The capacity crowd had come to the Illinois State Fairgrounds to see a classic Springfield whereby American motorcycle racing phenom Nicky Hayden would pull off a stunning victory and become the fifth member of the AMA Grand Slam club.
Sometimes you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
Yesterday’s IMDA-promoted Labor Day Springfield Mile did feature its classic close racing and last-lap drafting heroics, but once again it was reigning AMA/Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Champion Chris Carr who pulled them and thus earned his second consecutive Springfield Mile sweep. Hayden tried but failed to make his way to the front of the lead pack, ending up eighth at the finish.
Carr, on the other hand, played a big part in the lead draft for most of the 25-lap race, leading laps seven, nine, 11 and 23 while mixing it up with Harley-Davidson’s Rich King, Bartels’ Harley-Davidson/Custom Chrome’s Shaun Russell, Moroney’s H-D/SuperTrapp’s Jake Johnson and Coziahr Harley-Davidson/Country Motors’ Johnny Murphree with five laps to go. In classic mile fashion, the quintet then fanned out on the final run to the checkered flag, appearing to cross the finish line simultaneously. After a review of the official AMA camera, Carr was credited with the win, followed by King and Russell, the latter earning his first career AMA podium finish. Johnson was tabbed fourth, Murphree fifth.
“I lost another string of wins about 90 miles from here [Peoria] a couple weeks ago,” Carr said. “It sure feels good to keep another one alive here.”
Although the series points race isn’t over yet, Carr now appears to have his closest rivals in a proverbial choke hold. Murphree’s fifth-place finish means that he has lost further ground to Carr, but the Californian got off light compared to the rest of the frontrunners. Bryan Bigelow watched his hopes all but vanish as he failed to make the main event. Kevin Varnes was kicked out of the Grand National final before it even got going when his bike began to leak oil. The upshot is that Carr now leads Murphree in the standings by 39 points with just four rounds to go, 241-202. Bigelow has 192, and Varnes 173.
“The championship was the goal that this Quality Certified Pre-owned Ford Racing team had set for itself at the beginning of the season,” Carr said. “This win today sure gets us closer to meeting that goal.”
The ol’ mile provided a chill and a spill to go with the thrills when Washington rider Dan Stanley low-sided his Skip Eaken Harley-Davidson in turn one after the field crossed the stripe on the opening lap of the main event. The bike then caught traction and went over the high side, taking Stanley with it – his leg was caught up on his right number plate – and slamming him to the ground. Bike and rider then tumbled into the bales violently. Miraculously, Stanley was not seriously hurt, and he actually walked away from the crash.
H-D of Dallas-backed Willie McCoy landed another 505cc Support victory to match the one that he earned a year ago at Springfield. Honda-mounted Kevin Atherton finished second, while Bryan Smith finished third.
Illinois State Fairgrounds
Results: September 1, 2002 (Round 16 of 20):
GRAND NATIONAL (25 laps; 18 riders): 1. Chris Carr (H-D); 2. Rich King (H-D); 3. Shaun Russell (H-D); 4. Jake Johnson (H-D); 5. Johnny Murphree (H-D); 6. Jay Springsteen (H-D); 7. Kenny Coolbeth (H-D); 8. Nicky Hayden (Hon); 9. Joe Kopp (H-D); 10. Terry Poovey (Hon); 11. Geo Roeder II (H-D); 12. Bryan Smith (H-D); 13. Kevin Atherton (H-D); 14. Willie McCoy (H-D); 15. Gary Rogers (H-D); 16. J.R. Schnabel (H-D); 17. Kevin Varnes (H-D); 18. Dan Stanley (H-D).
Time: 14 min., 44.534 sec.
AMA/PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE U.S. FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 16 of 20 rounds): 1. Chris Carr (241/3 wins); 2. Johnny Murphree (202/1 win); 3. Bryan Bigelow (192/1 win); 4. Kevin Varnes (173/1 win); 5. Kenny Coolbeth (162); 6. Joe Kopp (138); 7. Jay Springsteen (130); 8. Nicky Hayden (128/4 wins); 9. J.R. Schnabel (123); 10. Jake Johnson (120); 11. Rich King (115/2 wins); 12. Kevin Atherton (105); 13. Shaun Russell (103); 14. Terry Poovey (101); 15. Geo Roeder II (98); 16. Chris Hart (69/1 win); 17. Shawn Clark (64); 18. Willie McCoy (61); 19. (TIE) Steve Beattie (61)/Paul Lynch (61).
505 SUPPORT (12 laps; 18 riders): 1. Willie McCoy (Vor); 2. Kevin Atherton (Hon); 3. Bryan Smith (ATK); 4. A.J. Eslick (Rot); 5. Steve Murray (Hon); 6. Greg Teague (Rot); 7. Jeff Landrum (Suz); 8. Rich King (H-D); 9. Cory McDermitt (Rot); 10. Brian Vincent (Rot); 11. Charlie Italia (Rot); 12. Rick Winsett (Rot); 13. Aaron Creamer (CCM); 14. Jason Tyer (H-D); 15. Larry Pegram (Suz); 16. Joe Eades (Rot); 17. Jake Zemke (Rot); 18. Jennifer Snyder (H-D).
Time: 7 min., 18.186 sec.
Round 17 – Vernon, New York, Sept. 7
Round 18 – Tunica, Mississippi, Sept. 14