Bryan Smith Clenches Victory in Fast Paced Springfield Mile II
NEWS September 24, 2012
Photo by Dave Hoenig
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 25, 2012) - Following a two week rain induced delay the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil returned to the Illinois State Fairgrounds for the Springfield Mile. The Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association and the fairgrounds crew had the big mile oval in nearly perfect condition for the high speed ballet that played out on Sunday afternoon.
Bryan Smith, back aboard his Crosley Radio / Howerton Motorsports backed Kawasaki, gave a quick preview of things to come as he swept the four lap Dash for Cash over defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) and current points leader Jared Mees (Rogers Racing / Blue Springs Harley-Davidson) by a very narrow margin.
When the 18 rider field roared off the line in the 25-lap National Main Event, it was Johnson claiming the lead over Mees and Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson Motor Company's Kenny Coolbeth tucked in right behind. Smith quickly worked his way up from sixth to second on lap three only to slip back again in the large pack that made up the lead pack. Smith roared back to the front and into the lead on lap six. Officially, he would never be headed, as he led every lap from there out, but at places around the huge oval that was not the case.
"I was feeling pretty comfortable, I led probably 20 laps or something. I thought it looked like it was going to be no problem,"said Smith. "I was giving it everything I had. I was riding hard and thought nobody was showing me a wheel and I thought I had it covered. With about three to go, my front tire kind of went away and I lost the front end going into turn one and ran wide. Two or three guys went by me. I dropped back to fourth there for a second and my heart about came out my helmet. They all ran real low down the back straightaway and Jared and (Sammy) Halbert were like on top of each other. They were kind of wobbling and Willie (McCoy) was going up the inside of them. I was like almost on the guard rail down the straightaway. It was really, really sketchy. Once I got back into the lead I knew I just had to stick on that rail and not mess up. I could get off the corner really well and I could get into the corners really well. I think that is where the key is for me. In the middle I could match the Harleys in one and two. In three and four I couldn't get through the corner as well. I could really get into the corners deep. I could pass them when I needed to. Even if they showed me a wheel, I could go in a little deeper and still lead it."
The top-10 were able to get a little separation, but the war at the front raged on and positions varied wildly all round the track.
South East Harley-Davidson's Sammy Halbert worked his way to Smith's rear wheel, but the drive stalled there. "I had a second row start. On the start of the main event, I was able to work my way into second place. There was not much of an outside line, but I was able to make some passes around the outside. I just stuck right on Bryan's rear wheel. I wasn't going to let anybody pass me," added Halbert. Having improved his position the most throughout the main event, Halbert earned the MotoBatt "Hard Charger" Award.
Points leader, Jared Mees grabbed his second third place finish of the weekend with a little help from his friends. "I kind of got a little bit of a gift from Jake and Willie. Jake ran around the outside of Willie and Willie squeezed on him. They hit and about went down. That allowed me to get up there and get third."
"It got mixed up big time, there at the end. Bryan blew the groove down there and everybody kind of saw the opportunity," said Johnson. "Everybody followed him around the whole race. Two guys went by me down the back straightaway. We came down the front and I just remember Willie going to the bottom and I went to the top and went around a guy and we came in. I had about a half a bike length on him and thought I had him cleared. I guess I started coming down and he was coming up. I felt him kind of getting into the side of me and kind of drug us both off the groove. I kind of feel it was my fault a little bit. I'm not sure. I haven't talked to him yet. I went down to find him, but it was just one of those deals, it was a pretty wild race. We were sitting pretty good, but stuff happens I guess. I had a little bad luck that last lap and got off the groove."
Also benefiting was USC Kawasaki / Red Bull's JD Beach as the youngster moved from sixth to fourth on the last lap. "It was a really good race. I had a lot of fun. I finished fourth and that's my best finish on a twin on the mile," said Beach. "I was happy, I was sitting there with the lead pack. It was cool to get the experience and just to watch them. They were battling really hard."
"Since there are only a few races left in the season, I think I maybe could have moved up a little bit more, but I don't know the draft good yet. I don't want to take the chance and blow somebody off the groove that's racing for the number 1 plate," explained Beach. "It was a really good race. The bike was working great. A couple guys made a few mistakes on the last few laps. I was in eighth and I was able to get by them and get fourth. I was real happy to be able to get a top five. I didn't make any mistakes really. Not only was it a good learning experience, but there are not that many people that get to go out there and race the Springfield mile with the fastest guys. Not only was I racing with them, I was there for 25 laps getting to watch them. It's cool because growing up I've always watched races with Scott Parker, Chris Carr and Joe Kopp. It was really cool to be up there and see it first hand."
Johnson was able to regroup for a fifth place finish just ahead of Coolbeth and McCoy. Beach's USC Kawasaki teammate Jethro Halbert and Werner Springsteen Racing / Kawasaki's Brandon Robinson were nipping on McCoy's heels with Brad Baker (Dodge Brothers Racing / Perry's Harley-Davidson) rounding out the top ten.
Jared Mees heads west for the last three rounds of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil with a 12 point lead over defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson. Despite his second place finish, Sammy Halbert is now third 23 points off the lead.