NASCAR stock car commitments mean that Audiovox/Quaker State’s Brett Landes is no longer a regular on the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championships circuit, but in the heat of the day at the Springfield TT, the Californian proved that when the going gets dry and slick, he is still as good as anyone on the track.
In perhaps the most thrilling finish yet witnessed at the Illinois State Fairgounds rodeo arena, Landes caught and passed Moroney’s Honda rider Jake Johnson in the final corner to add the Springfield TT win to his 1995 Daytona Short Track victory. Former AMA Grand National Champion Joe Kopp finished third aboard his factory KTM/Jones Powersports entry.
“I’ll tell you what, I was more excited for this race than I have ever been for the Daytona Short Track,” Landes said on the podium. “You know, you dream about winning races like that, but you don’t necessarily think that it’s going to happen. Was that a hell of a last lap or what?”
Indeed, it was a hell of a race, as Johnson passed Kopp for the lead just five laps into the 25-lap main event and then tried to break away. Kopp, Landes and Memphis Shades/Parts Unlimited Yamaha’s J.R. Schnabel battled over the second spot, with Landes passing Kopp in the stop-and-go right-hander that led to the short chute before the final long left that led to the finish line, at the halfway point. Landes then went on a mission, cutting into Johnson’s three-second margin at every turn until he found himself parked on the young superstar’s rear wheel with five laps to go. Landes waited patiently for his shot at the lead, and it finally came when he went around the outside of Johnson in the right-hander before the short chute. Landes ran just wide enough into the tight left-hander that initiates the final long curve to the front straightaway, and Johnson knifed back under him. The two drag raced to the line, with Johnson low on the blackened groove and Landes out in the cushion. Landes got just enough of a drive to propel him around Johnson for a margin of victory that was less than a bike length.
“I wanted to be on the inside, but they it worked out, he went to the inside and I went to the outside,” Landes said. “I was either gonna win the thing or throw it down the road.”
Fourth place went to one third of the Hayden family of Springfield TT heroes, Team Kawasaki’s Tommy Hayden, who had to come from the back row and eat into a gap that was well over five seconds in the early going. The Kentuckian picked off riders one by one until he caught Schnabel, with whom he made contact. Schnabel hit the ground, while Hayden went on to pursue Kopp. Hayden was attempting to set up a pass for third place when he simply ran out of laps. Another part-timer, Continental Tires’ Greg Tysor, finished fifth today, matching his career-best Grand National finish at the Daytona Short Track in 2001.
Here are the results from today’s Springfield TT:
Illinois State Fairgrounds
Results: May 26, 2003 (Round 4 of 18)
GRAND NATIONAL (25 laps; 18 riders): 1. Brett Landes (Hon); 2. Jake Johnson (Hon); 3. Joe Kopp (KTM); 4. Tommy Hayden (Yam); 5. Greg Tysor (Hon); 6. Johnny Murphree (Hon); 7. Bryan Bigelow (Hon); 8. Chris Carr (Vor); 9. Kenny Coolbeth (KTM); 10. A.J. Eslick (Suz); 11. Shaun Russell (Hon); 12. Benny Carlson (Hon); 13. Roy Miller (Hon); 14. J.R. Schnabel (Yam); 15. John Hlebo (Hon); 16. Paul Lynch (Hon); 17. Gary Rogers (Hon); 18. Rob Pearson (Hon).
Time: 12 min., 25.737 sec.
Margin of victory 00.203 sec.
AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE U.S. FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 4 of 18 rounds): 1. Chris Carr (72/1 win); 2. (TIE) Johnny Murphree (58)/Joe Kopp (58); 4. Rich King (47); 5. Jake Johnson (43); 6. Brett Landes (37); 7. Shaun Russell (33); 8. Jay Springsteen (32); 9. (TIE) Kenny Coolbeth (31)/Bryan Bigelow (31); 11. Garth Bastian (32/1 win); 12. Ken Yoder (20); 13. A.J. Eslick (16); 14. Tommy Hayden (15); 15. Greg Tysor (14); 16. (TIE) J.R. Schnabel (13)/Mike Hacker (13); 18. (TIE) Terry Poovey (12)/Rick Winsett (12); 20. Steve Beattie (11).
Round 6 – Chillicothe, Ohio, May 31
Round 7 – Granite City, Illinois, June 14