Saturday, June 7, 2014

Zanotti Racing Files Their Race Report on Riders Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. & Stevie Bonsey from the Springfield Mile I at Round 3 of the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship

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.

Zanotti Racing Springfield Mile Report

Welcome to the Zanotti Racing Springfield Mile report. Running a two man race team has proven to be very logistically trying and labor intensive. Many a 15 hour day was spent 7 days a week preparing for the inaugural mile of 2014. With help from Moroney’s Harley Davidson in New York and Classic Harley Davidson in Reading, PA the team was up to the task and the team arrived in Springfield on Friday before the race.

Sunday morning we rolled into the pits at the historic Illinois State Fairgrounds bright and early at 8am. The AMA Pro Racing had all the parking spots laid out prior to our arrival which made parking and unloading extremely easy and efficient. Tech inspection and pre-race preparations went smoothly and we were set for practice. Both Kenny and Stevie were in the first group to go out for practice. This proved to be the fastest session on the track all day. The track was ultra-fast. 33.5 seconds a lap was turned which is an average of 107 mph around the circuit! Minor adjustments were done to the bikes and we headed out for the first session of qualifying practice. Kenny Coolbeth was extremely smooth and fast ending the session as 4th fastest. Stevie Bonsey ran solid, 3 tenths of a second behind Kenny. Both riders in the mid 34 second a lap bracket as the track was slowing slightly each time out. With a few more minor adjustments we went out for the final 4 laps of qualifying. Both riders were fast only separated by 1/1000th of a second and only 1/10th of a second off the leaders pace. As the track was drying out it was tightening the pack. Kenny and Stevie sat in 5th and 6th respectively in that session with the top 10 separated by only 3/10ths of a second.

Being the first mile of the season the pits were packed with fans. Kenny and Stevie spent a hectic hour and a half signing autograph sheets and taking photos with the fans. After the fans were cleared from the pits both bikes were checked and double checked for the upcoming heat races and team owner David Zanotti deemed us race ready.

Kenny Coolbeth drew the first heat with his overall combined qualifying position of 4th. As previously stated the track was slowing ever so slightly and the first session was the fastest. The first heat was stacked with fast qualifier Bryan Smith, championship point’s leader Sammy Halbert, and current National Number 1 Brad Baker. Kenny fought to the front and proceeded to duel with Bryan Smith the entire 8 laps of the race, testing the power and limits of the XR-750, trying to see if a draft pass for the lead was possible. At the end of the race Kenny finished second a mere 5/100ths behind Bryan. They had, lap after lap built a comfortable margin over the rest of the field and earned a spot in the ever so important dash for cash.

Stevie’s heat race was next, also with some stiff competition. Stevie shot off the line in the lead closely followed by Jake Johnson. Jake got by and Stevie latched onto his rear wheel, reeling him in thru the turns and latching onto his draft down the straights. Mid-race Stevie made a mistake and was passed by Robinson and lost touch with Jake’s draft. Stevie finished in 3rd place, 8/10ths of a second behind Jake but turning a faster lap time in the process which boded well for the main event.

In no time they blow the horn to line up for the Dash for Cash. With the current point’s leader missing the cut for the dash, along with last year’s champion, this was an excellent opportunity for Kenny to make up ground on one, and create a gap to the other. This race truly is a dash. In the 4 short laps Kenny once again fought his way to the front in spectacular fashion. He finished a mere 1/10th of a second out of the lead but a healthy 8/10ths over the rest of the field, collecting 4 valuable points for the title chase. Curiously the track had been getting slightly slower as the day went on, but in this event the lap times actually dropped into the 34 second range again.

