DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Memorial Day Weekend is coming soon and not only does this mean the start of the 2012 summer, but one of the biggest weekends for the stars of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil.
For flat track racing enthusiasts, the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill., is the destination of choice for the holiday weekend as the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association hosts rounds three and four of the 2012 AMA Pro Flat Track season on May 26th and 27th.
The night of Saturday, May 26th will find the AMA Pro athletes aboard their 450cc Singles for a TT event at the Fairgrounds Arena, with the fire-breathing Twins making their first appearance of the season Sunday, May 27th on the legendary Springfield Mile.
This will be the 12th TT race in the picturesque arena, but only three current racers have posted wins there. Recently it has been Henry Wiles (Don’s Kawasaki) dominating and he has won the last three times he was able to compete, having missed last year’s contest due to an injury. JR Schnabel (Suburban Harley-Davidson) also has three wins and a total of six podium finishes in his 10 main event finishes. Defending AMA Pro Grand National Champion Jake Johnson (Zanotti Racing) has posted two wins, including last year’s victory, and has been on the podium five times in nine tries.
Current Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship points leader Matt Weidman (DFW Honda / SNIP) has not had the best of luck on the TT, scoring a seventh in his one main appearance. A great Daytona has the youngster looking to improve on those numbers drastically. Jared Mees (Montgomeryville Cycle Center) sits second in points after coming within a quarter of a lap of winning the second Daytona race, but he also has two podium finishes on the challenging Springfield TT.
Johnny Lewis sits third in the points with one win and will be looking to use some of his Supermoto experience to improve on his best finish here of seventh.
Sunday’s Springfield Mile marks the first time the big twins come out of the trailer and there are many changes in the works for 2012. Kawasaki, Ducati, Triumph, Suzuki and the venerable Harley-Davidson are all entered in search of their first win in 2012.
The race has always been a 140 mph chess match, favoring the veteran riders when it comes down to the five miles of the 25-lap race. With Chris Carr retired (50 starts), former Grand National Champion Kenny Coolbeth (Harley-Davidson Motor Company) is the active rider with the most starts at 31 and three wins. Second on the starts list is Willie McCoy. McCoy was the sentimental winner of last year’s fall race in his 29th start.
Bryan Smith made history in 2010 when he won aboard a Kawasaki and hopes to grab his third Springfield win aboard his brand new Howerton Motorsports-built Kawasaki. There are many, many riders with a chance to come away with the crown jewel of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Grand National Championship presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com and Lucas Oil and fans will no doubt be treated to 25 laps of close racing as 18 riders draft for the victory.
The quest for the Saddlemen Rookie of the Year Award continues as Briar Bauman (Rod Lake Racing / Brown’s Cycles), Mikey Avila (SDI Insulation / Bisha Racing) and Mikey Martin (Bonneville Performance Triumph) all try to make history; no Rookie has finished on the Springfield Mile podium since 1955 (Brad Andres 3rd).
AMA Pro Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles
The Motorcycle-Superstore.com Pro Singles class will also be competing both days, but current points leader Hayden Gillim will be in Utah plying his skills with AMA Pro Road Racing. That leaves Gerit Callies (Fun Mart / Power Brokers), Hunter Taylor (Kirkland Racing / Hunter Manufacturing) and Ryan Wells (Weirbach Racing), who are tied for second, to try and take advantage of the absent Gillim.
While Saturday’s TT race is always competitive, the Mile on Sunday normally requires the holding of your breath for 12 laps as the 18 riders fight over one of the biggest wins of their young careers.
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