Saturday, May 21, 2011

AMA Pro Flat Track & Stu's Shots Help You Gear Up For the Springfield TT/Mile Doubleheader Weekend, May 28-29

2010 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Champion Jake Johnson looks over his #1 Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer's H-D/MotionPro/Arai-sponsored fleet of Honda CRF450Rs during a break in the action at round 3 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series at the Southern Illinois Center in DuQuoin, IL. on April 16, while his fiance checks her messages and keeps abreast of team happenings.  Johnson came home 3rd on the day behind event winner Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. on the #2 Chaplin Kawasaki KX450F and 7-Time AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr on his Kenny Tolbert-tuned #4 DFW Honda-sponsored Honda CRF450R to keep him in the top 5 in the 2011 series standings.

Jersey Jake is proving himself to be a regular-and-anytime contender on the AMA Pro Flat Track Series schedule, with his ability to adjust to any/all situations at each event and his ability to bring it home, coupled with a great team in the Zanotti Racing camp, Johnson shows up at each and every event ready to go and able to take home rock-solid results.  Starting where he left off at the end of the 2010 season, Johnson has had a great run of top 5 results to start off the 2011 season, including his hard-fought win at round 4 of the series on the Salinas TT.  And lest we all forget that Johnson also has two Singles Series Championships to his credit earned while still a member of the now-defunct Suzuki Flat Track team.

With defending and 2-Time AMA Singles Series Champion Henry Wiles sidelined due to leg/knee surgery as a result of injuries received at DuQuoin, Jake is the last man to have won at the Springfield Rodeo Arena back in '07, and in this reporter's mind and eye a very likely favorite to break Wiles's winning streak on the Singles Series bikes next weekend at the Illini Capitol's premier event.  Add to it his great record on the mile oval not only overall, but in the last 4-5 events, and you have the point leader once the series leaves Springfield after rounds 6 & 7 on May 28-29.  Anything less will be a big surprise for this great champion and spokesperson of the sport who has been a perennial contender on the circuit since winning the AMA Pro Flat Track Rookie of the Year in 2002.

As with any/all AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series race events, there is a healthy list of riders that could prove the above statements mute once the weekend kicks into gear in one short week.  In no particular order of favorites, Chris Carr on his Kenny Tolbert-tuned Chris Carr Racing #4 Lancaster H-D/DFW Honda, the 7-Time Grand National Champ will be in full-swing on his Farewell to Flat Track Tour, and after posting solid results in the first five events of the year will be looking to add to his 78 total wins in the series, and also to his 12 wins on the Fastest Mile in the World.  Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. will be looking mean and green on his #2 Chaplin Kawasaki as well as on his Screamin' Eagle H-D Factory XR, as will JR Schnabel on his new ride with the #33 Monster Energy/Werner Springsteen Kawasakis, '09 AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles Champ and current Rookie of the Year candidate Brad Baker on his Baker Boys/ENI #12 Honda and his debut on the weekend on the #12 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati 1098. 

Throw in Jared Mees on his #9 Rogers Lake Racing/Montgomeryville Hondas and XRs, Sammy Halbert on his #7 Fredericktown Yamaha/Kings Kustoms XR, Bryan Smith on his #42 Screamin' Eagle/ XR and Kawasaki, and new team mate on the Werner Springsteen Kawasaki #28 Shaun Russell (see more on Russell below.) 

Other contenders to watch out for include Johnny Lewis on the #10 Scott Powersports Kawasaki twin and Honda single, Matt Weidman on his #20 Matt's Racing/White's H-D XR and Honda, 2010 AMA Pro Flat Track Motorcycle Pro Singles Champion Jeff Carver on his #23 Van's Yamaha, Willie McCoy on the #59 H-D of Warsaw XR (who finished a VERY close 4th at the September '10 Springfield Mile), and Jethro Halbert, brother to Slammin Sammy, who is entered on the #69 Memphis Shades/Babe DeMay's Racing XR/Yamaha YZF450F, and you have the making of some serious racing stew that any one of which could come out on top after the recipe is done and has finished on the grill. 

