Willie McCoy is no one-hit wonder. He proved that Sunday. The 42-year-old Texan continued his surprising rebirth by winning the Memorial Day Weekend Springfield Mile AMA Pro Grand National aboard his Harley-Davidson of Wausau XR750, this after having earned his very first Grand National win last September on the legendary dirt oval. Last year’s win was a shocker. This one was less so, but still a delight for the large crowd, who braved near record temperatures in the upper 90s to watch McCoy take a popular win over defending champ Jake Johnson and Bryan Smith.
The race was classic Springfield, with any one of five riders having a shot at the win on the final lap. Smith, who led 15 laps of the 25-lap main on his blazingly fast Skip Eaken-tuned Howerton Motorsports Kawasaki, headed the pack coming out of the last turn, but he chose a lower line coming out of four, hit some moist dirt, spinning up his rear tire under acceleration. That was all McCoy needed. He powered up his Harley, drifted out wide under full power and went around the outside of Smith, bringing Zanotti Racing Harley rider Johnson with him.
You could have literally thrown a blanket over the top three, separated by just 0.033 seconds at the flag. Jared Mess and Johnny Lewis were also in the lead group and finished fourth and fifth respectively.
“Winning Springfield one time is a dream come true,” McCoy said. Winning it two times in a row in unbelievable. “I didn’t get the greatest of starts and I had to do a lot of catching up. I didn’t think I’d be able to catch that Kawi. Bryan [Smith] was riding awesome. Once I caught up to Bryan I was trying to get past him, but I couldn’t do it. On the last lap I ran it hard into turn three and had a good run. When I saw him [Smith] dart to the inside coming out of four, I drift wide and figured I would either win it or get passed by a bunch of guys. I had to go for it. I knew I couldn’t follow Bryan and beat him.”
Mees came out the big winner in the points chase on Sunday. Matt Weidman, who was tied in the series lead coming into the race, struggled all day on his GCR Harley-Davidson. He missed qualifying for the race and took a provisional to get into the field, only to battle bikes issues and pull out of the race early, finishing 15th. Fourth place was good enough to give Mees a 14-point lead leaving Springfield.
Danny Ingram made a triumphant return to the Springfield Mile, where his career ended 19 years ago with a crash and resulting brain injury. Ingram, 47, riding a TCR Racing/Indy Southside Harley-Davidson XR750, qualified for the main and finished 11th in the national. Prompted by the announcers follwing his progress, the fans gave Ingram a standing ovation when he earned his spot in the main in the first Semi.
The national was marred by a big crash coming out of turn one at the start involving Brandon Robinson, Nichole Cheza, Sammy Halbert and Robert Pearson. Robinson was the only rider able to make the restart. Cheza went to the hospital to be checked out, complaining of back pain.
Jake Cunningham came out of nowhere to steal the win in the Pro Singles final on his Arai Helmets Yamaha YZ450F. It was a photo finish with Cunningham pulling out of the draft at the last possible second, to nip Zakk Palmer and Shayna Texter.
“I held it wide open coming out of the last corner and hoped for the best,” Cunningham said. “I had no idea I won the race, it was that close.”
With the victory Cunningham pulled to within five points of Gerit Callies in the Pro Singles standings.
The series next goes to Lima, Ohio and the Allen Country Fairgrounds on June 30th.