On a night worthy of celebration, Johnson won the Du Quoin Short Track in front of a nearly full grandstand at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds, while Carr retained his number one plate for another year.
To get his win, the 20-year-old Johnson had to pull off a pass on the scourge of all small-bore riders, Memphis Shades/Parts Unlimited Yamaha’s J.R. Schnabel. Johnson came from eight to fourth in the first eight laps, while Schnabel ran down polesitter and early race leader, Mack Daddy Racing’s Henry Wiles. Schnabel and Wiles then made contact while battling for the lead off turn four, with Wiles hitting the deck and bringing out the red flag. Schnabel was on point when the field lined up single file for the restart, and he looked set for a fourth season victory as he clicked off laps in the lead. Johnson was able to work his way past Michigan rider Steve Murray to take the second spot, and then reeled in Schnabel, who was drifting higher off the corners with each lap. Johnson waited until lap 25 before chopping it in underneath Schnabel in turn one and completing the pass for the lead when Schnabel’s machine slewed sideways off turn two. From there, Johnson simply sped away to earn his third career Grand National win by several bike lengths. Schnabel held on for second, with KTM/Jones Power Sport’s Kenny Coolbeth moving up through the field from ninth to finish third, the Connecticut rider collecting his 10th podium position of the season.
There was some great racing behind the lead trio as well. KTM Jones Powersports’ Joe Kopp took to the high line to move past a great battle between Coziahr Harley-Davidson/National Cycles’ Johnny Murphree and Zanotti Racing/A&A Racing’s Jethro Halbert and finish fourth. Murphree was fifth and Halbert was sixth.
Kopp wasn’t the only rider to put on a late-race charge. Just as he had at the Springfield Short Track, American Suzuki/Parts Unlimited’s A.J. Eslick tore through the pack in the closing laps. Eslick bettered his ninth-place Springfield finish with a career-best seventh at Du Quoin after once again coming from the back row.
Saddlemen Racing/Montgomeryville Cycles’ Jared Mees held off DA Racing/B Racing’s Donnie Mullen and Gardner Racing/Walters Brothers Harley-Davidson’s Bryan Bigelow for eighth. In doing so, the 18-year-old Mees put a lock on Ricky Graham Rookie of the Year honors.
Despite a season low 15th-place finish, Carr did what he needed to lock up his title early. Carr won his heat race and appeared to be in contention for the win when he stalled his machine in one of the corners and slipped from fifth-place to last place on the opening lap. Even so, the 37-year-old Pennsylvanian became only the third man in AMA Grand National history to land four consecutive series titles. Carroll Resweber (1958 through 1961) and Scott Parker (1988 through 1991) both earned four consecutive titles during their careers, with Parker going on to win another five consecutive titles (1994 through 1998) before retiring in 1999. That’s a mark Carr will be hoping to equal during the 2005 season.
The 2004 AMA Progressive Insurance Flat Track Championship wraps up with the Du Quoin Magic Mile at the Du Quoin State Fairgrounds tomorrow night. Here are the main events results and series standings after the Du Quoin Short Track:
Du Quoin State Fairgrounds
Du Quoin, Illinois
Results: September 24, 2004 (Round 16)
GRAND NATIONAL (30 laps; 16 riders): 1. Jake Johnson (Hon); 2. J.R. Schnabel (Yam); 3. Kenny Coolbeth (KTM); 4. Joe Kopp (KTM); 5. Johnny Murphree (Hon); 6. Jethro Halbert (Hon); 7. A.J. Eslick (Suz); 8. Jared Mees (Hon); 9. Donnie Mullen (Hon); 10. Bryan Bigelow (Hon); 11. Paul Lynch (Hon); 12. Henry Wiles (Hon); 13. Shane Vance (Hon); 14. Shaun Russell (Rot); 15. Chris Carr (KTM); 16. Steve Murray (KTM).
Time: Race was red flagged.
Margin of victory: 1.266 sec.
AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIPS SERIES STANDINGS (After 16 of 17 rounds): 1. Chris Carr (282/6 wins); 2. Joe Kopp (249/2 wins); 3. Kenny Coolbeth (221/1 win); 4. Johnny Murphree (212/1 win); 5. Jake Johnson (163/1 win); 6. J.R. Schnabel (154/3 wins); 7. Mike Hacker (121); 8. Willie McCoy (119); 9. Jared Mees (115); 10. Shaun Russell (109); 11. Rob Pearson (87); 12. (TIE) Geo Roeder II (83)/Bryan Smith (83); 14. Bryan Bigelow (79); 15. Rich King (72/1 win); 16. Jay Springsteen (66); 18. Kevin Atherton (54); 19. Terry Poovey (53); 20. (TIE) Paul Lynch (50)/Chris Hart (50).