Coolbeth Wins I-96

| July 5, 2006
Harley-Davidson/Screamin’ Eagle’s Kenny Coolbeth was bitterly disappointed after failing to make the main event at the Lima Half Mile. On Saturday night, at I-96 Speedway, he made up for that by winning his first AMA Grand National as a member of the factory Harley team.

Coolbeth, in his fourth race aboard the orange and black factory bike, dogged early leader Jared Mees for 15 laps before taking the lead for good on the 16th of 25 laps of the half-mile oval, giving him win number one (on track, at least, as Coolbeth was credited with the rained-out Syracuse Mile victory because he was fast qualifier, but everybody was awarded just a single point) with his new team.

“It’s awesome. We came here with high hopes and we accomplished it,” said Coolbeth, who won here last year. “We accomplished what we wanted to do. Last weekend was a bummer (not qualifying for Lima National main). I had felt awesome all night and then we had an engine go south. We just went back and did our homework and obviously it worked.”

While Coolbeth was riding a high with the win, Mees was on the other end of the spectrum, the Screamin Eagle/Lancaster Harley-Davidson rider looking to have a podium finish in the bag when his rear tire went flat with just a few laps remaining, putting him out of the race and hurting his standing in the championship chase.

Mees wasn’t alone in hitting bad luck at Lake Odessa, with Joe Kopp also failing to score points as he crashed out of the race on the opening lap, bringing out a red flag. Kopp was transported to hospital with a sore back and shoulder.

With Mees out, JR Schnabel – again riding his Harley-Davidson and not his Yamaha – was able to hold off the advances of defending AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr to finish second. Carr held on for third place, a position that did little to hurt Carr’s championship status as he managed to further pull away from his nearest rival as Harley’s Rich King finishing fourth.

Carr now leads the series with 53 points, 12 clear of King. Coolbeth has moved to just a point behind King and 13 behind Carr after his I-96 win.

By Dave Hoenig