Who're YOU going to take?! 

Springfield AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Preview: Get Ready to Rumble!

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (March 20, 2011) - When it comes to Memorial Day and American motorsports, open-wheel car racing has the Indy 500, stock cars have the Coca Cola 600, and the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship has the Springfield Mile, held May 28-29 at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.

Long considered the most prestigious race on the series' schedule, the Sunday Springfield Mile (Round 7) also jumpstarts the 2011 Twins season, allowing the big-boy bikes to finally flex their muscles on a track that has historically provided some of the closest racing you'll find in all of motorsports. Kicking off the holiday weekend, however, the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association will start by once again turning the Illinois State Fairgrounds Rodeo Arena into an action-packed TT racecourse for Saturday's Round 6 event.

The biggest question leading into Round 6 of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship is who will fill the void left by the absence of defending AMA Pro Pro Singles Champion Henry Wiles. Wiles, who's currently recovering (post-surgery) from a leg injury incurred at Round 3, won the last three iterations of the Springfield TT and has been dominant on the 450cc machines. With his recovery process expected to sideline the reining champ through mid-season, however, the field is bristling with potential victors.

Defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson will be looking for his second Springfield TT victory aboard his Zanotti Racing Honda. Having last won in 2007, Johnson was the last rider to do so before Wiles kicked off his streak. Monster Energy Werner Springsteen's JR Schnabel once had his own win-streak going, though, as he posted victories in 2004, '05, and '06. Then Yamaha-mounted, 2011 will mark Schnabel's first Springfield on a Kawasaki.

Despite those formidable former winners, however, rookie sensation Brad Baker (ENI USA REM) may be the man to beat. Baker had his first National win in hand at Salinas, but a last-lap spill left him with third, which has in turn left Baker more determined than ever. Even adding current points-leader and '09 TT third-place finisher Sammy Halbert (Woody Kyle Racing/Fredericktown Yamaha) to the mix doesn't sum up the depth of field at Springfield, as there are as many as ten other riders with a legitimate shot at the win.
Photo by Dave Hoenig

The moment everyone has been waiting for, the start of the May 2010 AMA Pro Flat Track K&N Filters presented by Motorcycle Grand National Championship Springfield Mile main event.  Now called the AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship (unfortunately K&N Filters stepped away after being the title sponsor in the '10 season, but great news in that Harley-Davidson Insurance not only stepped in to be the title sponsor for AMA Pro Flat Track events for the '11 season, they also doubled the year-end payout for the final point standings!), the series is always considered ready to go 'full swing' in terms of the bulk of the schedule, with the kick-off of the Memorial Day Weekend Doubleheader classic.

From left in this shot, Jake Johnson on his #5 Zanotti Racing XR (and eventual winner of the May '10 event), Bryan Smith on the #42 Monster Energy/Werner Springsteen Kawasaki (winner of the September Springfield Mile), Joe Kopp on the #3 Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Ducati (winner of the spring Arizona Mile in 2010), '09 AMA Pro Flat Track Rookie of the Year Steve Bonsey on his #80 Johnny Goad XR (winner of the Calistoga Half Mile in '10), and Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. on his Screamin' Eagle H-D Factory #2 Harley-Davidson XR-750 (winner of the Minnesota Mile in 2010.)

AMA Pro Flat Track Springfield Mile Memorial Day race photo by AMA Pro Flat Track official photographer Dave Hoenig/Flat Trak

Shaun Russell is interviewed by AMA Pro Flat Track announcer Barry Boone after having won the first semi race at the Springfield Mile on September 5 to qualify for the main event on the Illinois State Fairgrounds oval.  Looking over the #28 Greg Crow Racing/Fox Valley Cycles/MotionPro/Arai-backed H-D XR is one of the team members from the GCR team while Russell looks down to check out his mount. 

