SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (May 24, 2009) – In the opening round of the AMA Grand National Twins Championship Bryan Smith had a trick up his sleeve and the Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson played it perfectly to come through to win the Memorial Day Weekend Springfield Mile in yet another classic Springfield draft contest.
Smith dove low on the back straightaway on the final lap to break up the multi-rider drafting freight train. It was perfect racecraft by Smith. As the pack broke out of turn four Smith found himself with a big enough cushion to barely hold off Kenny Coolbeth on the factory Harley-Davidson and Chris Carr Racing/Lancaster Harley-Davidson’s Chris Carr. Jared Mees, Nick Cummings and Joe Kopp were also in the hunt for the win at the checkered flag. The margin of victory for Smith was 0.046 seconds. The top six riders were covered by less than 3/10ths of a second.
“The move was a bit of a gamble, but I knew if I got passed by Chris or Kenny that I wouldn’t be able to pass them back before the finish line,” said Smith, who secured his second Springfield Mile victory, having won the Labor Day event in 2006. “Everything worked out and it was as close as I figured it would be. My team gave me a great bike today and that’s what made this win possible.”
Coolbeth’s runner-up finish came as somewhat of a surprise. His bike was cutting out much of the race and he languished near the back of the field. But when the race was red flagged late making it a five-lap sprint, whatever ailed the No. 1 bike cleared up when it was restarted and it ran strong to the finish.
“Normally I’m not happy with second,” said Coolbeth, the defending Grand National Champion. “but when you come back from the problems we had today I’d say this is one of the best second-place finishes I’ve earned.”
Carr looked to be the rider to beat before the red flag and he was in the hunt at the end, but lady luck wasn’t on his side in the five-lap sprint and the odd lat-lap draft left him third.
“It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last,” Carr said. “I’ve won them before because of red flags and I’ve lost them. Even though we were running strong the whole race there’s no guarantee I would have come out on top had the race not been stopped. That’s Springfield for you.”
The race was stopped earlier when a brief rain hit the Illinois State Fairgrounds. Fortunately the crew was able to get the track ready again after just a few minutes delay.
AMA Superbike regular Larry Pegram had a solid showing at Springfield on a hastily put together Ducati. He qualified straight into the main from his heat, but his bike began missing during the final and he crashed late and was credited with 14th.
Michael Toon was the surprise winner in the history making AMA Pro Singles final. The Blue Springs, Missouri rider pulled out his two best laps of the race at the finish. He held off a gaggle of riders, the lead pack being nine-riders deep. It marked the first national level win for the Price Truck Line/Kennedy Tire Honda rider.
“It may have looked like I waited until the end to open up the throttle,” Toon said. “but I guarantee you I had the thing pegged the entire race. With that many riders drafting together that was the most intense race I’ve ever been in.”
Behind Toon came James Rispoli on his Weirbach Racing/Barnett Honda. His second-place finish gave the New York rider the Pro Singles series lead.
History came into play by way of third place Shayna Texter on the Lancaster Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle Suzuki. It marked the first time in anyone’s memory that a female rider scored a podium finish in a national-level dirt track race.