DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 16 – Matt Weidman became the second first-time Grand National winner of the Daytona doubleheader tonight, the New Yorker sitting in the right place at the right time to score a hugely popular victory at the Daytona Short Track to join last night’s victor Johnny Lewis as debut winners.
As it turns out, Weidman and his Snip/Fiorio Investments Honda CRF450R were there to pick up the pieces in what turned out to be a wild final lap in the second of two nights of short track action at the speedway.
It started with race-long leader Jared Mees getting the white flag with the lead. But Johnny Lewis had been setting him up all race-long for a pass in turns one-two and he made it work on the final go-around.
What happened next was predictable. Mees, who’d had his share of Daytona frustration over the course of his career, had led this one for the duration and he didn’t want to let it get away – so he ran it hard up the inside of Lewis in turn three, knocking his long-time friend to the ground. Mees slipped wide in the process and Weidman, who’d been watching and anticipating the fireworks in the final corner, slipped up the inside to take the win – the first of his career.
“It’s unimaginable… I can’t even talk,” Weidman said. “This was definitely the greatest night of my life. I was so much faster than them in the beginning, but I started to make a few mistakes here and there. The same thing I did yesterday. I just sat there and settled in third because there was nobody close to me. As soon as I saw Johnny get by Jared in one and two, I said to myself, ‘Oh there’s gonna be fireworks.’ I knew I’d at least get second because I knew one of them was going down, but I didn’t think they’d both go high like that and leave the door open for me. I’ve been working so hard for this and so long for this, I’ll take it anyway I can get it.”
Mees recovered to finish second, just .114 of a second behind with Werner/Springsteen Racing’s Brad Baker inheriting the final podium spot in the melee.
Fourth place, for the second night in a row, went to Chaplin Kawasaki’s Kenny Coolbeth Jr. with last year’s doubleheader dominator Sammy Halbert ending up fifth on The South Ass/Fredericktown Yamaha YZF450F.
Grand National rookie Briar Bauman was sixth – two spots better than his debut on Thursday night – with Bryan Smith seventh on the American Harley-Davidson Honda CRF450F.
Lewis remounted to finish eighth with defending AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson ending his dismal Daytona with a ninth. Jethro Halbert rode brother Sammy’s fuel-injected YZF450F to 10th.
With two rounds complete in the AMA Grand National Championship, Weidman leads for the first time in his career with 48 points – seven better than Mees. Lewis is third in the title chase with 40 points, five better than Halbert and six more than Coolbeth.
Tonight’s Pro Singles final was won by 16-year-old Ryan Wells in just his second professional race (last night’s was his first), the Weirbach Racing youngster beating Michael LaBelle and Hayden Gillim, who came from the third row to finish third.
1. Matt Weidman (Honda)
2. Jared Mees (Honda)
3. Brad Baker (Kawasaki)
4. Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (Kawasaki)
5. Sammy Halbert (Yamaha)
6. Brian Baumann (Kawasaki)
7. Bryan Smith (Honda)
8. Johnny Lewis (Honda)
9. Jake Johnson (Honda)
10. Jethro Halbert (Yamaha)