Russell had a rough year in the 2010 season, only qualifying for three events on the year, including this race at Springfield where he went on to finish in the lucky 13th spot.  But the fire is still there as was shown by this semi win, let alone his 4th in the 2010 Springfield TT main AND Dash events, to go along with winning his heat at Peoria and his 6th in the main and another 4th in the Dash at the Illinois natural amphitheater track.

Russell, who has been a regular competitor and regular top 5-10 finisher in many an event on the AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series for over a decade now, looks to be heading over to the Monster Energy/Werner Springsteen Kawasaki team starting with the Springfield Doubleheader Weekend next week.  The MEWSK team lost rider #42 Bryan Smith between the Daytona Doubleheader rounds in March and the April round at DuQuoin after Flyin' Bryan decided to go off on his own and put together a team riding H-D XRs again after a great year with the new Kawasaki in 2010.  The team had hired JR Schnabel to help with development on the Kawasaki 650R-based twin, and team founder Bill Werner had originally stated they were going to 'stand pat' after Smith made his original announcement. 

But with a veteran rider available who knows how to get and keep it up front, apparently the lure of having a pro like Shaun Russell available was too much to pass up.  Bravo for them AND for Shaun!

Having gotten the chance to 'officially' meet Russell at the Gas City Short Track round in June '10 (thanks to my buddy and good friend Larry Lawrence of and The Rider I was pleased as punch to find that he was exactly the type of friendly, outgoing and personable talents that campaigns the AMA Pro Flat Track series after having followed him for years from afar. The Westville, IL. resident has regularly run at the front in the series for over a decade now, and in spite of still waiting for that elusive first GNC win, knows what it takes to run there and compete in The Rolling Thunder Show.  The man with the wide smile and fun attitude has been also featured on several event t-shirts over the years, including the Vernon Downs round event shirt from the 2003 season while running for the Screamin' Eagle team.  Russell has also ridden for the Bartels' H-D team in GN events over the years.

This is a great move for Shaun as well as for the Werner/Springsteen Kawasaki team and could prove to be one of the break-out moves in AMA Pro Flat Track Series competition in the 2011 season.  At the very least, it pits one of the biggest smiles and fiercest competitors in the AMA paddock with three of the other greatest competitors and biggest smiles in the pits, Bill Werner, Jay Springsteen and JR Schnabel.  If I were to use the term 'Super Team' the cliche could be misconstrued, however, so stay tuned to see what this team could become capable of in the hands of these great veterans, it's guaranteed to be exciting for sure!

On Sunday the action moves across the Fairgrounds to the big mile oval, a track that features 140 mph straights and 100 mph lap-times, and that has always favored calculating veterans. Chris Carr, for one, hopes this remains the case. Carr has dubbed 2011 his "Farewell Tour," and there couldn't be a sweeter way to go out than by taking his American Motorcyclist Association-backed Harley-Davidson to a thirteenth Springfield Mile victory.

In addition to Carr, there will be three other riders on track who've taken victories on the Springfield Mile: Werner Springsteen Kawasaki's Bryan Smith, who took victory at last year's Labor Day race; Harley-Davidson Motor Company's Kenny Coolbeth, who won the Springfield Mile in 2007 through 2009; and defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson, who won last year's Spring race in dominant fashion on his Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson, and took the Fall 2009 race as well.

Smith has since parted ways with his then-team and will field the Moroney's Harley-Davidson backed Harley. Smith, it should be noted, crossed the finish line first in 2009, but lost that race when his fuel failed a post-race test. (It is rumored Smith may have a personal Kawasaki sitting in the wings, just in case.) Also worth remembering is the very atypical manner in which Johnson won his 2010 event, pulling away from the pack and taking victory by a two-second margin, which constitutes an unusually large lead for Springfield.

