AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship recap: Knoxville Half-Mile
NEWS June 19, 2014
Photo by Dave Hoenig
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2014) - Last Sunday marked the third time in series history AMA Pro Flat Track visited Knoxville Raceway in Knoxville, Iowa, to take on the half-mile oval. Kenny Coolbeth made headlines last offseason when he announced his plans to join forces with Zanotti Racing this year after sporting the Factory Harley-Davidson ride for so many seasons prior. Coolbeth's win last Sunday and fast start to 2014 indicates he's doing just fine with the transition.
"What can I say? You give me the kind of equipment that Zanotti Racing provides me with and this is what happens," said Coolbeth. "I'm just having fun out there. That's all it takes for me to go fast, is to simply have fun. I have great people to work with and I look forward to weekends now."
The three-time Grand National Champion seems healthy and mentally focused for the 2014 season, which isn't good news for his competition.
Second place finisher Jake Johnson has now been the runner-up in all three trips to Knoxville. Johnson, who earned GNC titles in 2010 and 2011, competed aboard his Rampsur Winery Harley-Davidson at Knoxville after riding a Ducati to a fourth place finish at the Springfield Mile three weeks before.
"The race went well, you know, third second place finish in a row for me at Knoxville, but I felt I had a good run," said Johnson. "We got off a rough start with a bad first corner. There were guys bumping and banging and I had nowhere to go. I got stuck on the outside and dropped back to like sixth or seventh. Thankfully I was able to pick my way through, though. We're definitely in the hunt this year. I'm feeling good. The last couple of years I've definitely been off a little bit but I'm back."
There is something about repeat performances at Knoxville Raceway, as Sammy Halbert, aboard his South East Harley-Davidson came in third place at the Midwest grounds for the third consecutive season.
"This was my third, third place finish at Knoxville so I definitely have to step it up," said Halbert. "This isn't really my style of racetrack. It's so big and round and you kind of have to keep the wheels in line, whereas I like to keep it twisted and get it sideways. I had a good race, though. I came off there behind (Stevie) Bonsey and was able to make a nice aggressive pass on him and get my way up into podium position. I fought with Jake (Johnson) and Jared (Mees) there a little bit so it was good company to be battling with."
Former Grand National Champion Jared Mees lost the battle with Halbert for the final spot on the podium. Mees, aboard his Rogers Racing Harley-Davidson, did manage to earn the fastest qualifying time of the afternoon and looks very good to start the 2014 season.
Stevie Bonsey's fifth place performance aboard his Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson completed a dreamlike weekend finish for his team, as both he and Coolbeth are on their ways to stellar seasons for the powerhouse outfit.
As expected, defending Grand National Champion Brad Baker broke into the top 10 in the overall point standings last weekend aboard his Factory Harley-Davidson, but his sixth place finish was still very far off the result he was undoubtedly hoping for. Baker knows he needs to get it in gear quickly if he plans on holding onto his No. 1 plate at the conclusion of the season.
Bryan Smith entered the weekend after having dominated at the legendary Springfield Mile just three weeks prior. Smith couldn't roll over that momentum to Knoxville, however, as he finished seventh aboard his Villa-Esparza Crosley Radio Kawasaki.
Although she finished well behind the leaders in the main event, Shayna Texter will always remember the event at the Knoxville Half-Mile as a very special day, as it was the first time she qualified for a Grand National main event. Texter took third in a semifinal to do so, but, with the appearance, the Willow Street, Pa. native has officially earned herself a national number plate for the 2015 season. Texter finished 16th in the main event aboard her Latus Motors Triumph.
"To get third in the semi and make my first GNC main event was absolutely huge for me," said Texter. "We didn't have the finish we were hoping for in the main event. We had a few issues with the bike early on and I just wanted to stay out there and gather as many points as possible. We have a new team, a new bike and a new chassis this year, so it's all part of the learning curve. Unfortunately, I couldn't go out there and race neck-and-neck with those guys, but we made the main event and now we're one more step in the right direction."
AMA Pro Flat Track will head to Lima, Ohio, for the Lima Half-Mile at the Allen County Fairgrounds on July 19, 2014.
How to Watch
FansChoice.tv will be the official home for live streaming coverage of AMA Pro Flat Track and AMA Pro Road Racing events in 2014. The site will also provide coverage of IMSA's development and single-make series, and NASCAR's touring and weekly series.
About AMA Pro Flat Track
AMA Pro Flat Track is a national motorcycle racing series in North America and is considered one of the oldest forms of motorcycle racing. Sanctioned by AMA Pro Racing, the Series is highly regarded as the most competitive form of dirt track racing in the world. The 2014 schedule consists of 16 rounds on the country's finest flat track courses. For more information on AMA Pro Flat Track, please visit www.amaproracing.com/ft.
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