Before a large crowd that included Harley-Davidson’s own Willie G. Davidson at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, King won the Memorial Day classic, the second of his career, by an inch, and with that inch he also eliminated Carr’s chance of becoming the first man in history to win six consecutive Springfield races.
After posting lackluster times in practice and then winning the slowest of six heat races, King and his Bill Werner-tuned 100th Anniversary XR turned the tables in the 25-lap, 20 rider main event. After starting fourth, he ran at or near the front of the lead pack for the entire race, leading the most laps, 12, including the one that counted. He never lost momentum, even when the race was red-flagged after young Michigan hot shot Bryan Smith crashed into the hay bales on lap seven (Smith was uninjured in the crash and later returned to contest the support races). King elected to lead off the fourth turn and held on as Carr and third-place finisher, Bartels’ Harley-Davidson/Corbin’s Jay Springsteen, took their shots at him. Both came up short.
“You forget what it’s like to win this race, but it’s awesome,” said King, who last one the event as a privateer in 1999. “Any day that you can win at Springfield is a good day.”
For his part, Carr showed no disappointment in failing to eclipse the record of five straight Springfield wins – both he and the legendary Scott Parker will share that honor for the time being. The Pennsylvania transplant still left the Mile with his points lead intact. Carr currently leads King, 61-47, with the rescheduled Springfield TT set to go at the Springfield Rodeo Arena tomorrow.
“I can’t believe I got beat by a three-digit number out there today,” Carr joked on the podium. “I kind of hid out around fourth place and saw what everyone else was doing, and I kind of figured it was going to come down to Rich and me. Second is what we got today. I’m not disappointed with that at all.”
Of the three podium contenders, the 45-year-old Springsteen may have worked the hardest to earn his finish, starting sixth and then slipping back as far as seventh before working his way back toward the front. Springer led only one lap, lap 15, but was strong late in the race. Unlike Carr, the veteran wasn’t quite as satisfied with his result.
“Man, if we ran one more lap, I’d a beat those guys,” Springsteen said. “To tell you the truth, I thought that the white flag lap was going to be the checkered flag, and I backed it down a bit. I tried my hardest at the end, but it was too late. Ah well, it was a good race. Everybody was real clean.”
KTM/Jones Powersports’ Kenny Coolbeth finished a quiet fourth, with Springsteen’s Bartels’ teammate Shaun Russell fifth.
It was also a magical day on the mile for Suzuki, as factory rider Kevin Varnes became the first rider ever to put one of the TL1000-based machines into a Grand National main event. Varnes finished 13th, while privateer Ken Yoder also landed in the main event aboard his TL, finishing 14th.
Due to delays brought about by the previous day’s rains, the event format was modified to include six 10-lap heats and four eight-lap semis to qualify a 20-rider field for the main event. Here are the results and points from the Springfield Mile:
Illinois State Fairgrounds
Results: May 25, 2003 (Round 6 of 18)
GRAND NATIONAL: 1. Rich King (H-D); 2. Chris Carr (H-D); 3. Jay Springsteen (H-D); 4. Kenny Coolbeth (H-D); 5. Shaun Russell (H-D); 6. Joe Kopp (H-D); 7. Johnny Murphree (H-D); 8. Willie McCoy (H-D); 9. Bryan Bigelow (H-D); 10. Jake Johnson (H-D); 11. Steve Beattie (H-D); 12. Kevin Atherton (H-D); 13. Kevin Varnes (Suz); 14. Ken Yoder (H-D); 15. Chris Hart (H-D); 16. Charlie Italia (H-D); 17. Gary Rogers (H-D); 18. Mike Hacker (H-D); 19. Terry Poovey (H-D); 20. Bryan Smith (H-D).
Time: No time, due to red flag.
AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE U.S. FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 6 of 18 rounds): 1. Chris Carr (61/1 win); 2. Rich King (47/1 win); 3. Johnny Murphree (45); 4. Joe Kopp (42); 5. Jay Springsteen (32); 6. Shaun Russell (25); 7. Jake Johnson (24); 8. Garth Bastian (23/1 win); 9. Kenny Coolbeth (21); 10. Ken Yoder (20); 11. Bryan Bigelow (19); 12. Brett Landes (14); 13. Mike Hacker (13); 14. (TIE) Steve Beattie (10)/Willie McCoy (10)/Terry Poovey (10); 17. (TIE) Donnie Mullen (10)/John Raun Wood (10); 20. Michael Varnes (9).