A couple of years ago after a horrific crash at the Indy Mile, Brandon Robinson wondered if he would ever race again. Friday night at the Daytona Short Track those memories were washed away when Robinson broke through to score his first career AMA Grand National victory. It continued a Daytona tradition of first-time winners dating back to the old Municipal Stadium.
Robinson moved past first-lap leader Kenny Coolbeth and gradually pulled away from the field on his TJ Burnett Farms/USC Racing Kawasaki. Brad Baker made a drive late in the race on his Specialty Fabrication/Schenk Racing Honda to move up to challenge Robinson for the lead, but one slip and his bid for his first victory was halted. As a consolation Baker leaves Daytona with the series lead by way of his two straight runner up finishes.
Bryan Smith had a solid outing on the Crosley Radios/Howerton Motorsports Honda, taking third after moving up from as far back as eighth.
“This is a dream come true,” Baker said after the victory. “Ever since I was a kid I dreamed about winning a National. All the hard work I put in this winter paid off. The end of the race seemed to last forever. I saw the five-lap board and couldn’t believe there was that much still to go.”
Coolbeth got the lead on a smooth, but slick Daytona Short Track. Robinson took over the lead on the second lap and then clicked off lap after consistently fast lap to win by 1.262 seconds. Baker made a strong challenge, but couldn’t maintain his charge.
“Every time Brandon made a little mistake I’d gain on him,” Baker said. “I thought I might have a chance to go for the lead at one point, but then with about five to go I made a mistake and if you make one slip here it takes five laps to make up for it. Even though I didn’t get a win it feels good to leave with the series lead. I think I’m riding well enough to win one of these so I’m sure it’s going to come.”
Smith wanted more, but was happy to score a podium. “I came up and made a lot of passes,” Smith said. “The way people were riding you could make up or lose four or five positions in one corner. Once I got in third I just could seem to close the gap, but we’ll take it.”
Unofficially Baker leads the series over Robinson, 46-42. Thursday night’s winner Mikey Rush, who finished fifth tonight, is third in the standings with 37 points.
In Pro Singles Allphase Masonry & Chimney Honda rider Jake Constantine was another first-time winner. Constantine pulled away to a 2.018 second victory over Ryan Wells. Mike Poe was third.
“I’ve been trying to win one of these for a couple of years,” Constantine said. “I got a podium at Lima, but winning here is a major accomplishment for me.”
It was a doubly rewarding night for New York state’s Constantine – he left Daytona with the Pro Singles Series lead.
Grand National Results
1. Brandon Robinson, Kaw.
2. Brad Baker, Hon.
3. Bryan Smith, Hon.
4. Jake Johnson, Hon.
5. Mikey Rush, Hon.
6. Kenny Coolbeth, Jr., Kaw.
7. Matt Weidman, Hon.
8. Jethro Halbert, Suz.
9. Robert Pearson, Hon.
10. Jeffrey Carver, Jr., Hon.
1. Jake Constantine, Hon.
2. Ryan Wells, Hon.
3. Mike Poe, Hon.
4. Wyatt Maguire, Yam.
5. Stephen Vanderkuur, Hon.