Bryan Smith has made history again in the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship after taking the #42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio Kawasaki to the win at the Hagerstown Half-Mile on Saturday, July 5, in what was the first half-mile win ever for the marque and the first time since August '98 that any brand or model other than the Harley-Davidson XR750 has won on a half-mile track. Smith was also the man to take the brand to it's first-ever win on a mile oval while riding for the Werner-Springsteen Racing Kawasaki team when he took the win at the Indy Mile in August '10.
The 2-Time defending AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Twins Champion, whose remaining team members revamped their efforts during the off-season after 2012-2013 team owner Rick Howerton decided to mothball his racing efforts in order to spend more time with his family, was running in a solid 2nd-place in the 25-lap National main at the Hub City Classic until the ninth lap when early leader and early season points leader Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. went out with a mechanical failure on the potent #2 Zanotti Racing XR750. From that point, Smith was able to hold off the charges of eventual 2nd-place finisher and new points leader Jared Mees on the #9 Rogers Racing XR to take the win and put himself and his team into the record books.
This was a great accomplishment not only for Smith, but for the team as well. After Howerton's announcement after the end of last season, the remaining core group of the original Howerton Motorsports team members banded together to set forth with their revamped efforts for the 2014 season.
The bike building itself was turned back over to Flyin' Bryan's father, Barry, out of their home shop outside Flint, MI. Barry, who is no stranger to putting together some powerhouse and pristine equipment, most assuredly welcomed that change as at times over the course of the last two seasons would appear to be 'bored' and out of place while the Howerton boys did all of the wrench spinning at all of the tracks, other then during the 2012 season when Barry still was behind the Moroney's H-D XRs that Bryan rode at the half-mile tracks.
Original team members Jeff Gordon and Ron 'Dink' Glidden took over the motor program out of Gordon's Speedway Engines shop, the company that puts together the lease engine program for the Indy Lights Series in open wheel racing. This compared to 2012 when the late Skip Eaken and his team were originally building the motors, and in 2013 when Howerton and Gordon took the engine prep in-house at Howerton's shop on Gasoline Alley Blvd., next door to Speedway Engines. Gordon and Glidden had been in on the majority of the engine development since the beginning, buying and procuring motors off of eBay and boxing them up under the work benches. And with the help of Dreyer Motorsports, Glidden's long-time employer and one of the team's original sponsors, were able to procure some needed and necessary dyno time in order to finely hone the EX650-based motors for use in Grand National racing.
Since Howerton 'owned' the original chassis set-up that started setting The Rolling Thunder Show on fire at their first event together at the Springfield Mile I in May 2012, and his plans were in place to mothball his designs, Gordon and the rest of the team worked on getting ahold of one of the more popular chassis that had helped to turn around Grand National racing in the last two years, and purchased a couple of the C&J-designs that a majority of the Kawi teams had been using. From there, it was a matter of putting it all together and heading to the track and putting it all to the ground.
In any of it's incarnations since 2012, the mile tracks weren't the big stepping stone. The team had a solid base to work on with two full seasons to go on, albeit with another chassis design. But it was still the half-mile tracks that were the tracks that were going to prove to be any of the Kawis weaknesses. Until now. Smith even stated in his podium interview that as slick as Hagerstown was it not only wasn't 'his type of track' but was also of the thinking that the Kawi wouldn't be suited well for the slick surface. Obviously he didn't give himself enough credit and as the saying goes, the rest IS history. Smith's and his' team!
In the shot above, three of the four main protagonists on the #42 Villa-Esparza/Crosley Radio/Howerton Products/Dreyer Motorsports-backed Kawasaki team are suited up and ready to roll for heat race #1 at the Springfield Mile I on May 25 in round 3 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship. Jeff Gordon, giving his usual 'what you lookin' at stare' as the shot is taken, Master Throttle man, Bryan Smith appears to be calm as can be just before going out to take the first win of the 'new' team's coming together, and Dink Glidden as he prepares to throw down the remote starter on the 700cc mount.
