SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Aug. 30, 2008) – On Saturday night at the Springfield Short Track Henry Wiles rode his Lance & Ronnie Jones Kawasaki to his third AMA Grand National Singles victory this year. Wiles did what he had to do to try to catch Suzuki’s Jake Johnson in the Singles series in the season finale, but Johnson rode a safe and steady race and took eighth. He needed only to finish 12th or better to win his second GNC Singles title.
Wiles got off to an early jump before a near capacity crowd and pulled away to a 3.560-second victory over Suzuki’s JR Schnabel, who won out in the battle for the runner-up sport over Joe Kopp in the 25-lap final.
Johnson was anxious before the start, knowing he only had to place 12th. In the race he survived the first turn bumping and banging and emerged in 10th, just two places ahead of where he needed to finish. Johnson worked his way up to seventh by midway. He was passed by Chris Carr with a couple of laps to go and finished eighth.
This marks the second AMA Grand National Singles Championship for Johnson. He won the title in 2006 in its inaugural season. The championship will continue in 2009, but it will be somewhat diminished since the DMG will once again combine the Twins and Singles titles for a united AMA Grand National Championship.
“It feels great to win back this championship,” said a happy Johnson. “I used to joke with people that I was only letting Kenny [Coolbeth] borrow the championship last year. I had a good consistent year, including a couple of wins. That’s what it takes to win championships.”
Johnson edged Wiles by five points (108-103) in the final GNC Singles standings. JR Schnabel was a close third in the series, just six points behind Wiles.
Saturday night’s short track was the first of a tripleheader weekend at Springfield. The riders now head to the prestigious Springfield Mile on Sunday for the traditional Labor Day Weekend event, then again on Monday for the makeup for the rained out Memorial Day Weekend race.