 3-4" narrower then his original creations, which are now adorning his house in Indy as new interior decorations.
The small cutout you can see in the middle of the seat is the plug cover for the gas tank, which now sits completely underneath the rider, and the whole 'tank' and tail and number plate section is a one-piece monocoque design, all carbon fiber, and stiff as a steel door for rigidity. Howerton told me yesterday, "I have roughly 500-600 hours just in the computer design of the bike," (but didn't have enough fingers to add up the rest of the time put into this truly sleek, new machine), "but unfortunately Bryan had some shock-related handling issues occur during the first practice, and without enough track time to sort it out, we rolled out the back-up, which is just a slight variation of the bike he rode to four wins last year. We'll be ready for Sacramento next Saturday with the new one" where Smith is going for five wins in-a-row, three of which have come on Howerton-created and inspired bikes, and with any luck will add the fourth to have done so come late this Saturday.
Of course, probably the next big story of the weekend was the appearance of former 3-Time World Superbike Champion, former MotoGP winner and Australian and British Superbike Champ Troy Bayliss, who finally appeared on the track in front of the fans on the #21I Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Ducati/Ducati.net/Vintage Motorcycles-sponsored Ducati 1100 'L' twin.
Many expected a good showing out of the popular Aussie, who during the fan walk portion of the day couldn't even be seen due to the throngs of fans and people swarming the LBM camp trying to get a word with the new AMA Pro Flat Track phenom. Although Bayliss didn't make the main (and not for want of trying, maybe more so for lack of time and comfort on the bike), every session he made laps at the mecca of speed he would saw a little more off of his lap times, and was visibly becoming little-by-little more comfortable aboard the sleek yellow and pearl machine.
With still four events left on TB21's schedule, he still has plenty of time to become more acclimated with the new bike and in getting into his comfort zone. And with the might of the LBM boys behind him, that curve should be narrowed considerably, and we may even see more out of him come this Saturday at the Sacramento Mile. Either way, his presence in the sport is a great shot in the arm for AMA Pro Flat Track and the show we all know as The Rolling Thunder Show.
We'll have more before the end of next weekend, as we will do one of our mini photo reviews of all that went down yesterday in Springfield.
In the meantime, you can check out the full results here thanks to AMA Pro Flat Track, read up on the race here thanks to my great traveling partner, Larry Lawrence and his short story over on Cycle News, and below check out the press release from AMA Pro Flat Track as well as the link below to see all of the action from yesterday's super events in Springfield.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 24, 2015) - Bryan Smith surprised very few people on Sunday at the Illinois State Fairgrounds when he swiped the Springfield Mile checkered flag in the Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines main event.
Piloting his powerful No. 42 Crosley Radio Kawasaki, Smith was tested by Jared Mees on the race's final lap when the defending Grand National Champion went low in turn four and took the lead from Smith for a brief moment. However, he reclaimed the top spot on the front stretch after putting his Kawasaki in perfect position to outrun Mees' No. 1 Rogers Racing Harley-Davidson to the finish line.
Bryan Smith #42 leads Jared Mees #9, Sammy Halbert #7, Willie McCoy #59, Brad Baker #6, Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. #2 and Brandon Robinson #44 in the early laps of the Springfield Mile I on Sunday, May 24. Smith led 24 of the 25-lap National main (Mees led lap 10 at the line) to claim the win in an exciting race at the Illinois State Fairgrounds mile oval. AMA Pro Flat Track photo.
"This win feels great," said Smith. "Everyone kept it clean and it was a really good race. I have to thank my team as they've been behind me from the start. I also want to thank Kawasaki for coming on board this year, that's really huge."
The win marked Smith's 18th career Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines victory and his fifth at Springfield. The Flint, Mich., native now sits seventh in the point standings and will be looking to earn another win next weekend when the series visits Sacramento, Calif., for the Sacramento Mile. It's a track where Smith has been dominant, winning his last four main events there.
