It was the kind of short track race that would have made the late Will Davis proud, and when it was over, another of dirt track's potential future superstars rose to the top of the podium to claim his first career Grand National win.
Gardner Racing/Lancaster Harley-Davidson rider Bryan Bigelow earned his first AMA/Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championships series win the hard way at the Fed Ex Springfield Short Track Shootout on the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Illinois, last night. He did it by holding steadfast to the low line in the face of bold challenges by two of his former amateur rivals, J.R. Schnabel and last year's short track winner Nicky Hayden. After an intense final five of the 25 laps, Bigelow prevailed, escaping by a mere bike length, with Schnabel retaking second place from Hayden at the line after the factory road racer drifted too wide off the last corner while trying to avoid a lapped rider. It was the kind of motorcycle race that the dirt track community needed in order to re-focus itself in the wake of the loss of Davis at the Sedalia Half Mile last weekend.
"To win this here, on my dad's motorcycle, is very special to me," Bigelow said. "Some people say that winning your first Grand National is the easiest one you'll win. I say those people are full of shit. But I told people that whether I won this weekend or 10 years from now, I would be sure to dedicate it to Will Davis, because he helped me a lot during my career. I know that if Will was still here last night, the outcome probably would have been different."
Series points leader Chris Carr finished a safe fourth place, ahead of Brett Landes. Carr could wrap up his third series title with a win at the Springfield Hall of Fame Mile today.
Here are the results and points standings from the Fed Ex Springfield Short Track Shootout:
GRAND NATIONAL (25 laps; 16 riders): 1. Bryan Bigelow (Rtx); 2. J.R. Schnabel (W-R); 3. Nicky Hayden (Rtx); 4. Chris Carr (Rtx); 5. Brett Landes (CCM); 6. Rich King (H-D); 7. Johnny Murphree (CCM); 8. Terry Poovey (Rtx); 9. Greg Tysor (Rtx); 10. Roger Lee Hayden (10); 11. Dominic Beaulac (Rtx); 12. Bryan Smith (ATK); 13. Kenny Coolbeth (Rtx); 14. Mike Hacker (ATK); 15. Chris Hart (Rtx); 16. Dan Stanley (Rtx).
Time: 5 min., 41.426 sec.
AMA/PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE U.S. FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 16 of 20 rounds): 1. Chris Carr (259/6 wins); 2. Joe Kopp (213/1); 3. Rich King (187/1); 4. Will Davis (162/4); 5. Mike Hacker (135); 6. Kenny Coolbeth (134); 7. J.R. Schnabel (130/1); 8. Johnny Murphree (125); 9. Bryan Bigelow (121/1); 10. Jay Springsteen (101); 11. Geo Roeder II (88); 12. (TIE) Terry Poovey (73)/Nicky Hayden (73); 14. Willie McCoy (67); 15. Shawn Clark (56); 16. Steve Beattie (55); 17. Brett Landes (51); 18. Kevin Varnes (49); 19. Shaun Russell (40); 20. Paul Lynch (39).
Round 17 – Springfield, Illinois, Sept. 1
Round 17 – Springfield, Illinois, Sept. 2