Hacker Wins Comeback Race

Henny Ray Abrams | September 28, 2002
After sitting out the entire summer, Mike Hacker came back with a vengeance.

The Supertrapp/Moroney’s H-D/1800FastHog-backed Virginian, who hadn’t raced since breaking his left leg at the Springfield TT on Memorial Day weekend, drafted past Kevin Atherton on the run down the front straight to narrowly take the win on Du Quoin Fairgrounds’ “Magic Mile,” the final race in the Progressive Insurance Grand National Championship.

“I didn’t really know if I had the endurance to come out here today, but everything felt great,” Hacker, seen in top photo winning his heat race over Joe Kopp, said. “I was comfortable from the word go. The bikes worked and it was just like a dream come true.” Hacker beat Atherton by 0.178 seconds, after 25 miles of racing, with Bartel’s H-D’s Shaun Russell third.

Less successful was American Honda’s Nicky Hayden (seen, in bottom photo, in front of Jay Springsteen in his heat). Hoping to become the fifth rider to win the Grand Slam, the AMA/Chevy Trucks Superbike Champion finished second in his heat, then had problems with his 1stLegal.com/USC/Pro Honda RS-750 which slowed him at the start and dropped him to 13th at the finish of the main.

Hacker and Atherton were part of an eight-rider pack that formed up in the second half of the race. Atherton led most of the laps, losing the lead to, first, Bartel’s H-D’s Russell, and, later, Coziar H-D’s Johnny Murphree. But Atherton was in front as the white flag waved, with Hacker taking the lead for the first time going into turn one. Dodge Bros./Saddlemen/National Cycle’s Atherton drafted Hacker down the back stretch, but that was part of the plan. On the run to the flag, Hacker pulled out just before the stripe to take the win.

“You want to say I pretty much knew I had it once he drafted me, but anything can happen and I got an awesome drive on him and got to the line first,” Hacker said.

Atherton was a shadow second with Russell a close third, followed in short order by Murphree, Quality Checked Certified Pre-Owned Ford’s Chris Carr, who had to transfer from the semi, Corbin/Samson’s Kenny Coolbeth Jr., Bartel’s H-D/Corbin’s Jay Springsteen, and Jones Powersports/KTM/Dick’s Suzuki’s Joe Kopp.

Carr had already clinched his third title and he finished the season with 303 points. Murphree finished the year a career best second, at 236, with Coolbeth Jr. third with 230.

Grand National:

1. Mike Hacker (H-D)

2. Kevin Atherton (H-D)

3. Shaun Russell (H-D)

4. Johnny Murphree (H-D)

5. Chris Carr (H-D)

6. Ken Coolbeth Jr. (H-D)

7. Jay Springsteen (H-D)

8. Joe Kopp (H-D)

9. Kevin Varnes (H-D)

10. Jake Johnson (H-D)

11. Bryan Smith (H-D)

12. J.R. Schnabel (H-D)

13. Nicky Hayden (Hon)

14. Paul Lynch (H-D)

15. Terry Poovey (Hon)

16. George Roeder (H-D)

17. Tim Eades (H-D)

18. Jess Roeder (H-D)

Final Point Standings:

1. Chris Carr (303/3 wins)

2. Johnny Murphree (236/1)

3. Ken Coolbeth Jr. (230/1)

4. Kevin Varnes (217/1)

5. Bryan Bigelow (213/1)

6. Joe Kopp (178)

7. (TIE) Jake Johnson/Jay Springsteen (163/1)

9. (TIE) Shaun Russell/Kevin Atherton (154/1)

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.