Torrential rains wreaked havoc on the Springfield, Illinois, area all weekend long, forcing the postponement of Saturday’s TT race and reducing the mile track to a sea of mud for the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship on Sunday. The challenging conditions caused AMA Pro Racing officials to amend the racing schedule, eliminating the semis and LCQs as the top six in each of the three Expert Heats advanced directly to the National.
Brave fans who rode out the weather were treated to an intense battle on the Springfield Mile. In the first Twins race of the AMA Pro Flat Track season, Jammin’ Jared Mees snapped a four-year winless spell, using the draft to deftly move around GNC points leader Sammy Halbert on the final lap to win by a scant 0.016 seconds. Halbert, Mees and defending AMA Pro Flat Track champion Jake Johnson broke away from the pack late in the race and a scramble for first place ensued. The Rogers Lake Racing/Blue Springs Harley-Davidson XR750 was running prime Sunday and provided Mees with enough power to slip by Halbert on the last lap. Halbert crossed the line in second place and picked up a bonus point for leading the most laps while Johnson nabbed the final spot on the Springfield Mile podium.
“I’ve been imagining this for about five years,” said Mees in an AMA Pro Racing press release, “and today it all came together.”
Harley-Davidson factory rider Kenny Coolbeth, Jr., led the next pack of riders in, holding off rookie upstart Brad Baker. Baker set the fastest Qualifying time and won the first heat, but his Lloyd Brothers Ducati experienced serious head shake in the final as Baker did his best to keep the tempestuous Ducati reined in. It still took a last lap pass by Coolbeth to track Baker down.
“I got stuck behind the Ducati for a few laps there towards the end. He was holding me up in the corners but pulled away on the straights and by the time I got past him, the leaders were too far up front. But overall it was a good start to the Twins season,” Coolbeth said.
Fan favorite Chris Carr was also among the riders in the second pack. Carr rode his Honda hard and diced it out with Harley rider Willie McCoy heading into the final lap, but it was McCoy who likewise used a last lap pass to get the upper hand at the finish line and capture sixth place.
It was also a free-for-all in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles main event as the top eight riders crossed the line within a second of one another. Honda’s Zakk Palmer came out of Turn 4 with a slight edge to emerge victorious, holding off the charge of Michael Martin and Jake Shoemaker at the finish line. Palmer beat Martin to capture the checkers by 0.121 seconds, with Shoemaker coming in right behind on his Suzuki RMZ-450 to claim the final podium spot.
The next five-rider pack was headed by Honda’s Michael Toon, who finished fourth-best on the day. Just behind Toon was Yamaha rider Cody Johncox in fifth, who nipped Stephen Vanderkuur on his Honda CRF450R by 0.036 seconds. Michael LaBelle charged hard to hold off Michael Avila for seventh, but Avila was still able to gain crucial ground on AMA Pro Singles Championship points leader Gerit Callies, who missed the main event when he came up one spot short in his heat race. Avila closed the gap on Callies to one point heading in to Monday’s rescheduled TT race.
In the four-lap Dash for Cash, Halbert drafted by Bryan Smith at the line to claim both the $1000 prize and the five points toward the championship that went along with it. Halbert maintains a 16-point cushion over defending Grand National Champion Johnson.
The Springfield TT race was moved to Monday due to the rain.
2011 Springfield Mile AMA Pro Grand National Twins Results:
1. Jared Mees (Harley-Davidson)
2. Sammy Halbert (Harley-Davidson)
3. Jake Johnson (Harley-Davidson)
4. Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. (Harley-Davidson)
5. Brad Baker (Ducati)
6. Willie McCoy (Harley-Davidson)
7. Chris Carr (Harley-Davidson)
8. Johnny Lewis (Kawasaki)
9. Michael Kirkness (Suzuki)
10. Robert Pearson (Harley-Davidson)
11. Matt Weidman (Harley-Davidson)
12. Nichole Cheza (Harley-Davidson)
13. Brandon Robinson (Harley-Davidson)
14. Shawn Baer (Triumph)
15. Steven Bonsey (Harley-Davidson)
16. Jake Mataya (Harley-Davidson)
17. Bryan Smith (Harley-Davidson)
18. Justin Hittle (Harley-Davidson)
2011 Springfield Mile AMA Pro Singles Results:
1. Zakk Plamer (Honda)
2. Michael Martin (Honda)
3. Jake Shoemaker (Suzuki)
4. Michael Toon (Honda)
5. Cody Johncox (Yamaha)
6. Stephen Vanderkuur (Honda)
7. Michael LaBelle (Honda)
8. Michael Avila (Honda)
9. Hayden Gillim (Honda)
10. Adam Beldyga (Honda)
11. Chaz Springsteen (Honda)
12. Jeremy Hamilton (Honda)
13. Jake Cunningham (Kawasaki)
14. Michael Bickerton (Honda)
15. Conner Anderson (Honda)