AMA Grand National Twins season finale
After a seven week hiatus, the AMA Pro Grand National Twins Championship wrapped up the 2009 season before a packed house at the LA County Fairgrounds. With the points title still up for grabs, Jared Mees unloaded his No. 21 Blue Springs Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson / Rogers Lake Racing backed XR-750 with a 15 point lead over defending three-time Grand National Champion Kenny Coolbeth and his No. 1 Harley-Davidson Factory mount.
No. 42 Bryan Smith (Screamin’ Eagle / Moroney’s Harley-Davidson), No. 43 Sammy Halbert (Halbert Family / King’s Customs / Glassman), No. 4 Chris Carr (Chris Carr Racing / Lancaster Harley-Davidson) and No. 14 Jake Johnson (SuperTrapp / F&S Harley-Davidson / Saddlemen) all were mathematically still in the hunt.
The 5/8-mile Fairplex oval proved to be just as challenging as it was in 1996, the last time the Grand National circus came to town. Even though Mees was fast early in the day, posting the fourth quick time in qualifying, he was playing it safe in his heat and could only muster a fifth place finish in the third heat. The points leader would have to come through a semi and start from the back row in the 25 lap National.
No. 17 Henry Wiles (KK Motorcycle Supply / Mike Adkins) had wrapped up the Grand National Singles Championship in the last race at the Springfield Short Track and was looking to pull off his first Twins National victory when he got the hole shot in the 18 rider main.
Bryan Smith, No. 3 Joe Kopp (Latus Harley-Davidson / Screamin’ Eagle) and No. 80Y Stevie Bonsey (Top 1 Oil / Alpinestar) were in hot pursuit. On the fourth lap Bonsey fell in Turn 3 and collected Halbert, bringing a red flag. Halbert would make the restart, but Bonsey’s night was over.
Smith used the restart to full advantage grabbing a small lead over Wiles and a resurgent Coolbeth. No. 20 Matt Weidman (Chris Carr Racing / Matt’s Racing) and Chris Carr were working their way into the mix ahead of Mees and Johnson.
Smith looked to be on his way to repeating his Lima victory when on Lap 11 he coasted to a stop in Turn 2. The dejected Smith was forced to leave his Harley sitting in the hay bales, ending his night.
Wiles was now in charge with Coolbeth and Weidman not far behind. As Weidman made his bid for the lead the rough surface almost bit him allowing Mees to slip into the podium position on Lap 15.
While the leaders were involved with their problems, Halbert had carved his way into contention and he took over third on Lap 18. Kopp also dropped Mees a spot as he passed on Lap 21. The podium was set with Wiles holding nearly a three second lead over Coolbeth at the end of 25 laps. Halbert was another three seconds back.
The fifth place finish for Mees was enough for the 23-year-old to wrap up his first Grand National title. Mees made the move over to the Rogers Lake Racing Team this year, bringing his Blue Springs Screamin’ Eagle sponsor along and it paid off big time. "I’ve been chasing this for 19 years and a million miles," said team owner Craig Rogers. "This is what it’s all about."