It was almost as if Gardner Racing/Lancaster Harley-Davidson’s Bryan Bigelow had been practicing for the moment.
In the Granite City Half Mile at Tri-City Speedway last night, Bigelow used the same patented slow and steady approach that he has been using in his past few National appearances, but unlike the others, this time it was extremely successful, netting the Michigander his second career GNC victory and making him the sixth different winner in six rounds of racing in the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Series.
Bigelow came off the line second in the 18-rider, 25-lap main event, clicking off steady laps while Coziahr Harley-Davidson/Country Motors’ Johnny Murphree set a fast pace out front, the Californian appearing well on his way to his second Grand National win in a row. Then the track changed, and Murphree’s hard-charging antics actually worked against him, allowing Bigelow into contention. During a tense lap 21, where the two traded the lead twice in turns three and four, Bigelow took the lead. Corbin Racing/Samson’s Kenny Coolbeth also shot by Murphree, and was on a mission to set Bigelow up on the last lap and earn his own first career Grand National win. That pass never came, and Bigelow was able to pull away to a narrow victory, the first aboard a 750. of his Grand National career.
“There was just no way that I was going to let Johnny win two in a row – that’s just what it came down to,” Bigelow said. “All day we were real fast, but I just didn’t get the holeshot that I needed to. Johnny was riding real fast, and I was surprised at how aggressive he was riding in the lead, but I can’t take anything away from him for that. He made a mistake, and I capitalized on it. I didn’t want to finish second. I’ve had so many opportunities to win these races and haven’t capitialized on it.”
Coolbeth finished second again, hungrier than ever to notch his first win. Murphree was a close third, followed by reiging AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Champion Chris Carr aboard his Quality Checked Ceritified Pre-owned Ford Racing-backed Harley-Davidson. Veteran Terry Poovey, looking his sharpest all season, rounded out the top five.
Granite City, Illinois
Results: June 15, 2002 (Round 6 of 20)
GRAND NATIONAL (25 laps; 18 riders): 1. Bryan Bigelow (H-D); 2. Kenny Coolbeth (H-D); 3. Johnny Murphree (H-D); 4. Chris Carr (H-D); 5. Terry Poovey (H-D); 6. Joe Kopp (H-D); 7. Kevin Varnes (H-D); 8. J.R. Schnabel (H-D); 9. Rich King (H-D); 10. Rusty Rogers (H-D); 11. Geo Roeder II (H-D); 12. Jake Johnson (H-D); 13. Paul Lynch (H-D); 14. Shaun Russell (H-D); 15. Willie McCoy (H-D); 16. Chris Boone (H-D); 17. Jason Tyer (H-D); 18. Jess Roeder (H-D).
AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANC U.S. FLAT TRACK C’SHIPS SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 6 of 20 rounds): 1. Chris Carr (90/1 win); 2. Johnny Murphree (85/1 win); 3. Kenny Coolbeth (80); 4. Kevin Varnes (72); 5. Bryan Bigelow (62/1 win); 6. Joe Kopp (61); 7. Kevin Atherton (52); 8. (TIE) Terry Poovey (48)/J.R. Schnabel (48); 10. Nicky Hayden (38); 11. Shaun Russell (37); 12. Jay Springsteen (35); 13. Dan Stanley (29); 14. Paul Lynch (27); 15. (TIE) Geo Roeder II (25)/Mike Hacker (25/1 win); 17. (TIE) Rick Winsett (24/1 win)/Willie McCoy (24); 19. Steve Beattie (22); 20. Tommy Hayden (19).