AMA Pro Grand National Championship Flat Track Series
Round 11: The Indy Mile at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Story by Dan Jacobson Sr.
Photos by David N. Haughs, Brent Pierce and Kurt Bauer
INDIANAPOLIS, IN, AUG. 8, 2014
Should you like motorcycles and vacations, Indy is the place to be the during the Indiana State Fair, for the AMA Pro Grand National Championship Flat Track Indy Mile and World MotoGP. Put it all together with the lights of the midway, and it is legendary!
Joe Leonard won the first running of the Mile back in 1954. It should come as no surprise that Joe was racing a Harley-Davidson, as the iconic brand has won a majority on the Indy Mile. Scott Parker (now retired) owns the record for the most wins (with eight). The who’s-who of racing have left their mark on Indy: Springsteen, Carr, Roberts, Poovey, Shobert, and the late Ricky Graham, to name just a few. When the sun goes down, the stars come out. As for the currently active racers, Bryan Smith has two Indy Mile victories.
Six other brands have won besides H-D, so it’s never a one-horse race. On this day, we had Harley-Davidson, Triumph, Kawasaki, Suzuki, KTM, Ducati, Honda and Yamaha represented, all hoping for a National win. Family Events is the promoters behind the event, and they bring a family-friendly show to everyone.
Stars, you say? Yes, the international class showed up, with both a National and a World event going on in the same town. Marc Marquez, the winner of 11 World Superbike events (MotoGP) was the Grand Marshal, and he even does some flat-track racing himself in the off season from the busy road-racing schedule. To make the factory Honda racer and World Champion feel welcome, M3 Racing Factory of Hawley, Minnesota, set up an RS750 Honda flat tracker (winner of five Indy Miles) with a custom Saddlemen’s seat with his name and number, special Pro Plates graphics and number plates, making it very temping for Marquez to take a few laps on the Mile.
The opening ceremonies were packed with past and present stars, as introduced by the announcing trio of Christy Lee, Barry Boone and Scotty Deubler. Boone introduced Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Boles reiterated that the international events such as this bring people from the around the world to Indianapolis for these iconic motorcycle races. Lee brought out Harley-Davidson racing director Kris Schoonover, who attends all the AMA Pro GNC events. Also present were Ken Bromeirer of healthy-beverage company SoZo Life, the proud sponsor of both AMA Pro Racing Flat Track and Road Racing, and Tom Seymour, the owner of Saddlemen Seats and Luggage. (You watch the opening ceremonies at amaproracing.com/ft/multimedia/video.cfm?mid=4517.)
In the first Pro Singles heat, Davis Fisher, looking to win his first main event of 2014, was sitting on the pole. Ryan Wells led the pack into turn one, but Fisher was leading out of turn two. Kyle Johnson came up to say hello, and now he was just behind the front two.
With Fisher with Johnson tussling side by side, the battle seemed to be for the other five direct transfer spots. On the white-flag lap, Johnson led the field into turn two, but Fisher took the win at the checkers by the closest of margins. Nick Armstrong, Bronson Bauman, Dan Bromley, Ryan Wells and Andrew Butler were also heading to the main; the balance would head to one last-chance qualifier.
Ryan Foster was on the pole for the second Pro Singles heat, and at the green, 18 great racers were off to work on the Indy Mile! They were three-wide and side by side at the line on lap one, with Jarod Vanderkooi a few inches ahead. Foster made a draft-pass on Vanderkooi and then held on to win by six-hundredths of a second over Vanderkooi at the checkers. Nick McFadden, Jace Castles, Jamison Minor, Brandon Wilhelm and Jeffrey Lowery also raced their way into the Indy Mile main.
Fast qualifier Bryan Smith picked the outside of row one for the first Pro Expert Twins heat. Henry Wiles led all the way into turn three, only to be overhauled by three riders, and Smith was leading coming to the line. Smith, Jake Johnson and “Smokin’ Joe” Kopp were the top three, and Wiles and Briar Bauman completed the top five for the early laps. Only the top four would transfer to the GNC main.