Three-time World Superbike champion Troy Bayliss failed to make the main event aboard his 21I Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati, however, the Aussie showed signs of improvement as the day went on, decreasing his lap times in every on-track session.
"I'm really pleased with the way things went," said Bayliss. "These guys are younger than me and they cut their teeth on this sport. They've been doing it year-in and year-out for many years and they're very good. After my first session, I was like 'Wow, this is going to be quite difficult today.' But every session I gained a second and by the end of the day I was basically one second off the fast time. I knew making the main event would be hard. It was good to race these guys. It was sweet. The bike was nice and there's a few little things we need to work on, but it's about me getting comfortable."
Mees didn't have enough to take the win from Smith at the end of the main, and he was even left with a battle for third with Brad Baker on the No. 6 Factory Harley-Davidson as the two crossed the line. Mees now sits second in points and remains arguably the most consistent rider on the circuit.
Baker was barely a wheel behind Mees, showing the 2013 Grand National Champion is fully healed from an arm injury suffered during the offseason. Baker sat behind No. 7 Briggs Auto Kawasaki rider Sammy Halbert for the majority of the main, but got by late to challenge Mees for the second spot. Baker's third place finish improves his position in the point standings to eighth, while Halbert's fourth place effort moves him to third. Rounding out the Springfield Mile top five in the Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines class was Willie McCoy, aboard his Harley-Davidson of Wausau XR-750. Kenny Coolbeth maintained the points lead with a seventh place finish on his No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson.
In his second career Springfield Mile start, Davis Fisher rode his No. 67M Racing Unlimited Kawasaki to the GNC2 main event victory. Starting from third on the grid, Fisher benefited from earning the holeshot following the second staggered start of the main, proving once again that he is one of the fastest riders in GNC2 today.
Fisher edged a charging Jamison Minor in the race's final laps to earn his first victory of 2015, and his win puts him atop the point standings after three rounds. "As the race went on, I knew it was going to come down to the final laps," said Fisher. "I saw (Jamison) Minor catching up to me and I just didn't want to make any mistakes. It was definitely a battle and a great race. It feels good to get the win and achieve my goal today."
Minor's second-place effort aboard his No. 27U Roy Built Kawasaki moves him to sixth in the GNC2 point standings.
Closing out the podium was the No. 44E Goeken Racing Kawasaki rider, Nick Armstrong, while Brandon Wilhelm, riding the 24J Mike Butler Racing Kawasaki and Dan Bromley, aboard the No. 54A Bill Werner Racing Kawasaki, rounded out the top five, respectively. Andrew Luker owned the GNC2 points lead heading into Springfield, but a crash on lap three of the main event forced him out of the race, clearing the way for a big shakeup in the standings. Luker's 18th place finish puts him back to third in points.
Next up, the stars of AMA Pro Flat Track will visit Sacramento, Calif., for the Sacramento Mile on May 30. For tickets and information regarding the event, scheduled to take place at the Cal Expo, please visit https://secure.interactiveticketing.com/b/ae283e or call 1-844 SAC MILE (1-844- 722-6453).
Fans can also watch every round of the AMA Pro Flat Track season live online, in high definition and free of charge at www.FansChoice.tv.
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.
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 24, 2015) - The legendary Springfield Mile didn't disappoint Sunday, May 24. The best flat track racers in the world took to the legendary track to battle it out at arguably the most prestigious event on the calendar. See Jared Mees, Bryan Smith, Kenny Coolbeth Jr., Sammy Halbert and Brad Baker battle it out in the elite Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines class, and watch the up-and-comers of the GNC2 class try to establish themselves on the fastest Mile on the AMA Pro Flat Track Circuit.
Other videos from AMA Pro Flat Track can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/user/AMAProVids/videos
Every round of the 2015 AMA Pro Flat Track season will be available live, in high definition and free of charge for fans to watch online at www.FansChoice.tv.