The Monster Energy Werner Springsteen team will be trying to defend their win with two new riders: JR Schnabel and Shaun Russell. Schnabel's best Springfield finish thus far is a Suzuki-mounted fourth in 2007, while Russell finished second in 2005 aboard a Harley-Davidson. In other new-rider news, Rookie of the Year points-leader Brad Baker will be making his Mile debut on the ENI USA/Lloyd Brothers Racing Ducati. Joe Kopp showed the power of the team last year when he captured Ducati's first Grand National win (that victory coming at the Arizona Mile), but Baker's got serious work to do in Illinois, as no rookie has ever won the Springfield Mile.

With another doubleheader weekend on tap, the points-race could have a much different look after Memorial Day. A full 58 points are out there for anyone capable of sweeping everything ... another unheard-of occurrence in AMA Pro Flat Track history.

In current championship standings, Sammy Halbert holds an 8-point lead over Jake Johnson, with Kenny Coolbeth and Brad Baker another 21 and 22 points back, respectively. Jared Mees rounds out the top five in points.

For information and tickets to the May 28-29 Springfield TT and Mile, visit or call either 217-753-8866 or 888-468-1622.

To learn more and to be a part of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship, please visit and join us via and
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
For additional information contact:
AMA Pro Racing Communications, (386) 492-1014,

Here are the links to the events at Springfield next weekend thanks to AMA Pro Flat Track.  As of this writing there are 48 Expert riders entered for both the TT and Mile events, and over 38 Pro Singles riders entered as well for both events.  As per usual at Springfield, look for these numbers to go up considerably before the start of action next Saturday afternoon.

Round 6 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series at the Springfield Rodeo Arena, the Springfield TT, on Saturday, May 28:

Round 7 of the 2011 AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series on the Illinois State Fairgrounds oval, the spring Springfield Mile, on Sunday, May 29:

Tyler Porter's Fight for Dirt Track mentions in this week's InSlide Line column that he had heard mentions of Shaun Russell, National #28, riding for the Monster Energy/Werner Springsteen Kawasaki team starting with the Springfield Doubleheader Weekend over the Memorial Day weekend next week.  You can read that mention as well as keep up on some of the other great stuff that Tyler has for this week's news here:

Dave Hoenig not only covers the AMA Pro Flat Track Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship Series as the official photographer for AMA Pro Flat Track, but he also pens alot of the press releases for AMA Pro Flat Track.  When Dave isn't busy running back and forth (literally!) between duties as each AMA Grand National race, he also runs his fabulous website, Flat Trak  (Dave also fills in as the Cycle reporter for AMA Pro Flat Track events that conflict with regular reporter Larry Lawrence's schedule or for events that make travel more burdensome to have someone else on-hand to cover that particular race.)

Dave was on hand on Tuesday, May 17 for the IMDA/AMA Pro Flat Track media day held at the Springfield Rodeo Arena for the test and tune days that numerous riders took part in to get ready for the upcoming TT on May 28.  Here are the links to the shots Dave took over the course of the day last Tuesday, and as always, a big nod to Dave for his great work and a big thanks for sharing these (and ALL of his) great shots with us:

IMDA Test and Tune/Springfield Rodeo Arena/Illinois State Fairgrounds/May 17, 2011

Part one:

Part two:

Part three:

Part four:

It's NOT too late to still get your tickets for the Memorial Day Weekend classic at the Illinois State Fairgrounds races at the Springfield Rodeo Arena and on the infamous Springfield Mile oval. 

The folks at the IMDA have for decades been putting on well-managed and super race events, and continue to do so today.  If you haven't seen a race in The Rolling Thunder Show that is promoted and/or managed by the people at the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association, you definitely owe it to yourself to do so IMMEDIATELY if not sooner.  These folks don't miss a beat and put on a stellar show for the fans along with the great group of folks at AMA Pro Flat Track. 

You can check out seating arrangements (my choice for the TT or ST events at the Springfield Rodeo Arena--on the hill or ANYWHERE in the stands, and up high anywhere in the grandstands on the oval) right here:

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