Johnny Lewis Gets His First!

Paul Carruthers | March 15, 2012
Johnny Lewis wins his first AMA Grand National race at the Daytona Short Track.  Photography By: Andrea Wilson

Photography By: Andrea Wilson

DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 15 – Johnny Lewis knew if he was going to win an AMA Grand National flat track his best chance was going to be at the Daytona Short Track. Turns out he was right. But he had to make the right decisions and that he did – especially when it came to picking where he wanted to start the main event.

Lewis had the first pick of starting spots after winning the fastest of the three heats and he opted to put his Scott Powersports Honda second from the outside after seeing… “A nice big rut.”

From there Lewis grabbed the holeshot and that was all she wrote, the 22-year-old Pennsylvanian leading every single lap of the 25-lap National to earn the first Grand National win of his career. Surprisingly, he said it wasn’t the longest race of his life. Lewis also dedicated the win to Mark Adams, his former Supermoto mechanic who was killed earlier this year in a traffic accident.

“Actually, it didn’t seem that long,” Lewis said. “I saw halfway and I was feeling pretty good. I was trying to miss the bumps getting in. I knew if [Sammy] Halbert or [Matt] Weidman… I knew Weidman was behind me and I knew they were probably hitting the bumps because that’s their riding style. I was just trying to find the smoothest way. I wasn’t swerving, but I was slowing down a little bit to hit the right spots. I about looped out once so I was like, ‘Alright, I’m done hitting the bumps.’ So I moved away from it. I felt good the whole time.”

And he looked good, besting Weidman by .696 of a second despite the Snip/Fiorio Investments Honda rider’s best efforts. Once he realized he wasn’t going to beat Lewis, Weidman focused his energy on keeping Sammy Halbert behind him. And that’s no easy task, the Fredericktown Yamaha rider who swept both Daytona Short Tracks last year fighting through from fifth on the opening lap to challenge Weidman at the end. He came up just short after almost crashing in the final corner with a last-gasp effort.

Fourth tonight went to Kenny Coolbeth Jr., the Chaplin Kawasaki rider starting strong but getting pushed back by Halbert. Still, it was a good opening round for the former Grand National Champion. Ditto for fifth-placed Brad Baker in his debut with the Werner and Springsteen Kawasaki team. Baker struggled early on and had to go through a semi to get to the main, but he and master tuner Kenny Tolbert got things sorted out by the National and Baker charged through from as far back as 10th to get fifth.

American Harley-Davidson’s Bryan Smith finished sixth on his Honda, over a second and a half clear of Montgomery Cycle Center’s Jared Mees. Mees had won his heat race, but struggled come main event time on a track that was the roughest Daytona Short Track in recent memory.

Rookie Briar Bauman rode his Rod Lake Kawasaki to an impressive eighth, easily beating Mikey Rush and Jethro Halbert with those two rounding out the top 10 finishers.

Defending AMA Grand National Champion Jake Johnson had a rough night, the Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer’s Harley rider ending up 12th and 10.5 seconds behind Lewis.

Fast qualifier Sammy Halbert, meanwhile, won the Dash For Cash over Mees and Weidman.

The Pro Singles final was won by Gerit Callies over Hayden Gillim and Alex Wood.

Grand National
1. Johnny Lewis (Honda)
2. Matt Weidman (Honda)
3. Sammy Halbert (Yamaha)
4. Kenny Coolbeth Jr (Kawasaki)
5. Brad Baker (Kawasaki)
6. Bryan Smith (Honda)
7. Jared Mees (Honda)
8. Briar Bauman (Kawasaki)
9. Mikey Rush (Suzuki)
10. Jethro Halbert (Yamaha)

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America's Daily Motorcycle News Source.