Suzukis One-Two at Daytona Short Track

| March 9, 2006
Team Suzuki/Parts Unlimited Flat Track’s Kevin Varnes landed the elusive Daytona Short Track victory that he was looking for, and more, as he led teammate Jake Johnson across the finish line to make for a Team Suzuki one-two before a crowded house at Daytona Municipal Stadium tonight. The win at round two of the GNC Singles Championship marked the fifth of 31-year-old Varnes’ career in AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track Championship competition.

Varnes timed second quickest in qualifying, then backed that up with a solid heat race victory in heat two to land on the front row for the 25-lap, 16-rider main event. Varnes got off the line, fifth, behind Latus H-D/Renton Honda/Beaverton Honda’s Joe Kopp, just ahead of polesitter and Lima H-D & Buell/Environmental Engineering-backed Bryan Bigelow, Ford Quality Checked Certified Pre-owned Racing KTM’s Chris Carr and Mack Daddy Racing’s Henry Wiles. Varnes slipped past Wiles early and then advanced further when Carr’s bike faltered – dropping the seven-time AMA Grand National Champion out of contention, and Bigelow also struggled to come to grips with the smooth, slick blue groove that formed on the sandy quarter mile track that circles Larry Kelly Field.

Varnes waited patiently behind Kopp until lap 15 when he slid underneath the 2000 AMA Grand National Champion to take the lead. From there, Varnes went on to cut 11 near-perfect laps, leading a four-rider freight train that included Wiles, Kopp and Memphis Shades/Parts Unlimited Yamaha’s J.R. Schnabel, who had come from the back row to run fourth. Johnson was behind Schnabel, and when Schnabel elected to try to run around the cushion at the top of the racetrack, Johnson took the third spot away. Both men then got past Wiles, and a real race ensued for the runner-up spot. Johnson sealed the ‘Zook one-two on the last lap when he cut under Schnabel in turn three. Varnes went on to win the race by 3.458 seconds over Johnson, with Schnabel coming third, another .218 seconds behind Johnson.

Then came last night’s runner-up, White’s H-D/Iron Valley H-D’s Sam Halbert, who got past Kopp to back up that runner-up finish with a fifth-place finish. Kopp held on for sixth, with Bartels’ H-D/TNT H-D’s Shaun Russell coming from the second row to finish seventh. Last night’s winner, Moroney’s Honda’s Bryan Smith finished eighth, ahead of Bigelow. Memphis Shades/Parts Unlimited Yamaha’s Rob Pearson rounded out the top 10.

Smith leaves Daytona with the series points lead in the hotly contested GNC Singles title race, with 34 points, one ahead of a tie between Johnson and Halbert, both with 33. Varnes’ win bumped him from 12th to fourth, with 30 points. Kopp is fifth, with 29.

Daytona Municipal Stadium
Daytona Beach, Florida
Results: March 9, 2006 (Round 2 of 5):
SINGLES NATIONAL (25 laps; 16 riders): 1. Kevin Varnes (Suz); 2. Jake Johnson (Suz); 3. J.R. Schnabel (Yam); 4. Henry Wiles (Hon); 5. Sam Halbert (Rot); 6. Joe Kopp (Hon); 7. Shaun Russell (Hon); 8. Bryan Smith (Hon); 9. Bryan Bigelow (Hon); 10. Rob Pearson (Yam); 11. Jethro Halbert (Hon); 12. Mike Rush (Hon); 13. Kenny Coolbeth (Hon); 14. Terry Poovey (Hon); 15. Dominic Beaulac (Yam); 16. Chris Carr (KTM).
Time: 8 min., 24.163 sec.
Margin of victory: 3.458 sec.

AMA FORD QUALITY CHECKED SINGLES CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES POINTS STANDINGS (After 2 of 5 rounds): 1. Bryan Smith (34/1 win); 2. (TIE) Jake Johnson (33)/Sam Halbert (33); 4. Kevin Varnes (30/1 win); 5. Joe Kopp (29); 6. Shaun Russell (24); 7. J.R. Schnabel (20); 8. Kenny Coolbeth (19); 9. Bryan Bigelow (16); 10. (TIE) Johnny Murphree (15)/Henry Wiles (15); 12. Greg Tysor (11); 13. Raun Wood (10); 14. (TIE) Rob Pearson (9)/Jimmy Wood (9); 16. (TIE) Jethro Halbert (8)/Ricky Marshall (8); 18. Mike Rush (7); 19. (TIE) Rich King (5)/Terry Poovey (5).

By Scott Rousseau