It took two days, but the AMA Pro Grand National Singles Championship concluded on Labor Day with a thrilling 25 lap dogfight. Yeoman work by the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association, Illinois State Fairgrounds equipment operators and AMA Pro Racing staff got the saturated bull ring short track ready after rain forced the race, which was originally scheduled to be run on Saturday, to be postponed.
Entering the last race, only Kawasaki USA / Jones Brothers Racing / DPC Racing’s No. 17 Henry Wiles and Memphis Shades / Parts Unlimited’s No. 33 JR Schnabel had mathematical chances to win the points race, and Wiles immediately flexed his muscles by setting the fast time in qualifying and winning the first heat.
Schnabel struggled to a fourth-place finish in a talent laden third heat, leaving him out of the all-important Dash and a chance for five bonus points. Unfortunately for Schnabel, Wiles was up to the task, winning the four-lap race in well under one minute. Fast qualifier Lanpheres Beaverton Renton Honda / Pro Honda Oils’ No. 3 Joe Kopp finished second over No. 4 Chris Carr Racing / Dallas Fort Worth Honda’s Chris Carr. The win pushed his points lead to 19 as the 25 lap National came to the line.
Kopp got the hole shot in the main with Wiles, Delano Sports Center’s No. 29 Jake Mataya and Mack Daddy Racing’s No. 20 Matt Weidman right behind.
The former Grand National Champion looked to have things under control, as Wiles seemed content with shadowing the Honda pilot. Pro Honda Oils / Rogers Lake Racing’s No. 21 Jared Mees worked his way into third by Lap 3 and immediately began to pester Wiles.
The race started to look more like the Springfield Mile than the Springfield Short Track as the lead trio started to trade positions. Kopp would maintain the lead at the line, but Wiles and Mees were closing fast with Yeager Cycles / Dave Burks Motorsports’ No. 87 Mick Kirkness sneaking into the fray.
Lap 11 saw Mees in second and pressuring for the lead, but Wiles was back on Lap 15 and shot into the lead on Lap 20. Wiles started pulling away as Kopp added a small cushion over Mees. The win gave Wiles the AMA Pro Grand National Expert Singles Championship.
Mees had his hands full as the Australian champion was making a fierce charge trying for his first GNC podium finish.
Woody Kyle Racing / Fredericktown Yamaha’s No. 43 Sammy Halbert made a late-race pass for fifth over Weidman. Defending Singles Champion, No. 1 Jake Johnson worked his SuperTrapp / F&S / Saddlemen backed Honda from the back to a seventh-place finish. Carr, Schnabel and Mataya rounded out the top ten.
Surprisingly, earlier in the program the Pro Singles Championship was decided with one race left on their schedule. Mike Velasco / Brothers Powersports’ No. 17M Brad Baker started the day with a ten point lead over Weirbach Racing / Barnett’s No. 71B James Rispoli.
When the twelve lap main got under way, it was Championship contenders Rispoli, Baker and Van’s Yamaha / Stevens Racing’s No. 24P Jeff Carver running up front.
Rispoli was able to control the race for nine laps, but Baker slipped by on Lap 10. Rispoli quickly responded, but slipped wide and Baker drove right back into the lead. The championship was decided in Turn 4 of the last lap, when Rispoli tried to get inside of Baker off Turn 4, only to get into the leader’s rear wheel, slamming the challenger to the ground and giving the race win and AMA Pro Grand National Pro Singles Championship to Baker. Left with now where to go, Carver was gathered up in the incident as well.
Southland Racing / O’Neal’s No. 42E Kayl Kolkman snaked his way through the carnage for second. RLJ Racing / Sunnyside Cycle’s No. 82B won a drag race off Turn 4 over Mom & Dad / Greenland & Son Masonary’s Mike Poe for the last podium spot.
Illinois State Fairgrounds
AMA Pro Racing Pro Singles Championship: (18 riders / 12 laps) 1. Brad Baker (Hon); 2. Kayl Kolkman (Hon); 3. Jeremy Higgins (Hon); 4. Mike Poe (Kaw); 5. Jake Shoemaker (Suz); 6. Stephen Vanderkuur (Hon); 7. Kenny Malaguarnero (Hon); 8. Zach Palmer (Hon); 9. Cory Strickler (Yam); 10. Andrew Smith (Hon); 11. Joe Parks (Hon); 12. Adam Cobb (Yam); 13. Lucas Scherb (Hsq); 14. Shayna Texter (Suz); 15. John Long (Suz); 16. James Rispoli (Suz); 17. Jeff Carver (Yam); 18. Kurtis Lee (Hon).
AMA Pro Racing Grand National Singles Championship: (18 riders / 25 laps) 1. Henry Wiles (Kaw); 2. Joe Kopp (Hon); 3. Jared Mees (Hon); 4. Mick Kirkness (Suz); 5. Sammy Halbert (Yam); 6. Matt Weidman (Hon); 7. Jake Johnson (Hon); 8. Chris Carr (Hon); 9. JR Schnabel (Yam); 10. Jake Mataya (Kaw); 11. Don Taylor (Hon); 12. AJ Eslick (Suz); 13. Stevie Bonsey (Hon); 14. Brandan Bergen (Hon); 15. Chad Cose (Hon); 16. Aaron King (KTM); 17. Mike Radley (Hon); 18. Brady Mueller (Hon).