Coolbeth Takes Fifth on Factory Harley at Colonial Downs
Saturday’s event was the first for the AMA Grand National series at 1.25-mile Colonial Downs, and the size of the track presented a number of challenges for the riders.
“This track is so long and the corners so wide we were running the bike wide-open all the way around the track,” said Coolbeth. “It was really fast but also hard on engines and tires.”
After struggling to get his primary bike on the pace in qualifying and in his heat race, Coolbeth and the Factory Harley-Davidson team switched to a back-up XR750 for a semi-final heat. Coolbeth finished second in the semi behind series points leader Brad Baker on the Dodge Brothers Racing Harley-Davidson, who had suffered a mechanical problem in his heat race.
To accommodate the length of the Colonial Downs track, the Grand National main was shortened from the usual 25 laps to 20 laps, and then to 18 laps just before the start after some teams expressed concern about excess tire wear affecting safety. Polesitter Bryan Smith led from the start on the Crosley Radio Kawasaki and had a two-second lead by the third lap. Starting from the back row, Coolbeth moved up to 10th place in the early laps, while Baker jumped up to join a group that also included Mees and Lloyd Brothers Motorsports/Ducati rider Henry Wiles and battled for second place in very close racing.
On lap nine Smith suddenly faltered as his motorcycle suffered an intermittent electric problem, and he dropped from the lead back to 17th position. Just a moment later, Baker also dropped out of the race with mechanical issue. This put Mees in the lead with nine laps remaining and Wiles about a half-second behind in second place. Mees maintained his pace and the lead to take the win, crossing the line 1.885 seconds ahead of Wiles. TJ Burnett Farms/Kawasaki rider Brandon Robinson was third, seven seconds behind Mees, followed by Monster Energy Kawasaki rider Briar Bauman and Coolbeth, who finished just 0.009 seconds behind Bauman in fifth position. Smith finished 12th.
“We just couldn’t get the main motorcycle set up and running fast today, so switching to the back-up bike was the right move,” said Coolbeth. “This track was a new challenge for us and considering how we started I’m happy with this result. Now we head back to Springfield for two races next weekend, and we are looking forward to racing there. It’s a track where we’ve had some success in the past.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Smith won the Dash for Cash bonus sprint race.
Saturday’s results tightened the series points battle, and both Smith and Baker lost an opportunity to improve their position. Despite his DNF, Baker still leads the series with 156 points, but that lead shrinks from 33 to 17 points. Wiles moves past Smith into second place with 139 points. Smith scored 12 points on the day but drops back to third place with 134 points. Race-winner Mees gains 24 points on Baker and is in fourth place with 128 points, followed by Robinson with 113 points, Lloyd Brothers Ducati rider Jake Johnson with 101 points, and Coolbeth in seventh place with 96 points.
AMA Grand National Twins series next meets for a Labor Day weekend double-header at the historic Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, with afternoon racing scheduled on August 31 and September 1.
Harley-Davidson Motor Company produces heavyweight custom, cruiser and touring motorcycles and offers a complete line of Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts, accessories, riding gear and apparel, and general merchandise. For more information, visit harley-davidson.com.
The Harley-Davidson Screamin' Eagle Factory Flat Track team is sponsored by Dunlop and Traxxas.