The 37-year-old, five-time and defending series champ rode his Kenny Tolbert-tuned Harley-Davidson XR750 to his eighth Springfield Mile win and 67th career AMA Grand National win in rather dominating fashion, coming from the second row of the 18-rider grid and working his way through the ebb and flow of the trademark Springfield draft war. Eighth off the start, Carr first surfaced in the lead of what turned to be a smaller-than-usual nine-rider lead pack, on lap nine of the 25-lap race, making his way past series title rival Joe Kopp in the process. Carr then diced with three-time and defending Springfield Mile winner Rich King – the Iowan looking fast as usual aboard his Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson. Carr was able to keep King at bay as they ran across the stripe for the next two laps, while Gerencer’s Harley-Davidson/Kerstings Cycle’s Kevin Atherton – who led laps three and seven, Coziahr Harley-Davidson/National Cycle’s Johnny Murphree, KTM/Jones Powersports’ Kenny Coolbeth and Carr’s Ford stablemate, Willie McCoy, were also prominent factors in the battle for the lead.
King led lap 12, but it would be the last time that anybody other than Carr led until there was a five-rider breakaway on lap 21. In fact, King’s chance for a fourth consecutive Springfield victory went sour on the same lap as his motorcycle slowed dramatically in turn four and he pulled out of the race.
McCoy capitalized on King’s exit, the determined Texan giving himself an excellent shot at winning his first Springfield Mile as he grabbed the lead on lap 22 aboard a Kenny Tolbert-prepared machine that appeared equal to Carr’s in every way. Atherton then poked his wheel to the front on the next lap, with Murphree leading as they took the white flag. Coolbeth then ran it in on the rest of them as the field hit turn three for the final time, and he led off the final turn. Carr had matched Coolbeth’s back-stretch pace, however, moving from fourth to second through turns three and four, and shuffling Murphree back to third and McCoy to fourth.
In the final run to the checkered flag, Carr was easily able to slingshot past Coolbeth for the win, with Murphree also just pipping Coolbeth for the runner-up spot. McCoy came home fourth, just barely able to fend off Atherton, Bartels’Harley-Davidson/Corbin’s Jay Springsteen and KTM/Jones Powersport’s Kopp.
Also noteworthy was the impressive performance of American Suzuki/Parts Unlimited/Yoshimura’s Kevin Varnes, the 34-year-old Pennsylvanian’s Travis Smith-tuned Suzuki DL1000 looking stronger than ever as he came off the third row and practically towed Springsteen into the lead draft, the two coming from a considerable way behind the front seven riders during the middle stages of the race. Varnes then battled with Moroney’s Harley-Davidson/American Honda’s Jake Johnson, who also caught up to the pack, to the finish. Varnes drafted past the tough New Jersey youngster on the run to the line to finish eighth, the best finish yet by the factory-backed Suzuki team. Johnson was ninth, followed by his teammate, SuperTrapp/Moroney’s Harley-Davidson’s Mike Hacker, who had a tough day on the mile, finishing 10th after being forced to switch to his back-up bike and start from the penalty line.
Carr’s Springfield win, coupled with his second-place finish at the Springfield Short Track, may just prove to be the final two knockout blows to 2000 series champ Kopp’s hope of earning a second AMA Progressive Insurance Flat Track title in 2004. Carr now has a commanding lead over Kopp, 255-215, with just three races remaining. Coolbeth’s season-long third-place standing is also uncertain, as the rejuvenated Murphree has worked his way back to within six points of third, trailing Coolbeth, 189-183.
Johnson was also able to just slip past Springfield Short Track winner J.R. Schnabel, who failed to make the main at the Mile. Johnson now sits fifth, with 128 points. Schnabel is sixth, with 127. Hacker, McCoy, Jared Mees and Shaun Russell round out the top 10, with 120, 119, 97 and 95 points respectively.
Illinois State Fairgrounds
Results: September 5, 2004 (Round 14)
GRAND NATIONAL (25 laps; 18 riders): 1. Chris Carr (H-D); 2. Johnny Murphree (H-D); 3. Kenny Coolbeth (H-D); 4. Willie McCoy (H-D); 5. Kevin Atherton (H-D); 6. Jay Springsteen (H-D); 7. Joe Kopp (H-D); 8. Kevin Varnes (Suz); 9. Jake Johnson (H-D); 10. Mike Hacker (H-D); 11. Shaun Russell (H-D); 12. Bryan Smith (H-D); 13. Jared Mees (H-D); 14. Geo Roeder II (H-D); 15. Bryan Bigelow (H-D); 16. Jason Tyer (H-D); 17. Terry Poovey (H-D); 18. Rich King (H-D).
Time: 14 min., 45.774 sec.
Margin of victory: 1.311 sec.
AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 14 of 17 rounds): 1. Chris Carr (255/5 wins); 2. Joe Kopp (215/2 wins); 3. Kenny Coolbeth (189/1 win); 4. Johnny Murphree (183/1 win); 5. Jake Johnson (128); 6. J.R. Schnabel (127/3 wins); 7. Mike Hacker (120); 8. Willie McCoy (119); 9. Jared Mees (97); 10. Shaun Russell (95); 11. Rob Pearson (84); 12. Geo Roeder II (78); 13. Bryan Bigelow (70); 14. Bryan Smith (69); 15. Rich King (61/1 win); 16. Kevin Atherton (54); 17. (TIE) Jay Springsteen (53)/Terry Poovey (53); 19. Henry Wiles (49/1 win); 20. Chris Hart (40).