No. 42 Bryan Smith (Screamin’ Eagle / Moroney’s Harley-Davidson), No. 43 Sammy Halbert (Halbert Family / King’s Customs / Glassman), No. 4 Chris Carr (Chris Carr Racing / Lancaster Harley-Davidson) and No. 14 Jake Johnson (SuperTrapp / F&S Harley-Davidson / Saddlemen) all were mathematically still in the hunt.
The 5/8-mile Fairplex oval proved to be just as challenging as it was in 1996, the last time the Grand National circus came to town. Even though Mees was fast early in the day, posting the fourth quick time in qualifying, he was playing it safe in his heat and could only muster a fifth place finish in the third heat. The points leader would have to come through a semi and start from the back row in the 25 lap National.
No. 17 Henry Wiles (KK Motorcycle Supply / Mike Adkins) had wrapped up the Grand National Singles Championship in the last race at the Springfield Short Track and was looking to pull off his first Twins National victory when he got the hole shot in the 18 rider main.
Bryan Smith, No. 3 Joe Kopp (Latus Harley-Davidson / Screamin’ Eagle) and No. 80Y Stevie Bonsey (Top 1 Oil / Alpinestar) were in hot pursuit. On the fourth lap Bonsey fell in Turn 3 and collected Halbert, bringing a red flag. Halbert would make the restart, but Bonsey’s night was over.
Smith used the restart to full advantage grabbing a small lead over Wiles and a resurgent Coolbeth. No. 20 Matt Weidman (Chris Carr Racing / Matt’s Racing) and Chris Carr were working their way into the mix ahead of Mees and Johnson.
Smith looked to be on his way to repeating his Lima victory when on Lap 11 he coasted to a stop in Turn 2. The dejected Smith was forced to leave his Harley sitting in the hay bales, ending his night.
Wiles was now in charge with Coolbeth and Weidman not far behind. As Weidman made his bid for the lead the rough surface almost bit him allowing Mees to slip into the podium position on Lap 15.
While the leaders were involved with their problems, Halbert had carved his way into contention and he took over third on Lap 18. Kopp also dropped Mees a spot as he passed on Lap 21. The podium was set with Wiles holding nearly a three second lead over Coolbeth at the end of 25 laps. Halbert was another three seconds back.
The fifth place finish for Mees was enough for the 23-year-old to wrap up his first Grand National title. Mees made the move over to the Rogers Lake Racing Team this year, bringing his Blue Springs Screamin’ Eagle sponsor along and it paid off big time. “I’ve been chasing this for 19 years and a million miles,” said team owner Craig Rogers. “This is what it’s all about.”
Courtesy of Harley-Davidson
Blue Springs Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle rider Jared Mees secured his first AMA Grand National Twins championship by placing fifth in the final race of the season on the 5/8-mile dirt oval at the Pomona Fairplex. K&K Motorcycle Supply rider Henry Wiles won the race on a Harley-Davidson XR-750.
“Winning the championship is a dream come true for me,” said Mees. “I want to thank Harley-Davidson for its continued support of our team and of flat track racing. The Blue Springs team put me on almost flawless equipment. I think we had only one mechanical problem all season, which allowed us to stay consistent, and that was a key this year with only nine races on the schedule. You had to stay on top of your game at every race.”
Mees had to transfer from a semi-final heat after he placed fifth in the third heat race. But once in the main, the 23-year-old rider from Clio, Mich., only needed to place eighth or better to hold his points lead over the two other racers still in realistic contention for the championship, Moroney’s Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle rider Bryan Smith and three-time defending champion, Harley-Davidson Screamin’ Eagle factory rider Kenny Coolbeth.
Smith led early in the race but dropped out on lap 10 with a mechanical failure. Coolbeth finished second, 2.9 seconds behind Wiles. The win was the first for Wiles as a Grand National Twins rider. Halbert Family/King Kustoms rider Sammy Halbert finished third on a Harley-Davidson XR-750.
“I just couldn’t get the motorcycle working right in the first heat,” said Mees. “We adjusted the suspension and then I felt great in the semi. I think if we were starting on the first row for the main I had a chance to run up front, but once I saw Smith drop out I knew I didn’t have to kill myself, just bring it home for the championship.”
Mees, a member of the Harley-Davidson Wrecking Crew, becomes the first champion in the long history of the Grand National series to claim the title without winning a race during the season. Mees finished second three times and was third twice, and never finished worse than eighth place in nine Twins events. Mees has won six Grand National Twins races since he was named the Ricky Graham Rookie of the Year following the 2004 season. Mees finished second in the Grand National Twins championship standings to Coolbeth in 2006 and 2007.
“It feels good to win a title at such a young age,” said Mees. “My heart is in dirt track racing, and I plan on riding hard for a while.”
Coolbeth saw his opportunity to win a fourth-consecutive Grand National Twins championship diminish when he was injured in a training accident prior to the Labor Day weekend race at the Springfield Mile on the Illinois State Fairgrounds. A broken shoulder kept Coolbeth, who was leading the series in points following a win at Indianapolis, from racing that weekend. Mees finished second at Springfield and opened a 15-point lead on Coolbeth with just the final race at Pomona left on the schedule.
Smith, another member of the Harley-Davidson Wrecking Crew, finished the season in fourth place and had a race win at Lima, Ohio. Wrecking Crew rider Joe Kopp, aboard the Latus Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle XR-750, finished fifth in points with a win on the Beulah Park Mile at Grove City, Ohio.
“Jared has been tenacious on the track since he joined the Grand National series, and we expected that determination and the well-prepared Blue Springs crew would one season produce a championship,” said Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso. “Harley-Davidson congratulates them. We also salute Bryan Smith and the Moroney’s Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle team, and Joe Kopp and the Latus Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle squad, for an outstanding season and a top-five finish in the standings. Finally, while Kenny Coolbeth and the Harley-Davidson Factory Team have had their string of titles halted, they raced like champions all season long and we are proud to have them flying the factory colors.”
Mees wrapped up the 2009 AMA Grand National Twins season with 142 points and a nine-point lead over Coolbeth, who earned 133 points. Halbert finished third with 125 points. Smith was fourth with 119 points, followed by Kopp with 117 points.
The Screamin’ Eagle Flat Track team is sponsored by Matco Tools.