For the second week in a row Bryan Smith rode his Bill Werner-built, Ninja 650-based, Monster Energy Kawasaki to victory on a Grand National Mile. Last week it was Indy, this Sunday it was at the iconic Springfield Mile. Smith clearly had speed on the rest of the field, yet he wasn’t able to get away from the pack. Most of the race there was a six-rider group running bar to bar, often four wide entering Springfield’s broad turns. In the end Smith was able to power to victory over Chris Carr and Jared Mess in the best Grand National race of the year.
How close was it? The top six riders were separated by just over 2-10th of a second. In addition to Smith, Carr and Mees, there was Wilie McCoy, Kenny Coolbeth Jr. and Jake Johnson all right there at the checkered flag. A classic Springfield finish in front of a packed house under picture perfect conditions.
Does motorcycle racing get any better than this? I don’t think so.
If the Grand National wasn’t enough, the Pro Single final held just minutes prior was equally as close and exciting with Michael Toon coming through in the end to edge out Zakk Palmer and defending series champ Brad Baker. The top four were separated by just over a 10th of a second in this one. Toon swept both Pro Singles rounds on the legendary Mile this year, having won the May race as well.
In the Grand National it was obvious from the start that Bryan Smith was going to be the man to beat. His heat race victory over Jake Johnson was over five seconds faster than the next fastest Heat won by Jared Mees. Johnson had the motor on his Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson to stay in the draft of Smith’s Kawasaki, but that was it. There was no passing the Monster Energy Kawasaki.
However in the 25-lap national things looked a little more evenly matched. Smith said later he made a bit of a mistake choosing shorter gearing. “I was hitting the rev limiter 50 feet from the end of the straightaways and that was all I had,” Smith explained.
With the Harley’s able to continue to build speed just a tad longer, Smith was being passed going into the turns.
It was intense to say the least.
Carr looked nothing like a 43-year-old out there. He wanted this win badly and you could tell. The Lancaster Harley-Davidson rider was diving in on Smith, Mees, McCoy and Steven Bonsey in places where there seemed to be no room. It was the gutsiest ride by Carr in a long time. At the same time Mees saw his opportunity for his first win since in over three years and he was running his No.1 Rogers Lake Racing ·Blue Springs Harley-Davidson into the turns so deep it was breathtaking. Willie McCoy was in the mix, as was Bonsey until his bike seemed to slow late. Coolbeth was there looking to make his usual late-race pounce and May winner Jake Johnson sped to the front in spite of crashing in the Dash and having to start his backup machine from the last row.
After 25 laps something had to give and in the end it came down to Smith and Carr coming out of turn four. The bottom line is Smith’s Kawasaki had just that much more juice than Carr’s Harley and Smith won by a half-bike length.
“Springfield is dirt track racing’s home and it feels good to win it in front of this crowd. I think if I hadn’t made the wrong gearing choice I could have controlled the final like I did in my Heat race,” said Smith, who earned his second victory of the season. “Going the wrong way on the gearing allowed the Harley’s to draft by me. Luckily it worked out today.”
The battle for the overall AMA Grand National Championship continues to heat up. Jake Johnson finished one spot ahead of series leader Joe Kopp on the Mile. That means the two are separated by just 10 points with three rounds to go. Kopp still has an advantage, but he can’t afford any mistakes in the closing rounds. Sammy Halbert, Mees and Henry Wiles all still have an outside shot of coming from behind to win this year’s No. 1 plate, but all three will need more than a little luck to do so.
The AMA Pro K&N Filters Grand National Championship now travels to Canterbury Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota, this coming Saturday, September 11, 2010.
Results of the Springfield Mile, Sept. 5, 2010
1 Bryan Smith Kawasaki
2 Chris Carr Harley Davidson
3 Jared Mees Harley Davidson
4 Willie McCoy Harley Davidson
5 Kenny Coolbeth Jr. Harley Davidson
6 Jake Johnson Harley Davidson
7 Joe Kopp Ducati
8 Sammy Halbert Harley Davidson
9 Johnny Lewis Kawasaki
10 Steven Bonsey Harley Davidson
11 Henry Wiles Harley Davidson
12 J. D. Beach Harley Davidson
13 Shaun Russell Harley Davidson
14 Jethro Halbert Harley Davidson
15 Robert Pearson Harley Davidson
16 Logan Myers Harley Davidson
17 J R Schnabel, Jr. Harley Davidson
18 Brandon Robinson Harley Davidson
AMA Pro K&N Filters Grand National Championship point standings (14 of 17 rounds)
1 Joe Kopp 252
2 Jake Johnson 242
3 Sammy Halbert 228
4 Jared Mees 228
5 Henry Wiles 224
6 Kenny Coolbeth Jr. 207
7 Chris Carr 173
8 Bryan Smith 164
9 Johnny Lewis 92
10 Matt Weidman 91