2012 AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship
Labor Day Weekend and the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association (IMDA) promoted Springfield Doubleheader has become the promised land for dedicated fans of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil.
The weekend consists of a short track at the Illinois State Fairgrounds’ multi-purpose arena for the 450cc single-cylinder bikes on Saturday, before moving to the Holy Grail of flat track racing on Sunday, the Springfield Mile. The mile features the big twin-cylinder (750cc / 1000cc) monsters of AMA Pro Flat Track’s Expert Twins division turning laps at over 100mph.
The Saturday night short track race always features great handlebar rattling action with plenty of bumping, banging and hurt feelings to go around. Surprisingly, the only currently active rider with a Springfield Short Track win is Henry Wiles (Don’s Kawasaki). Wiles is famous for his Peoria TT dominance, but the beautiful State Fair Arena has been just as much his personal playground. Of the last 10 races held in the Arena (TT & Short Track), Wiles has won nine. He was forced to miss the 2010 TT while recovering from knee surgery.
Defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) has finished second the last two Springfield Short Track events and desperately needs a 2012 win. Johnson saw his string of podium finishes snapped at Indianapolis due to a rare crash in the Lucas Oil Indy Mile. The DNF dropped Johnson to third in the points race behind Sammy Halbert (South East Harley-Davidson / Fredericktown Yamaha) and points leader Jared Mees (Rogers Racing) neither of which have fared too well on the tight short track.
Of course there are always the “Young Lions” who are making their marks on the trail. Jeffrey Carver (Kiesow Racing) is quietly having a solid season and has recorded a podium finish on the short track. Fellow Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles Champion Brad Baker (Brothers Powersports / Dodge Brothers) hopes to settle his season down after jumping from team to team early in the year. Saddlemen Rookie of the Year leader Briar Bauman (USC Racing) has to be considered another contender along with his teammate, part-time dirt tracker, JD Beach.
In reality, it could be any of a large contingent, but they all have to beat Wiles to have a chance.
After the 450cc singles are all packed away, the action moves to Sunday’s Springfield Mile and the big bore twins. Bryan Smith (Howerton Racing), himself a two-time Springfield Mile winner has been dominate on his Kawasaki, but has come away with just one 2012 win, the Sacramento Mile. A strategy error in the Memorial Day Springfield race and electrical problems at Indy have plagued Smith in the other two Mile events contested so far as part of the 2012 schedule.
The race has always been a 140 mph chess match, favoring the veteran riders when it comes down to the final five miles of the 25 lap race. To reinforce this fact, semi-retired Willie McCoy (Harley-Davidson of Wausau / Independence Harley-Davidson) has a two-race winning streak on the legendary mile going for him. McCoy qualified for his first Springfield Mile National in 1996. Perhaps even more impressive is the rejuvenated Dan Ingram (Total Control Racing), who rode his first Springfield National in 1984. Unfortunately for the Indiana native, a crash at the Indy Mile two weeks ago has put his participation at this weekend’s round in jeopardy.
The top three in the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship chase have all had solid Springfield races in the past. Points leader Jared Mees has one win, while Jake Johnson has posted two wins. Sammy Halbert has been very fast, but bad luck, including a massive turn one crash in the spring that ended his day, has short circuited his efforts.
The AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles class will also be competing both days. While Saturday’s Short Track race is always competitive, the Mile on Sunday normally requires holding one’s breath for 12 laps as the 18 riders fight over one of the biggest wins of their young careers.
Current points leader Stephen Vanderkuur (Parkinson Brothers Racing) appears to be back at full strength after a broken leg in 2010 sidetracked his career. Ryan Wells (5 Star Steel & Fabrication) is just two points back. Jake Shoemaker (Montgomeryville Cycle) and Jason Isennock (Highs Dairy) remain in the thick of the points race.
Shoemaker is looking to repeat his win of last year’s Labor Day Mile, but there are truly so many riders in this class that have a chance of winning either or both days.
Tickets for this weekend are on sale now and can be ordered by calling 217-753-8866 or 888-468-1622. Tickets for the 2013 races can be ordered starting January 2, 2013.
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