DAYTONA BEACH, FL, MAR. 14 - It took seven years to get back atop the podium, but the wait was worth it as Mikey Rush broke through to score his second-career AMA Grand National victory Thursday night at the Daytona Short track, in the first race of the Bike Week doubleheader. Rush, who last won at Daytona in 2007, charged his way up from a seventh-place start and on lap 19 of the 25-lap final he drove past race-long leader Brad Baker to take the lead. He held it to the flag, winning by .945 of a second, to take the series-opening victory on his Machete Energy/Rush Racing Honda.
“I got hurt pretty bad at the Springfield Short Track last year,” Rush said. “Now I’m on top of the box. I’m stoked. I got some good jumps on both the restarts. I was just trying to pick up the throttle way earlier than them. That’s what it took to do it tonight.”
Baker nearly got the win he so desperately wants, but his setup on his Specialty Fabrication Honda, which was perfect for the track early in the race, didn’t work as well as the track got progressively rougher he struggled to hold his line. With seven laps to go he slipped off the line going into turn three and Rush took advantage, slipping underneath coming out of four to take over the lead.
“About three quarters of the way through the race I felt someone coming up behind me,” Baker explained. “As rough as the track was I didn’t dare look back. I just started having a front end push, especially going into three. Mikey finally came by and it was awesome to see him revive his career after the injuries he went through last year.”
Third was defending Grand National Champ Jared Mees. Mees ran second in the opening laps, but fell to the charging Rush on lap 8 and had to hold off a surging Henry Wiles at the end.
“I feel really excited about the way we opened the season here,” Mees said. “It puts me in a good position in the championship to start off the season. When Mikey came by me I thought, ‘Man, he’s going to win this thing.’ He was really rolling. I’ll take this and move on to tomorrow night.
It was a perfect Pro Singles debut for Kyle Johnson, an 18 year old from Muskegon, Michigan. Johnson surprised the field by passing early leader Mike Poe on lap 11 and then pulled away to 1.103 second margin of victory over Jason Isenock. Poe fell back, but still hung on to earn the final podium spot.
“I was just being patient waiting for him to make a mistake,” Johnson said. “Once I got up on the inside of the leader I got a good drive and took him on the straightaway. It was a last-minute decision to come and I’m glad we did.”
Riders return Friday night to do it all again in round two.
Grand National Short Track
1. Mikey Rush, Hon.
2. Brad Baker, Hon.
3. Jared Mees, Hon.
4. Henry Wiles, Kaw.
5. Brandon Robinson, Kaw.
6. Matt Weidman, Hon.
7. Jake Johnson, Hon.
8. Johnny Lewis, Hon.
9. Stevie Bonsey, Hon.
10. Jethro Halbert, Suz.
1. Kyle Johnson, Kaw.
2. Jason Isennock, Hon.
3. Mike Poe, Hon.
4. Brandon Wilhelm, Hon.
5. Rodney Spencer, Jr., Hon.