Lake Odessa, Michigan’s I-96 Speedway will play host to round seven of the 2005 AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship on Saturday, July 2. The race marks the return of the series to Michigan, long a hotbed of AMA Grand National racing.
Since the inception of the AMA Grand National Championship in 1954, Michigan has arguably supplied more top riders than any other state. Flint’s Bart Markel was the first of the Michigan superstar motorcycle racers. Markel was followed by Jay Springsteen (Lapeer), Randy Goss (Hartland) and the all-time AMA Grand National title and wins leader Scott Parker (Swartz Creek). Today, riders like Bryan Smith and Nick Cummings are the next generation of Michiganders hoping to make their mark on the historic championship.
While Michigan supplies many of the top motorcycle racers in America, the state has not hosted an AMA Grand National in seven years, and the last time it did, an Ohioan, George Roeder II, won the I-96 half-mile AMA Grand National in 1998. Michigan’s own Kevin Atherton won the event in 1997.
The pre-race favorite coming into Saturday’s event is series leader and defending champion Chris Carr of Fleetwood, Pennsylvania, who rides for his own Quality Checked Certified Pre-Owned Ford team. He is the only rider to score more than one victory so far this season, and has built a 23-point lead over Connecticut’s Kenny Coolbeth. Joe Kopp, of Mica, Washington, is a close third.
Carr remembers good things about I-96, even though his best result there in four starts was third in 1998.
“It’s a racy little half-mile,” he said. “If I recall, the track was surrounded by cornfields, so I’m going to go as fast as I can and try to stay out of the corn.”
Carr thinks Michigan fans will support the race.
“Michigan has a lot of flat track fans, and I’m sure I won’t be among the favorites since there are so many strong Michigan riders, but that’s okay,” Carr said. “It’s a fun track, and we’ll have a good time there.”
Five riders have won in the six AMA Grand National rounds leading to I-96, including Jake Johnson, Carr, JR Schnabel, Rich King and Jared Mees, the 2004 series Rookie of the Year, who scored his first national victory last weekend in Lima, Ohio.
I-96 will also host a round of the hotly contested Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Series as well. Californian Chris Hart and Texan Merle Scherb are tied atop the series standings. Former series champ Scott Stump is right on Hart and Scherb’s heels in third.
The Lake Odessa AMA Grand National is part of a big weekend of AMA national racing in Michigan over the Independence Day holiday weekend. Fans can catch the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship race on Saturday night and drive a few hours west to watch the AMA Motocross Championship presented by FMF round in Buchanan on Sunday.
For additional information on the I-96 Speedway race call 616/642-0555 or visit www.i96speedway.com.