Friday, May 13, 2011

AMA Flat Track: Cycle's Larry Lawrence 'Archives' Captures the '76 AMA Grand National Championship Series Season

Lynn Griffis, Miss Camel Pro, helps winner Kenny Roberts do the hat dance on the podium of race 19 of the 1976 AMA Camel Pro Series Grand National Championship Series season at the Terre Haute Action Track Half Mile on August 15, 1976, after a fast and close battle of 20 laps.  Roberts, on his Team Yamaha 750 parallel twin, had just outlasted a charge by runner-up Jay Springsteen on his #25 Harley-Davidson Factory XR750 and Hank Scott, on his #14 Shell Racing Specialties Yamaha 750 parallel twin.  The race only lasted 9:10:31, but it seemed much longer with the fight at the front going on between three of the legends of AMA Flat Track Series racing.  Roberts and Springer had earlier in the season fought tooth-and-nail at the Columbus, OH. Charity Newsies Half Mile at the Ohio State Fairgrounds in a race that had gone down to the wire, with Springer coming out on top in that 20-lap thriller in late June.
Springer went on to win his first of three-in-a-row Grand National Championships when the dust had settled at the final round of the season at the Ascot Park Half Mile in Gardena, CA. in October of '76, and clinched his seventh win of the season (and ninth overall at that time) and his first championship over '75 AMA Grand National Champion Gary Scott by a margin of 21 points, 301-280.  The King rounded out the top three on the season with 265 points, doing an admirable job at the time of keeping his Yamaha in sight of the powerful and almost-perfect XRs of the H-D Factory team.  Also seen in this shot on the far left side is former H-D Factory Team Manager, the late Dick 'O.B.' O'Brien, wearing a Camel Pro hat with his wire rimmed glasses, and a smile that wouldn't go away after having replaced former rider Gary Scott with Springsteen in between the end of the '75 season and the first round of the '76 season in late January at the Houston Astrodome doubleheader rounds.  For that matter, some of you other older heads out there may even recognize others in this one!

After having followed AMA Flat Track Grand National Championship Series racing since mid '74, I have to admit I'm a big sucker for the nostalgia of the years gone by of having been able to see stars like Kenny Roberts, Gary Scott, Mike Kidd, Hank Scott, Rex Beauchamp, Corky Keener, Jay Springsteen and many others battle it out in the 'glory days' of racing.  These were the legends of the day, much like stars such as Jake Johnson, Henry Wiles, Sammy Halbert, Joe Kopp, Kenny Coolbeth, Jared Mees and a host of others are in today's AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series.

The years that shaped the grooming of a young high school kid who had found the addiction of his life were very powerful, so when I come across some great reading about those days, I pretty much turn to butter.  Larry Lawrence maintains his website, The Rider, and as many of you know writes one of the best columns for Cycle, 'Archives.'  Paying tribute to those years of lore and lust from the earlier days in motorcycle racing history, LL's column is a MUST READ for anyone even slightly interested in the racing of those days gone by.  Whether it be road racing, flat track, motocross or hare scrambles, this column is sure to bring back memories to those of you who have come up through the years around motorcycle racing of some sort or another.

This week's Archives in CN looks back at the '76 AMA Camel Pro Series/Grand National Championship Series season, when The King, Springer and that same host of other legends of the sport criss-crossed the country in a 90K mile journey to capture the coveted #1 plate in Grand National racing in what was a 28 race series schedule. 

You can read part one of Larry's great trip back in history here:

And just to keep your palate wet while we wait on what will surely be a super part two review of the '76 season, you can read this great article written by Sam Moses, and posted in Sports Illustrated's archives.  This story was originally penned in November 1976 and appeared in print in S.I.:

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