The Illinois weather proved to be a fickle companion throughout the Memorial Day Weekend, but it finally cooperated on Monday to see the riders hit the track for the Springfield TT.
The following is an industry press release...
SPRINGFIELD, IL (May 30, 2011) - The Illinois weather proved to be a fickle companion throughout the Memorial Day Weekend, as the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track TT that was rained out of its original Saturday spot found sunny, hot, and windy conditions when riders returned to try it again Monday.
Those conditions kept AMA Pro staff, the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association, and the track crew busy inside the Illinois State Fairgrounds Multi-Purpose Arena, as they worked to keep the tricky track from turning into a narrow groove. For the most part they succeeded, but the circuit remained slick and there were several red flags as the day went on.
The first start of the 25-lap, nineteen-rider National saw a pile-up send Rob Pearson (Matt Reecy Racing/RPM) to the sidelines and current points leader Sammy Halbert (Woody Kyle Racing /Fredericktown Yamaha) to the penalty line. Defending Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) led all the way on the restart, but he had it far from easy. Monster Energy Kawasaki Warner-Springsteen Racing's JR Schnabel, who'd won the Springfield TT three times previously, and Rogers Lake Racing/Montgomeryville Honda's Jared Mees, who was attempting to become the first rider in flat track history to win both the TT and Mile on the same weekend, gave chase even as they battled each other.
"I knew I had to get out front early and set my own pace," said Johnson. "I peeked back and saw JR and Jared were close, but I felt I had a good gap. With about five to go I looked back and saw Jared was closing. I think they need to do a sound check on that thing-it sounded like he was right on my heels."
"I felt really good early in the race," said Schnabel, "but when the track gets slicker, I get kind of excited. Jared got up inside me one time and I got real excited. I got him back that time, but I started making mistakes and he got me back for good."
"I could see Jake in front of us and I knew he wasn't getting away," said Mees. "JR was holding me up, but I just couldn't get that one opening that I needed. Once I did get by I was closing on Jake, but catching and passing are two different things. [Finishing 1-2] is by far my best Springfield result, so I have to be happy."
For a time, Chris Carr's Farewell Tour appeared to be headed for the excellent results Carr expected. The seven-time Grand National Champion set the fast time in Qualifying and led his heat into the right-hander the first time, then slipped down and into the rear of the pack, earning himself a trip to the semis. After finishing sixth in the semi Carr was forced to use his provisional, finishing fifteenth.
Turning in a lonely fourth was Mack Daddy Racing's Stevie Bonsey, who'd passed Kenny Coolbeth (Chaplin Kawasaki) on Lap 3 and settled in for a good finish. Coolbeth held down fifth until Sammy Halbert, coming up from the fourth row, took over on Lap 21. SNIP/Shoei-backed Matt Weidman finished just behind Coolbeth, while Monster Energy Kawasaki Werner-Springsteen Racing's Shaun Russell was all over Weidman and finished eighth.
JR Schnabel came away the big winner in the Dash for Cash, edging out Mees and Halbert.
By the end of the long weekend, the points race has closed. Sammy Halbert still holds the overall GNC lead, but Johnson is now only seven points back. For the moment, the battle for the crown has turned into a two-rider duel, as Mees trails 33 points behind Halbert in third.
The Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles race was marked by numerous red flags, and a total of five riders were parked on the penalty line when the sixteen-lap race got underway in earnest. Unfortunately for Shoe Racing's Will Cato, who held a solid lead, the race was red-flagged again just short of the half-way mark.
On the first lap of the restart, Cato and Weirbach Racing's Mikey Martin made contact and Cato went down in front of the pack. Though each rider was able to skillfully avoid him, his day was done. Martin then set sail, but Boughner Racing's Mikey Avila was closing fast. With two laps to go, Avila pounced, and the battle was over quickly. Thirty Four Racing's Hayden Gillim was one of the riders coming from the penalty line, and he finished a fast-closing third.
Former points-leader, Vortex Sprocket's Gerit Callies (another penalty-line resident) finish fourth, with Al Lamb's Dallas Honda's Jeremy Hamilton rounding out the top five.
By way of his win, Avila becomes the new points leader in the Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles Championship. Callies is just seven points back, and thanks to his two second-place finishes this weekend, Martin is third, thirteen points back.
After a week off to recover from the long weekend, the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship goes to Hartford, Michigan, for the first time for yet another "Twins" race-this time on a half-mile.
For tickets and information, visit www.hartfordmotorspeedway.net or call (269) 764-0514. To become a part of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship, vist amaproracing.com and join us on facebook.com/AMAProFlatTrackSeries and twitter.com/AMAProFlatTrack.