Ever so slight adjustments were made, strategy was discussed with both riders, and then the riders were left alone to their thoughts to prepare for the main event. Kenny lined up on the front row and Stevie on the second. After the introductions were done, the green flagged dropped and 18 riders roared to the first turn. Staying in the lead pack is imperative; maneuvering yourself to the front at the end is an art. Kenny had himself at the front of the race early on; leading some of the time, never lower than 3rd. Stevie had fought to the lead pack from his second row start and was content to stay in the leaders draft and see how this played out. On the 11th lap the lead group decided to push the pace a bit. Lap times went from the low 35s and high 34s to 34.5s and 34.3s. The lead pack of 7 riders dwindled to 5 with Stevie getting caught unaware as his next 2 laps were his fastest at 34.8 each but he had ever so slightly lost the lead draft. Kenny on the other hand had no trouble staying in the top three, tenaciously latched onto to the leader’s rear tire. At the completion of the 12th lap Brad Baker was drafting Stevie down the front straightaway and took his handlebar out going into turn one. Stevie went down in a heap, getting himself firmly planted in the air fence at over 120 mph. Stevie’s crash brought out the red flag. Miraculously the bike was OK and he was able to remount and line up for the restart.
Before the staggered restart, Chris Carr pointed out to Stevie that though he was at the rear of the grid, he was on the outside near the groove. He instructed him to put the tires on that rubber immediately and fight like hell in the first corner to get back in the lead pack. With 2 riders dropping out early Kenny was lined up 2nd and Stevie 16th. The light went green and the pack roared towards the first turn with Kenny in 2nd and Stevie racing past 8 riders. At this point as he was going around a rider for his 9th position improvement in a quarter of a lap a rider got out of shape and sadly Stevie hit him and went down again. He fell trying to pull off a very aggressive move, but in the end, a move that ended his day.
Another restart followed after they loaded Stevie and his mount and brought them back to the pits. Kenny once again was fighting for the lead on the restart. Lap after lap he rode with what can only be described as surgical precision. He was never more than 3 feet off the leader's rear wheel. It looked like a may come down to a 2 man race for the win. On the 20th lap of the scheduled 25 lap race another rider went down bringing out the red flag yet again. This was not a welcome event for our team. 
With 5 laps remaining, this turned the race into another short dash, albeit with a staggered restart, but now bunching the pack once again. This is exciting for the fans but nerve wracking for the team. Kenny being the consummate professional and cool as ice proceeded to once again get a terrific start and plant himself firmly on the leader’s rear wheel. Coming out of turn four towards the checkered it looked as though he could draft by Smith for the win but he came up 4/100ths of a second short. Kenny ended the day on the second step of the podium.

Taking stock of our results this year, the team is guardedly optimistic, yet knows there is more work to do to improve. Dave Atherton brought two extremely fast XR-750’s for Kenny and he used every ounce of power they had. Steve Polk also prepared two very capable bikes for Stevie to ride.
Going forward, equipment and or power will not be an issue it seems. The lap times turned at Springfield were some of the fastest ever and the bikes were up to the task. Kenny leaves Springfield after 3 rounds in the books with the overall points lead in the title chase. He now has 2 podium finishes out of 3 attempts. Moving forward, 2 of the next 3 races are on ultra-fast half-mile car tracks. Both riders on our team thrive on those types of venues and we look forward to continued success in the near future.

Zanotti Racing would like to thank the sponsors without whom the 2014 title chase would not be possible: Moroney’s Harley Davidson presenting sponsor of our eastern XR 750 portion of the team. Classic Harley Davidson of Reading, PA presenting sponsor of our west coast portion of the team. Top 1 Oils and Lubricants, Galfer Brakes, Drew Massa Trucking, Mikuni USA, K&N Filters, Motion Pro, The Motor Café in Sunnyvale CA, Bazzaz, Works Connection, Ride Engineering, Wiseco Pistons and Rings, Vortex, Millennium Technologies, Pinit Motorsports of Seaside CA, Billbuilt Pipes, G2 Ergonomics, Weiss Racing, CC4, Chickenhawk Racing, Ron Guzman of RGR Racing, Pro Plates, Boughner Suspension and Cometic Gaskets.

Kenny Coolbeth would also like to thank his personal sponsors, all of which are very important to making this a successful year: Arai Helmets, D’s Leathers, Burt Ives Honda, Jones Honda of Missouri, Specialty Fabrication, West Coast Hot Shoes, Strictly Dirt, Dragon Goggles, Acerbis, Saddleman, Ride Academy, RLJ Racing, Trantolo & Trantolo, HBD Moto Graphix, STRIKT, Barnett, Wrex, Prewitt Automotive

Stevie Bonsey also has his personal sponsors to thank: Arai Helmets, Alpine Stars Apparel, EKS Goggles, Santa Cruz Bicycle, OB1 Trucking, Coolbreeze, Camilla Payne, Team Intents, Bill Graham and Richard Matusek

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