It was just time.
After 13 wins in his last 13 starts at the Peoria TT, Chris Carr, the reigning AMA/Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Champion, was finally beaten in a straight fight at the Peoria TT.
Team Honda's Nicky Hayden ended a Carr win streak that dates back to 1988 (although Carr did skip the '96 and '97 editions of the race to pursue his Superbike career) and stripped Carr's perennial claim to the top of the podium at PMC Race Park before over 15,000 fans. It was arguably the race that they had come to see – and been waiting to see for several years, and it went in the books just as it should have.
In a heart-stopping race that was ultimately decided on the last lap, Hayden, who came all the way from the penalty line after jumping the start, shot around J.R. Schnabel off turn two just after the pair received the white flag to score a tremendously popular win. Hayden used the deep dirt on the outside, which had just enough moisture to carry him past Schnabel, who led much of the race and probably would have won it if he had not bobbled at the exact same moment that Hayden got his tremendous drive.
“This feels really good,” Hayden said. “It feels good because I beat Chris Carr – not that I really have any rivalry with him, but I wanted to be the guy to do it. Chris has won the last 13 years that he has come here, and he’ll be the guy to beat next year too. He’ll always be the Prince of Peoria.”
“But this win is special to me,” Hayden said. “To come from the back like that… I didn’t know if I was going to be able to pull this off. Peoria has always been one of my favorite places to race because the fans here are so awesome. I could see all the fans hanging over the fence and cheering me on, and that just motivated me. You just don’t get that at a road race.”
Team WE Racing/West Bend Harley-Davidson-backed Schnabel led the first 14 laps before Carr caught and passed him just past the start/finish line on lap 15. Schnabel then went to school on Carr’s lines and re-passed Carr on lap 21 to get back in the lead and set up the fateful finish. Hayden, meanwhile, mowed his way through the pack, closing quickly on the pair and passing Carr on the outside of turn two on lap 22.
KTM/Jones Powersports’ Joe Kopp, the 1997 Peoria TT winner, finished fourth after running in second place in the early going. Woody Kyle Racing/Fox/Arai’s Tommy Hayden finished fifth.
GRAND NATIONAL (25 laps; 18 riders): 1. Nicky Hayden (Hon); 2. J.R. Schnabel (Hon); 3. Chris Carr (ATK); 4. Joe Kopp (KTM); 5. Tommy Hayden (Hon); 6. Rich King (H-D); 7. Johnny Murphree (Rot); 8. Bryan Bigelow (Hon); 9. Shaun Russell (Rot); 10. Steve Beattie (Hon); 11. Dan Stanley (Hon); 12. Roger Lee Hayden (Hob); 13. Willie McCoy (ATK); 14. Kevin Varnes (CCM); 15. Kevin Atherton (Hon); 16. Terry Poovey (Hon); 17. John Hlebo III (Hon); 18. Chris Boone (Hon).
Time: 11 min., 31.765 sec.
Margin of Victory :1.071 sec.
AMA/PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE U.S. FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS SERIES STANDINGS (After 13 of 20 rounds): 1. Chris Carr (187/2 wins); 2. Johnny Murphree (167/1 win); 3. Bryan Bigelow (164/1 win); 4. Kevin Varnes (154/1 win); 5. Kenny Coolbeth (129); 6. (TIE) Jay Springsteen (110)/Joe Kopp (110); 8. J.R. Schnabel (95); 9. Geo Roeder II (86); 9. 10. Nicky Hayden (84/3 wins); 11. Kevin Atherton (83); 12. (TIE) Terry Poovey (82)/Shaun Russell (82); 14. Rich King (73/1 win); 15. Jake Johnson (71); 16. Chris Hart (69/1 win); Paul Lynch (58); 18. Willie McCoy (56); 19. Shawn Clark (55); 20. Steve Beattie (45).
Round 14 – Sedalia, Missouri, August 25
Round 15 – Springfield, Illinois, August 31