Sammy Halbert did everything he could, he raced a flawless final lap, put his South East Harley-Davidson exactly in the right place at the right time coming out of turn four. By all rights he should have won the Springfield Mile. Only one problem – the leader Halbert was trying to draft past was Mile specialist Bryan Smith and his ultra-fast Crosley Radio/Howerton Kawasaki. So fast was Smith on the prototype Kawasaki, that when Halbert pulled out of the draft to make the bid for the win all he got was a perfect view of Smith taking the checkered flag. Jared Mees was a close third on the Rogers Racing/Blue Springs Harley-Davidson, but the series leader also admitted he didn’t have the juice to run with Smith.
It was a green day in Springfield. Not only did Smith demonstrate the power of his Kawasaki in the national, but for the first time anyone could remember, Kawasaki riders won each of the qualifying heat races on the historic Mile, proving once and for all that almighty Harley-Davidson has a new challenger on the big tracks of Grand Nationals.
While Smith made headlines at Springfield, Mess just keeps methodically doing what he needs to do to win a second AMA Grand National title. He added to his points lead coming out of Springfield and now leads by 12 points with just three rounds remaining in the 2012 campaign. Defending champ and second ranked Jake Johnson had a chance to win Sunday before a hard run-in with Willie McCoy on the final lap cost him momentum. He ended up taking fifth, just behind another Kawasaki of JD Beach.
With three West Coast races to go (one Mile and two Half-Miles) Mees leads Johnson 243 to 231. Halbert is a close third with 220 points. One of those three will win the No. 1 plate, but it will likely go down to the final round at Pomona.
Smith was understandably thrilled with the outcome at Springfield Sunday.
“Howerton Motorsports has given me a fast Kawasaki, there’s no question about that,” Smith admitted. “But I’ve proven I can win here (at Springfield) before and I think I ran that thing harder into the turns than anyone else. So while everyone is complaining about our bike’s speed, I still had to ride hard to win this race. It wasn’t given to me by any means.”
Halbert was visibly disgusted after the loss and argued there was nothing he could do to win the race.
“I put myself into the position to win the race, but it was just a case of follow the leader,” Halbert said. “I tried extra hard on that last lap to get the best drive and be in his draft, but once I pulled out my forward momentum just stopped. Everyone can see what’s going on out there.”
Mees steered clear of the controversy over Kawasaki’s speed advantage and remained focused on the goal of winning the title.
“I just went out and rode the best I could and took what the race gave me,” he said. “There was no beating Bryan today. We sort of knew that going in, but I’m just getting as many points as I can and all in all I had a good weekend.”
In Pro Singles action it was New York’s Cody Johncox earning his first victory of the year, riding his Sunnyside Circle/Arai Yamaha YZ450F. It marked a triumphant return for Johncox, who broke his leg earlier in the season. Zakk Palmer finished second, just 0.005 seconds behind and Michael Bickerton was third.
The points leader changed again in the ever competitive Pro Singles Series with Stephen Vanderkuur now on top by a single point over Jason Isenock. Jake Shoemaker, who had the lead after the Short Track race Saturday night is in third, just two points behind the leader.
The series now moves to the Santa Rosa (Calif.) Mile on Sept. 30.
AMA Pro Grand National Results from the Springfield Mile
1. Bryan Smith, Kawasaki.
2. Sammy Halbert, Harley-Davidson.
3. Jared Mees, Harley-Davidson.
4. JD Beach, Kawasaki.
5. Jake Johnson, Harley-Davidson.
6. Kenny Coolbeth Jr., Harley-Davidson.
7. Willie McCoy, Harley-Davidson.
8. Jethro Halbert, Kawasaki.
9. Brandon Robinson, Kawasaki.
10. Brad Baker, Harley-Davidson.