Whatever legacy AMA Grand National 33 J.R. Schnabel creates for himself aboard big twins before retirement, it is doubtful that his small bike riding ability will ever come into question. Three of his four career AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track victories have come aboard the 505cc single-cylinder equipment used in the series. And that fourth win, which came tonight before a packed house at Daytona Municipal Stadium, was a biggie.
The 24-year-old Schnabel piloted his Babe Demay-built Memphis Shades/Parts Unlimited Yamaha to a commanding win at the Daytona Short Track. Third off the start, Schnabel quickly drove to the high line early in the 25-lap main event and passed both Johnny Murphree and last night’s winner, Bryan Smith, before setting sail and pulling clear to score one of the biggest wins of his career. Like last night’s Hot Shoe event, the high line was the fast line. It never faltered, and neither did Schnabel, who put a full straightaway on Smith before the checkered flag fell. Schnabel may not have a lot of feathers in his cap yet, but the Daytona win, as well as his Peoria TT win of 2003, rank among the biggest of the new young guns strutting their stuff in the sport.
“Jeez, if I win the Springfield Mile, I may just have to hang up my leathers right there,” an elated Schnabel said. “Early in the main event, I wasn’t getting anywhere, so I just took a chance and ran it in there up high one lap, and I just got an awesome drive. After that, I knew that was where I needed to be. Babe Demay had our Yamaha working so well. It was so fast. I’m really happy to start my season off like this. This is Daytona. Everyone dreams about winning here.”
The Doc’s Harley-Davidson/KK Motorcycle Supply-backed Smith was able to stay several lengths abreast of Coziahr Harley-Davidson/National Cycle’s Murphree, who finished third to make for a podium filled with three of the sport’s brightest stars. Dallas Harley-Davidson/Advanced Wall Systems’ Willie McCoy, who may have been the fastest man on the racetrack late in the main event, zoomed around defending series champion Chris Carr and his Quality Checked Certified Pre-owned Ford Racing entry on lap 19 to finish fourth, the Texan eclipsing his own career-best Daytona finish by two places. A three-time Daytona Short Track winner, Carr held on for fifth, finishing the best among previous Daytona Short Track winners. Two-time winner Terry Poovey was ninth, while 1995 winner Brett Landes was 11th, and 1991 winner Ronnie Jones was 13th.
Daytona Municipal Stadium
Daytona Beach, Florida
Results: March 4, 2004 (Round 1 of 21)
GRAND NATIONAL (25 laps; 16 riders): 1. J.R. Schnabel (Yam); 2. Bryan Smith (Hon); 3. Johnny Murphree (Rot); 4. Willie McCoy (Rot); 5. Chris Carr (Rot); 6. Shaun Russell (Rot); 7. Joe Kopp (Rot); 8. Jay Springsteen (Rot); 9. Terry Poovey (Rot); 10. Jake Johnson (Rot); 11. Brett Landes (Rot); 12. Kenny Coolbeth (KTM); 13. Ronnie Jones (Rot); 14. Steve Beattie (Rot); 15. Mike Hacker (Rot); 16. Rob Pearson (Rot).
Time: 8 min., 43.572 sec.
AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE U.S. FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS STANDINGS (After 1 of 21 rounds): 1. J.R. Schnabel (23/1 win); 2. Bryan Smith (19); 3. Johnny Murphree (16); 4. Willie McCoy (15); 5. Chris Carr (14); 6. Shaun Russell (13); 7. Joe Kopp (12); 8. Jay Springsteen (11); 9. Terry Poovey (10); 10. Jake Johnson (9); 11. Brett Landes (8); 12. Kenny Coolbeth (7); 13. Ronnie Jones (6); 14. Steve Beattie (5); 15. Mike Hacker (4); 16. Rob Pearson (3).
Round 2 – San Francisco, California, May 1