SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Sept. 6, 2009) - It was almost dark, lightning was flashing in the sky and the track was the roughest in years, yet Jake Johnson, riding his SuperTrapp/F&S/Saddlemen Harley-Davidson, found a way to overcome all the obstacles to earn his first victory on his on the historic Springfield Mile.
Jared Mees made an amazing late-race charge to catch and actually pass Johnson on the final lap. Mees had the victory in his grasp, but gave his Blue Springs/Screamin' Eagle/Rogers Lake Racing Harley-Davidson too much gas coming out the last turn, got sideways and lost his drive allowing Johnson to comeback and nip him at the line by 0.049 seconds.
Halbert Family/King Kustoms/Glassman-backed Sammy Halbert finished third 1.3 seconds back from the lead battle.
"I still can't believe I won the Springfield Mile," Johnson said. "It's still sinking in.
"I thought Mees stole it from me, but then he got sideways out of four and that gave me the opening I needed. It's great to finally be one of the riders who can say ‘I won the Springfield Mile'."
Mees was disappointed with his last-turn mistake, but the sting of not winning Springfield was soothed somewhat by the fact that he leaves the race with a commanding 15-point lead in the championship going into the series finale next month in Pomona, Calif.
Kenny Coolbeth, who led the Grand National Twins standings coming into Springfield, broke his shoulder in a training accident on Tuesday and rode today, but was unable to qualify for the national. That sets up a scenario where Mees needs only an eighth-place or better finish at the Oct. 24th Pomona finale to secure his first AMA Grand National title.
The Springfield Mile was delayed to late in the day due to the track being muddy from rain the night before. The Pro Singles race on the Mile was canceled.
Saturday night's rained-out Springfield Short Track is slated to run Monday with qualifying starting at 10:00 am.