SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Sept. 7, 2009) The big Springfield Doubleheader Grand National Labor Day weekend came to belated a close after 72 hours and it turned out to be championship Monday. Henry Wiles won the Springfield Short Track in a dramatic battle with Joe Kopp and Jared Mees. Wiles didn't need to win the race to win the AMA Grand National Singles Championship, but you wouldn't have known it by the way he rode his Kawasaki USA/Jones Bros./DPC Racing Kawasaki.
In one of the most electrifying Springfield Short Tracks ever, Kopp, Mees and Wiles commenced a bar-banging battle. Mees and Wiles had no business battling so hard. Wiles simply needed to finish to wrap up the title and Mees has a GNC Twins series he's leading and by all rights shouldn't be hanging it on the line to win a Singles race. But racers will be racers and the sparse crowd that stuck around after Saturday night's rain out was rewarded with an intense battle that saw all three riders trade the lead numerous times.
Wiles got by Mees once with about seven laps to go, only to be re-passed in the next turn. Finally on lap 20 of 25 Wiles made the pass that would stick. Once in the lead he showed his immense short track talent and pulled away in the closing stages to a 1.8-second victory over Kopp. Mees finished third, holding off a late charge by Australian Mick Kirkness.
"I'm relieved to get it over with," said a smiling Wiles on the victory podium. "I knew I didn't need to win the race, but I wanted to take the championship in style. Plus I didn't ride all that hard to be honest, even though it might not have looked that way. I gave myself plenty of room and escape routes had Jared and Joe gotten together."
Wiles becomes the third AMA Grand National Singles Champion following in the footsteps of Kenny Coolbeth and two-time series champ Jake Johnson. The separate GNC Singles Championship was established in 2006.
In addition to Wiles earning his first national title, young Brad Baker took the victory and title in AMA Pro Singles. The race and ultimately the championship came down to an exciting final turn where James Rispoli attempted to go inside and make a last-turn pass on Baker. The top two riders in the series made hard contact and it was Rispoli ending up on the ground, gathering up Jeffrey Carver in the process. Baker got sideways, but survived the impact and rolled home to victory on his Mike Velasco/Brothers Powersports Honda. With his nearest championship rival Rispoli on the ground and ending up 16th, that meant that Baker's victory gave him enough points to clinch the Pro Singles crown with one race remaining in the series.
The Grand Nationals now take a month-and-a-half break before traveling to Pomona, Calif., for the season finale on Oct. 24.