DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (Zanotti Racing/Honda) took home his first AMA Pro Flat Track victory of 2014 to close out Friday night’s Grand National at the Daytona Flat Track.
“I’ve wanted this win for a long time and it feels amazing to finally get it,” said Coolbeth. “I’ve been working hard all winter. I have a great team behind me with the best equipment and I think it’s going to be a great season. To tell you the truth, I wish the Springfield Mile was tomorrow.”
Coolbeth almost beat the field twice Friday night, as he claimed victory by over four full seconds and lapped multiple riders in the process. Once Coolbeth passed Jake Johnson (Ramspur Winery/Honda) on lap five, he pressed the turbo button and dusted the competition for the remainder of the race.
At the midway point, Coolbeth had opened up over a 2.5 second lead over Johnson and it was clear that it was his night.
Even in defeat, Johnson’s second place finish had to be a refreshing rebound for him after his lackluster 10th place performance in the season opener last night.
Stevie Bonsey (Zanotti Racing/Honda) started second on the grid and reverted back a spot as he finished third to round out the night’s podium.
Sammy Halbert (Fredericktown Yamaha/Yamaha) put together another impressive performance Friday night with a fourth place finish. The 26-year-old appears to be in great health this season as he is two-for-two in top-five performances to begin 2014.
Brandon Robinson (USC Kawasaki/Kawasaki) undoubtedly had one of the fastest bikes in Friday night’s main event. After crashing on lap two and being forced to start from the back of the pack, Robinson maneuvered his way through traffic on his way to a fifth-place finish.
The AMA Pro Singles main event was an 18-lap shootout for the checkered flag and it was Brandon Wilhelm (Wilhelm Racing/Honda), starting from sixth on the grid, who came away with the win in what developed into an absolute thriller.
“I can’t believe this is happening right now,” said an ecstatic Wilhelm. “It feels so good. The track was a little slick but it wasn’t bad. I just had to work the throttle a little bit and it worked in my favor. I’ve never felt anything like this before, it’s truly an amazing feeling.”
Wilhelm got the holeshot and was cruising to his first win of the season before two riders went down and forced the red flags to fly. The staggered start meant that Wilhelm’s more than a second lead would be diminished and he’d have to really fight if he wanted to earn the victory.
Wilhelm did just that, as he slammed the throttle and earned the first win of his career.
The story of the night was the strength of the underdog. As impressive as Wilhelm’s victory was after starting from sixth on the grid, Davis Fisher (TJ Burnett Farms/Honda) knifed his way to an impressive second-place finish after starting in the ninth position. If that isn’t intriguing enough, third-place finisher Justin Jones (Jones Racing/Honda) came all the way back from 11th on the grid to round out the podium after passing Ryan Wells (KTM/KTM) on lap 15.
J.R. Addison (Parkinson Bros Racing/Honda) and last night’s AMA Pro Singles main event winner and Ryan Wells put together a solid performance to close out the top-five.