Stevie Bonsey races the powerful Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson. He’s hoping his Harley can challenge the Kawasaki of Bryan Smith, which has been dominant the last two seasons at the Sacramento Mile.
For years riders like Mert Lawwill, Alex Jorgensen, Ricky Graham and Chris Carr gave Sacramento Mile fans homegrown riders to cheer on to victory. Carr, who was raised in Stockton, Calif., was the last of the area contenders to take victory at the prestigious event. Since then there’s been a drought of local talent capable of winning the race, but that’s changing. Riders like Briar Bauman, Stevie Bonsey, Chad Cose, Mike Rush and Mikey Martin are giving renewed hope that a rider from Northern California will once again stand atop the podium at Cal Expo, when the AMA Pro Grand National Championship makes its annual stop at the California State Fair next Saturday, July 26.
You’d have to excuse Northern California racing fans for maybe getting a little spoiled over the years, especially with Carr being the second all-time wins leader at the Sacramento Mile, earning nine-career AMA Grand National victories at Cal Expo. Carr, along with his former fellow Harley-Davidson factory rider and Motorcycle Hall Famer Jay Springsteen, will be honored at this year’s 49th running of the Sacramento Mile for their lifetime of accomplishments. And while the memories of Carr’s wins at Sacramento are certainly sweet, a big majority of the thousands of fans who will attend this year’s race are from Northern California, and they’d like to once again see a home rider be a contender.
Those fans need look no further than Salinas, California’s Stevie Bonsey to find a local leading contender capable of scoring a podium finish at Sacramento. Bonsey is already a two-time winner in the series, having taken national wins on the Half-Miles at Calistoga, California, in 2010 and Tucson, Arizona in 2012. Bonsey races for the powerful Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson squad and feels he has the chance to earn a solid result at Sacramento this year. Bonsey said of all the mile ovals the series visits Sacramento just might be the most challenging.
“That track is tough,” Bonsey said. “It’s a real narrow, notch groove. You’ve obviously got to get a good start and be towards the front at the end of it and hopefully keep those Kawasakis behind me. Bryan’s (Smith) bike was pretty much unbeatable there last year. I saw Brad (Baker) trying to get him and there was nothing Brad could do. He kept trying to go under him and Bryan just had a little bit more motor.”
With a Zanotti Harley under him Bonsey said he finally has the bike capable of winning at Sacramento. It won’t hurt that the Harley-Davidson XR750s no longer have to run intake restrictor plates, so they’ll have even more power this year.
“I’ve got a beautiful bike to ride this year and hopefully I can put it up front,” Bonsey concluded.
Another Salinas rider who could be a factor at Sacramento is 2012 AMA Rookie of the Year Briar Bauman. Bauman is racing the groundbreaking Bill Werner-built Monster Energy Kawasaki. Werner was the man who first brought Kawasaki’s EX650 to Grand National racing. In the years since the Kawasaki is arguably the bike to beat on the big mile ovals. Bauman, like Bonsey, comes into Sacramento ranked in the top 10 and is poised to score a solid result at Sacramento. Bauman won his first Grand National race earlier this season at Daytona.
“It’s a huge,” Bauman says of Sacramento. “You show up there and because it’s the closest mile we have all your friends and family show up because they want to see it and support you. To be able to do well at that track would be the best, to do it in front of home fans would be huge. I did well on the 450s (Pro Singles) and then in my rookie (expert) year there I broke so I didn’t get to race. Last year I think I finished around tenth (it was actually 13th). I think I’m learning as I go and hopefully this year we’ll be a little bit further up.”
Mikey Martin (No. 91) is hoping to be the first rider in over 40 years to win the Sacramento Mile aboard a Triumph.
Bauman also feels Sacramento is especially tough because of the narrow groove and that brings unique strategies into play in terms of setting up passes.
“It starts out a little like a cushion track, but as the night wears on it becomes a small notched, blue groove we race on all night,” Bauman explains. “It’s a little tough to pass. You have to really draft well and kind of make the passes aggressive because the notch it so small. Other than that it’s a good track to ride on and it’s awesome because it’s home.”
“I know I can do well there,” Martin said. “Last year I was the fast qualifier so I’m looking forward to it. It’s only 20 minutes away from my house, so I can sleep in my own bed and hopefully wake up and put the Triumph on the podium. I think it’s been 40-something years since Triumph’s been on the podium at Sacramento. Hopefully I can be the next one to do it.”
Other area riders who could be a factor at Sacramento include Chad Cose (Fremont) and Mikey Rush (San Jose). Both are ranked inside the top-20 in the national standings.
Practice for the Sacramento Mile begins at on Saturday, July 26 at 2:15 p.m. and opening ceremonies for the evening program kicks off at 6:15 p.m.
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*** 2014 Ticket Information: Ticket information is available for the July 26, 2014 Sacramento Mile at www.sactomile.com
Fans can order tickets online at https://secure.interactiveticketing.com/a/c84136, by calling 1-844 SAC MILE (1-844- 722-6453) or by visiting the Cal Expo Ticket Box Office in the Administration Building at 1600 Exposition Blvd., Sacramento, CA 95815 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (PT) Monday through Friday. Tickets can also be purchased at any ticket window during the 2014 California State Fair.
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the Cal Expo Group Sales Department at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.