Larry Lawrence was on-hand to cover the history making event at Hagerstown, and filed this report in this week's Cycle News which you can revel in here.
After being curtailed for some time last year with health problems, AMA Pro Flat Track official photographer and Flat Trak Fotos.com owner Dave Hoenig is back at it again full time in 2014. It's great to see this master shooter back doing what he loves and does best, and he shot up some great action at Hagerstown which you can check out here.
And you can get all of the complete results from Hagerstown here thanks to AMA Pro Flat Track.
The season picks back up this coming Saturday, July 19 with the first-ever trip to Grays Harbor Raceway in the Pacific Northwest, what will be the home track to fast guys and popular riders Sammy Halbert #7 and defending AMA Grand National Champion Brad Baker, for the Grays Harbor Half-Mile, round 7 of the 2014 AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship season, and the fourth half-mile event of the year.
And you can catch the official version of the race, as well as the links to the archived race footage below, again thanks to the great crew at AMA Pro Flat Track and FansChoice.tv as we get ready to see the series hit the meat of the sandwich next weekend with the first of eight races in the next seven weeks in the greatest racing series on two wheels in the world.
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (July 8, 2014) - For the first time since 1996, a rider rode something other than a Harley-Davidson to the coveted Hagerstown Half-Mile victory. In fact, the man who ended Harley's domination on the Maryland clay, Bryan Smith, did so on a Kawasaki, marking the first victory for the manufacturer at Hagerstown in any AMA Pro Flat Track class.
Smith's victory in the 33rd annual "Hub City Classic" on his Villa Esparza/Crosley Radio machine gave the Michigan rider his second Grand National Championship win of the season. "What really makes this special is that it's Kawasaki's first half-mile win," Smith said. "I gave them their first mile win and their first half-mile win."
Throughout the course of his career, Smith has been notorious for dominating mile-long tracks but hasn't fared as well on the shorter circuits. Some people might even go as far as to call it an Achilles heel for Smith. However, No. 42 pilot was clicking on all cylinders in Hagerstown and put together a performance that, moving forward, may prove gut-wrenching for his competitors, as the last thing they need is for Smith to add another strong suit to his already daunting repertoire.
Though Smith looked extremely sharp on Saturday night, he got a little help from the field. Kenny Coolbeth looked as if he would run away with his third win of the season before suffering a major setback on lap eight when his motorcycle malfunctioned, forcing him to let up and withdrawal from the main event.
With Coolbeth in the paddock, Smith's biggest rival of the night was Jared Mees. Mees, the 2012 Grand National Champion and winner of the Hagerstown Half-Mile that same year, gave Smith all he could handle for the majority of the race. The duo went side-by-side, nearly touching, corner after corner. After racing several laps within milliseconds of each other, Smith finally was able to get separation from Mees on lap 24 and earn the victory by .832 seconds.
With Mees settling for a runner-up finish, Jake Shoemaker rounded out the podium, placing third on his No. 55 Montgomeryville Cycle Center Kawasaki.
The historic significance of his win wasn't lost on Smith, but it was actually the second straight AMA Pro Flat Track race in which the winner could be considered unlikely. "I don't think any of my competitors would have picked Jared to come away with the Lima win last weekend or myself to come away with the win tonight," said Smith. "These specific tracks aren't my cup of tea but I'm very fortunate that I have a great group of guys behind me and that I was able to come away with the win. It felt great."
Mees certainly did his part to make life difficult for Smith. He was particularly strong entering turn 3 and got even with Smith a half dozen times through the second half of the circuit. "I finally got off to a good start," said Mees. "And I was kind of just running my own race back there in third, and then I saw Coolbeth break and I was just like, 'Man, I gotta put something together and try to hunt Bryan down.' I started putting my head down and got a really good line in turns 3 and 4 and started rolling right up on Bryan. He kind of taught me something in 1 and 2, so I used his line there. ... (With) about five to go, it felt like I was losing grip and losing drive and couldn't move forward anymore. I wanted to win Hagerstown so bad, and it's a lot of fun here, but we came a long way from the heat race to now. Once again, the team got this second place for me, there's no doubt, they work so hard back there preparing it for me and making it easy for me."
