Baker is Ninth on Factory Harley in an AMA Pro Grand National Classic
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (Sept. 1, 2014) – Harley-Davidson Wrecking Crew rider Jared Mees finished third in a classic Springfield Mile battle of AMA Pro Grand National Twins that saw a lead pack of up to 10 riders racing motorcycles elbow-to-elbow at 140 mph on the dirt oval at the Illinois State Fairgrounds.
Mees raced his Rogers Racing/Las Vegas H-D/Blue Springs H-D Harley-Davidson® XR750 motorcycle at the front for the entire race, which was won on a last-corner pass by Zanotti Racing/Moroneys H-D rider Kenny Coolbeth Jr., also on a Harley-Davidson XR750 motorcycle.
Harley-Davidson® Screamin’ Eagle® Factory Team rider Brad Baker finished ninth after working his way up from a third-row start to catch the lead pack and run as high as seventh place. Baker finished fifth in his qualifying heat and won a semi-final heat to advance to the main.
“We raced hard today but a balky transmission set me back in the heat race,” said Baker, “It happened again at the start of the main and pretty much left me dead last. I had a good Harley under me otherwise and raced back to that lead group, but once you get up there it’s a lot of fast riders to pass. Just unfortunate for us but we are looking forward to the last two races out west.”
At the start of the 25-lap main, Crosley Radios/Villa-Esparza Kawasaki rider Bryan Smith led a pack of riders that included Coolbeth, Mees, Hot Shot Motors Kawasaki rider Jake Shoemaker, Don’s Kawasaki rider Henry Wiles and Jake Johnson on the Ramspur Winery/Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Kawasaki. Those six riders would race at the front for the first 15 laps, with Smith, Johnson, and Wiles each officially leading a lap and others taking the lead for parts of each lap as the riders tested the draft and track conditions.
By lap 20 Smith, Coolbeth, Mees and Shoemaker had opened a gap on the field and all seemed ready to let Smith lead until the last lap. It was Coolbeth who made the decisive move, taking an outside line in turn four to move around Mees and Smith and get a great drive down the front straight. Smith tried to draft past him on the run to the finish line but came up a wheel – or 0.010 seconds – short. Mees crossed the line just 0.140 seconds behind Coolbeth. Shoemaker was fourth, 0.363 seconds back.
“We all knew Smith was in the catbird seat on those last laps and decided to let him lead us to the end,” said Mees. “Kenny and I were a little faster than Bryan in the corners, so we had to hold back a bit and we both had the same idea at the end, which was to protect that outside line for a pass. But Kenny got there first and made a great move. I’m glad we were at the front and leave Springfield with some points to keep pace with Smith heading into the last two races.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Johnson won the four-lap Dash for Cash bonus sprint race.
With a pair of half-mile races left on the AMA Pro Grand National Twins schedule, Smith leads the series with 267 points. Mees is second with 254 points, followed by Johnson with 237 points and Coolbeth with 217 points. Baker is sixth with 169 points.
AMA Grand National Twins racing resumes on September 27 on the Calistoga Speedway half-mile in Calistoga, California.
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