Photography by Ken Kerr/kerrgraphix.com
With less than 10 laps to go it looked like Bryan Smith was done. The man who’d led most of the Sacramento Mile appeared to have burned up his tires with his torrid pace and suddenly fell from first to fourth place in a single lap, while Jared Mees battled Brad Baker and Sammy Halbert up front. But Smith rallied and four laps later he charged to the front and on the final laps held off a hard charge by Mees to win in a thrilling Sacramento Mile.
The margin at the flag, a scant 0.083 seconds.
It was a classic Grand National Mile that fans come to see, with the top five separated by just two-tenths of a second, with Brandon Robinson, Baker and Halbert rounding out the lead pack. Jake Johnson edged Kenny Coolbeth for sixth. The former Grand National champs were over eight seconds back though from the lead quintet.
It was obvious Smith had the straight-line power with his immaculately prepared Crosley Radio/Howerton Motorsports Kawasaki EX650, but it was no cakewalk. The Harley-Davidson XR750s were superior in the corners and jumped out of the turns quicker.
“It was going good all day, we were really dominant,” said Smith, who earned his third straight Sacramento Mile win. “I really wanted to try to get away from those guys and win this thing by a long ways. I had it going my way for a minute. I think I got my tire a little hot, started to fade back. Then Brad came running up the inside of me and ran me off the groove. I had my work cut out for me getting around the Harleys. They were hauling ass in the corners. Luckily my trusty Crosley Kawasaki was real fast on the straightaways so I got back by them.”
Mees was as strong as ever in his return to action after suffering a broken arm and missing Hagerstown. He led four laps of the main, and was right there with a chance to win at the end.
“I got a pretty good jump there and then Bryan took off,” Mees said. “I’m like, ‘Damn man, that thing is stout.’ That old unrestricted Kawasaki is pretty strong. I finally got in a groove here and Brad went by and caught Bryan real quick and I started reeling them in. Man, nothing against the guys who’ve been helping me out in the past, but I had a really strong bike tonight. That thing was just amazing. Kenny Tolbert did an amazing job… I almost felt like I could get him there at the end. It was a lot of fun coming back after the injury. I was so hungry to go racing. To come back and get second at the Sacramento Mile, I’m really beside myself.”
For Robinson, who led the series in the first part of the season, tonight he salvaged an excellent podium result late in the race with a strong closing couple of laps.
“I was sticking there with Bryan for the first few laps and then I kind of fell off the pace for a little bit,” Robinson said. “The three Harleys got around me and I kind of saved my tire there a little bit and tried to get it back underneath me. I was able to reel them back in a little bit. Bryan slowed the pace down, which was a help to me. The next thing I know I was right there fighting for a podium again. So it was a great race.”
The victory for Smith moved him from fifth to third in the standings. Baker still leads the Grand National standings by 15 points (92-77) over Robinson. Smith has 71 points, followed by Johnson (70) and Henry Wiles (67).
In the Pro Singles final Shayna Texter had to work her way up through the field after a bad start. Once to the front she found herself in a tough battle with Stephen Vanderkuur and Nate Wait.
It came down to the final exciting two laps. Vanderkuur looked to put himself out of contention when he slid wide coming out of turn 3, leaving Texter and Wait to battle up front. Wait took the lead ahead of Texter going into three and Vanderkuur somehow rallied back to make it a three-way battle to the flag. Texter made a textbook draft pass coming out of four to the inside of Wait on the home stretch. She pulled ahead just as the leading trio took the checkered flag.
Texter’s margin of victory on her Crosley Radio/Dew Honda was 0.016. It marked her first win of the season.
“It was a great race,” said Texter, who was the defending Sacramento Pro Singles winner. “I definitely had to work a lot harder this year than I did last year that’s for sure. Coming from behind I just had to be smart. It was a lot of fun racing up here with these two. Everything was clean.”
Wyatt Maguire, who finished sixth, leads the Pro Singles series over fourth-place finisher Ryan Wells 80-72. Kyle Johnson is third with 66 points. Texter moved into a tie with Vanderkuur for fourth in the standings with her win.
The series next moves to the Castle Rock (Wash.) TT on August 3.
Sacramento Mile Grand National results – July 29, 2013
1 42 Bryan Smith Flint, MI Kawasaki EX650 25 Laps
2 1 Jared Mees Honetbrook, PA Harley-Davidson +00.083
3 44 Brandon Robinson Oxford, PA Kawasaki EX650 +00.117
4 12 Brad Baker Eatonville, Wa Harley-Davidson +00.145
5 7 Sammy Halbert Graham, WA Harley-Davidson +00.223
6 5 Jake Johnson Coatesville, PA Harley-Davidson +08.669
7 2 Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. Morris, CT Harley-Davidson +08.739
8 27 Robert Pearson Morton, IL Harley-Davidson +09.747
9 17 Henry Wiles Winn, MI Ducati 749 +13.324
10 59 Willie McCoy Keller, TX Harley-Davidson +13.745 3
Sacramento Mile Pro Singles results – July 29, 2013
1 25A Shayna Texter Willow Street, PA Honda CRF450R 12 Laps
2 51Y Nate Wait Lodi, CA Honda CRF450R +00.016
3 1 Stephen Vanderkuur Davison, MI Honda CRF450R +00.224
4 94B Ryan Wells Albion, NY Honda CRF450R +03.238
5 30Z Bronson Bauman Salinas, CA Honda CRF450R +03.272
6 18M Wyatt Maguire Mead, WA Yamaha YZ 450F +03.401
7 76L Gerit Callies Hartford, SD KTM 450 SX-F +03.426
8 90M Wyatt Anderson Colbert, WA Suzuki RMZ 450 +10.884
9 44E Nick Armstrong Norco, CA Honda CRF450R +10.918
10 99Y Ryan Kearns Stockton, CA Honda CRF450R +10.926