Long time friends Bryan Smith #42 and Jared Mees #9 celebrate on the podium at Hagerstown after Smith took his Kawasaki to the first-ever win in a half-mile and Mees took over the points lead. AMA Pro Flat Track photo by Dave Hoenig.
Shoemaker's appearance on the podium was his second in as many years in Maryland. "It was a tough race coming from the second row, I had to come from eighth," Shoemaker said. "To put it up here on the box for the second year in a row (is good). Last year I got second here, and this year, I did get third, I went the other direction from where I wanted to go, but I just can't thank my sponsors enough."
The points battle shook out to be just as tight leaving Maryland was it was entering it. Mees is the championship leader with 104 points, just one in front of Jake Johnson, who placed sixth at Hagerstown aboard his No. 5 Ramspur Winery Ducati. Coolbeth and his No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson are six points off the lead in third and tied with Smith. No. 44 USC Kawasaki pilot Brandon Robinson and rider of the No. 7 South East Harley-Davidson, Sammy Halbert left Hagerstown fifth and sixth in points, respectively. Just 16 points separate the top six riders in the championship hunt.
Doug Lawrence on the No. 73 Lawrence Racing Harley-Davidson finished a solid seventh at Hagerstown, just .004 seconds behind Johnson. Henry Wiles used a provisional to gain entry to the main event after a radiator malfunction on the starting grid of the semifinal forced him to the back of the field. Wiles was able to repair his No. 17 Dons Kawasaki EX650 and ride to eighth in the main. Defending GNC champion Brad Baker finished ninth on his No. 1 Factory Harley-Davidson and Brian Bauman rounded out the top 10 on the No. 14 Monster Energy Kawasaki.
Outside of a lackluster start, Kyle Johnson was simply flawless on his No. 77J Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda Saturday at the Hagerstown Half-Mile. The Twin Lake, Mich., rider claimed his third straight AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles victory, passing second place Ryan Wells on the No. 94B GE Capital KTM on the final lap in a thrilling 16-lap main.
"We got off to kind of a rough start, we had our work cut out for us," said Johnson. "By the time I got into third, Ryan and Davis (Fisher), they were out there. I just knew I had to keep pushing myself. But man, this has got to be the best win yet because I had to work for that one."
Wells looked to be the man to beat all race, getting the holeshot and building a nice lead over Fisher and fourth place finisher Jarod Vanderkooi on the No. 17F Johnny's Vintage Motorcycles Honda. But while Wells turned laps, Johnson was picking his way to the front. Johnson got around third place finisher Fisher on the No. 67M TJ Burnett Farms Honda just before the white flag lap.
The second spot on the podium was bittersweet for Wells, who knew he had a bike that could win. "Definitely can't be upset about a second place," said Wells. "Rolling into the main event, I knew Davis and Kyle were going to be some hard people to beat. But I really thought we were going to have that one. And to get passed on the last lap kind of sucks, but as the lead rider, how do you go high to ride maybe the fastest way around the track when there's some guy hot on your butt?"
Johnson left Hagerstown with the points lead, but he's just two in front of Wells. Fisher is in third, four off the lead. Brandon Wilhelm and Dylan Morin are fourth and fifth in points after finishing 10th and seventh, respectively, in Maryland.
The stars of AMA Pro Flat Track will head to Elma, Wash., and Grays Harbor Raceway on July 19, 2014. Footage of the Hagerstown Half-Mile is available to view on AMA Pro Racing's YouTube portal at www.youtube.com/amaprovids.
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,