Photography by Larry Lawrence
DAYTONA BEACH, FL, March 14, 2014 – After 21 years of trying, Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. finally broke through to win his first Daytona Short Track National. The 36-year-old former AMA Grand National Champion got past Jake Johnson on the fifth lap and then rode a clean and steady race on his Zanotti Racing/Burt Ives Honda CRF450R to take the checkered flag. His margin of victory after 25 laps was 4.069 seconds.
Johnson ran a strong second on his Ramspur Winery/Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Honda, holding off a hard-charging Stevie Bonsey on another Zanotti Racing Honda, giving Honda riders a sweep of the podium. Johnson moves to second in the standings.
It was a milestone win for Coolbeth, who leaves Daytona third in the standings.
“It was fun. This is one of those races I’ve always wanted to win,” Coolbeth said. “I’ve been racing the nationals here since 1994 and I’ve had podium finishes, but this win has been a longtime coming for sure. I was playing it cool. I just got the best start I could and let things pan out. I got up to second and wasn’t really working that hard and was catching Jake. He was struggling at the apex of the corner and was running a little high. I could turn it right down to the bottom of the corner and I passed him pretty easy.”
You could tell it was a victory of vindication of sorts for Coolbeth, who lost his factory Harley-Davidson ride after last season.
“I think some people lost faith in me, but we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with,” Coolbeth promised. “I’ve got a great team behind me and I’m looking forward to this season.”
Fredericktown Yamaha/Vans Yamaha rider Sammy Halbert ran a strategic race and moved up several positions to finish fourth. That was good enough for him to leave Daytona with the series lead.
“That’s a great way to start off the season,” Halbert said. “I think I’ve got the program this year to win the championship and leaving here with the lead was a goal.”
Brandon Robinson was the biggest mover in the field. Coming back from a crash he couldn’t avoid, running as far back as 16th and somehow picking his way through the field on his USC Kawasaki to amazingly finish fifth. That comeback helped him leave Daytona tied with Coolbeth for third in the series.
Hoosier racer Brandon Wilhelm scored his first career victory in Pro Singles. Wilhelm put his Wilhelm Racing Honda into the lead off the start and was really never threatened, even after being forced to do it all over again due to a red flag late in the race.
“I can’t believe this really happened to me,” said a jubilant Wilhelm, who hails from Aurora, Indiana. “I had a pretty good lead and then was so upset when I saw that red flag, but thankfully I was able to get another good start and lead the thing into turn one. I just tried to ride a clean race and it worked out.”
Davis Fisher and Justin Jones rounded out the podium finishers in Pro Singles.
Wilhelm took over the Pro Singles series lead from Thursday night’s winner Ryan Wells.
Daytona Short Track Grand National Results – Friday, March 14, 2014
1. Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. (Hon)
2. Jake Johnson (Hon)
3. Stevie Bonsey (Honda)
4. Sammy Halbert (Yam)
5. Brandon Robinson (Kaw)
6. Henry Wiles (Kaw)
7. Jake Constantine (Hon)
8. Bryan Smith (Hon)
9. Mike Rush (Hon)
10. Jethro Halbert (Yam)
1. Sammy Halbert 42
2. Jake Johnson 33
3. (tie) Kenny Coolbeth, Jr, Brandon Robinson 30
5. (tie) Briar Bauman, Stevie Bonsey 28
Pro Singles Results from Daytona – Friday, March 14, 2014
1. Brandon Wilhelm (Hon)
2. Davis Fisher (Hon)
3. Justin Jones (Hon)
4. J.R. Addison (Hon)
5. Ryan Wells (KTM)
6. Dylan Morin (Kaw)
7. Kyle Johnson (Hon)
8. Dan Bromley (KTM)
9. Rodney Spencer, Jr. (Hon)
10. Gerit Callies (Hon)
1. Brandon Wilhelm 40
2. Ryan Wells 38
3. Justin Jones 35
4. Davis Fisher 29
5. Rodney Spencer, Jr. 25