Smith gives Kawasaki its first ever win at Hagerstown
NEWS July 8, 2014
PHOTO BY DAVE HOENIG
HAGERSTOWN, Md. (July 8, 2014) - For the first time since 1996, a rider rode something other than a Harley-Davidson to the coveted Hagerstown Half-Mile victory. In fact, the man who ended Harley's domination on the Maryland clay, Bryan Smith, did so on a Kawasaki, marking the first victory for the manufacturer at Hagerstown in any AMA Pro Flat Track class.
Smith's victory in the 33rd annual "Hub City Classic" on his Villa Esparza/Crosley Radio machine gave the Michigan rider his second Grand National Championship win of the season.
"What really makes this special is that it's Kawasaki's first half-mile win," Smith said. "I gave them their first mile win and their first half-mile win."
Throughout the course of his career, Smith has been notorious for dominating mile-long tracks but hasn't fared as well on the shorter circuits. Some people might even go as far as to call it an Achilles heel for Smith. However, No. 42 pilot was clicking on all cylinders in Hagerstown and put together a performance that, moving forward, may prove gut-wrenching for his competitors, as the last thing they need is for Smith to add another strong suit to his already daunting repertoire.
Though Smith looked extremely sharp on Saturday night, he got a little help from the field. Kenny Coolbeth looked as if he would run away with his third win of the season before suffering a major setback on lap eight when his motorcycle malfunctioned, forcing him to let up and withdrawal from the main event.
With Coolbeth in the paddock, Smith's biggest rival of the night was Jared Mees. Mees, the 2012 Grand National Champion and winner of the Hagerstown Half-Mile that same year, gave Smith all he could handle for the majority of the race. The duo went side-by-side, nearly touching, corner after corner. After racing several laps within milliseconds of each other, Smith finally was able to get separation from Mees on lap 24 and earn the victory by .832 seconds.
With Mees settling for a runner-up finish, Jake Shoemaker rounded out the podium, placing third on his No. 55 Montgomeryville Cycle Center Kawasaki.
The historic significance of his win wasn't lost on Smith, but it was actually the second straight AMA Pro Flat Track race in which the winner could be considered unlikely.
"I don't think any of my competitors would have picked Jared to come away with the Lima win last weekend or myself to come away with the win tonight," said Smith. "These specific tracks aren't my cup of tea but I'm very fortunate that I have a great group of guys behind me and that I was able to come away with the win. It felt great."
Mees certainly did his part to make life difficult for Smith. He was particularly strong entering turn 3 and got even with Smith a half dozen times through the second half of the circuit.
"I finally got off to a good start," said Mees. "And I was kind of just running my own race back there in third, and then I saw Coolbeth break and I was just like, 'Man, I gotta put something together and try to hunt Bryan down.'
"I started putting my head down and got a really good line in turns 3 and 4 and started rolling right up on Bryan. He kind of taught me something in 1 and 2, so I used his line there. ... (With) about five to go, it felt like I was losing grip and losing drive and couldn't move forward anymore. I wanted to win Hagerstown so bad, and it's a lot of fun here, but we came a long way from the heat race to now. Once again, the team got this second place for me, there's no doubt, they work so hard back there preparing it for me and making it easy for me."
Shoemaker's appearance on the podium was his second in as many years in Maryland.
"It was a tough race coming from the second row, I had to come from eighth," Shoemaker said. "To put it up here on the box for the second year in a row (is good). Last year I got second here, and this year, I did get third, I went the other direction from where I wanted to go, but I just can't thank my sponsors enough."
The points battle shook out to be just as tight leaving Maryland was it was entering it. Mees is the championship leader with 104 points, just one in front of Jake Johnson, who placed sixth at Hagerstown aboard his No. 5 Ramspur Winery Ducati. Coolbeth and his No. 2 Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson are six points off the lead in third and tied with Smith. No. 44 USC Kawasaki pilot Brandon Robinson and rider of the No. 7 South East Harley-Davidson, Sammy Halbert left Hagerstown fifth and sixth in points, respectively. Just 16 points separate the top six riders in the championship hunt.
Doug Lawrence on the No. 73 Lawrence Racing Harley-Davidson finished a solid seventh at Hagerstown, just .004 seconds behind Johnson. Henry Wiles used a provisional to gain entry to the main event after a radiator malfunction on the starting grid of the semifinal forced him to the back of the field. Wiles was able to repair his No. 17 Dons Kawasaki EX650 and ride to eighth in the main. Defending GNC champion Brad Baker finished ninth on his No. 1 Factory Harley-Davidson and Brian Bauman rounded out the top 10 on the No. 14 Monster Energy Kawasaki.
Outside of a lackluster start, Kyle Johnson was simply flawless on his No. 77J Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda Saturday at the Hagerstown Half-Mile. The Twin Lake, Mich., rider claimed his third straight AMA Pro Flat Track Pro Singles victory, passing second place Ryan Wells on the No. 94B GE Capital KTM on the final lap in a thrilling 16-lap main.
"We got off to kind of a rough start, we had our work cut out for us," said Johnson. "By the time I got into third, Ryan and Davis (Fisher), they were out there. I just knew I had to keep pushing myself. But man, this has got to be the best win yet because I had to work for that one."
Wells looked to be the man to beat all race, getting the holeshot and building a nice lead over Fisher and fourth place finisher Jarod Vanderkooi on the No. 17F Johnny's Vintage Motorcycles Honda. But while Wells turned laps, Johnson was picking his way to the front. Johnson got around third place finisher Fisher on the No. 67M TJ Burnett Farms Honda just before the white flag lap.
The second spot on the podium was bittersweet for Wells, who knew he had a bike that could win.
"Definitely can't be upset about a second place," said Wells. "Rolling into the main event, I knew Davis and Kyle were going to be some hard people to beat. But I really thought we were going to have that one. And to get passed on the last lap kind of sucks, but as the lead rider, how do you go high to ride maybe the fastest way around the track when there's some guy hot on your butt?"
Johnson left Hagerstown with the points lead, but he's just two in front of Wells. Fisher is in third, four off the lead. Brandon Wilhelm and Dylan Morin are fourth and fifth in points after finishing 10th and seventh, respectively, in Maryland.
The stars of AMA Pro Flat Track will head to Elma, Wash., and Grays Harbor Raceway on July 19, 2014. Footage of the Hagerstown Half-Mile is available to view on AMA Pro Racing's YouTube portal at www.youtube.com/amaprovids.
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.