Riding right on the top edge of the groove and cushion, at 120 mph, the roost is fierce, and Kopp got a blast while working on getting a transfer. (Former Grand National Champion Joe Kopp has come out of retirement to help the Triumph efforts with Shayna Texter.) In the closing laps, Kopp pulled off the racing line and coasted into the pits, handing the transfers to Briar Bauman and Henry Wiles. The top two from the three heat races go to a Dash For Cash as well as the front row of the main.
Bryan Smith’s Villa-Esparza Kawasaki was developed in Indianapolis, and he said he was having a great time “old-schooling it by the hay bales.”
In the second Pro Expert GNC Twins heat, Zanotti Racing teammates Kenny Coolbeth Jr. and Stevie Bonsey, looking strong, led the way into turn one on the Harley-Davidsons. Coolbeth seemed to be on a mission, as he gapped the rest of the field.
Brandon Robinson slid past Bonsey at the halfway flags. Side by side, Robinson and Bonsey battled for the last spot in the Dash. Robinson, on the USC Kawasaki, edged out Bonsey at the line for second. Bonsey was third, and Sammy Halbert, riding his new and very unique Kawasaki, finished out the transfers.
“I’m just going to have fun and ride,” Coolbeth said.
In the first attempt at the third Pro Expert GNC Twins heat, third-fastest qualifier Brad Baker picked the outside pole. Almost even with Baker was Jared Mees – and then Dan Ingram found his wheel off the ground and he skidded to a stop, ripping the exhaust off his XR750 and stopping the event. The 49-year-old Ingram, who took a 20-year break from racing but has been making a comeback, rolled the injured bike back to the paddock.
A restart after one lap has been completed means a staggered start. Jared Mees was first in the snake line. Mees was looking fast on this day on the Roger Racing H-D tuned by Kenny Tolbert.
Nichole Mees, Jared’s wife, nailed the start, making it one and two going into turn one. Brad Baker spoiled the honeymoon by passing Nichole and taking Doug Lawrence along with him. Lawrence, who has been running very well lately, attracted the company of Mikey Martin, and along with Baker and Nichole Mees, it was four-wide drag races with four turns.
At the checkered flag, it was Jared Mees with the win, followed by Brad Baker, Mikey Martin and Doug Lawrence. The balance of the riders would go to one of two semifinals, from each of which three riders would qualify for the main.
In the Pro Singles LCQ, Cole Anderson lined up first, choosing the outside of row one. M3 Racing Factory’s Mac McGrew was in the middle of row two. At the start, they were three-wide for the lead, with Anderson, Tyler Butts and Kevin Walters clicking off the transponders in a quarter-blink. From fourth came Dan McRoberts, shooting into the lead and dragging McGrew along with him, from eighth on lap one. Anderson was all over the leader, but McRoberts held on to move on to the main, over Cole Anderson, Mac McGrew and Tyler Butts. The other 14 were done for the night.
The Pro Expert Twins Dash For Cash featured the fastest six riders from the heats, with Coolbeth on the pole, taking the inside for this four-lap shootout. Baker led into turn one, but Coolbeth and Jake Johnson had the lead on the back straight. Johnson, Coolbeth and Bryan Smith battled three-wide for the lead. Smith was so high on the track he was using the air fence as his guide. Baker was trailing close in fourth.
“Jersey Jake” Johnson took the victory by only thirty-five-thousands of a second – over half a bikelength – over Coolbeth and Smith, making it a Ducati, a Harley and a Kawasaki in the top three. This was Jake Johnson’s second Dash For Cash victory of 2014. Brent Armbruster tunes the Ramspur Winery Ducati for Lloyd Brothers Motorsports.
In the first Pro Expert Twins semi, Black Hills Harley-Davidson rider Nichole Mees led the pack into turn one. Jeffrey Carver was second, with a charging Cory Texter (Shayna’s brother) in third. Joe Kopp, the 2002 Champion, was fourth on the Triumph Bonneville.
It seems Nichole Mees wanted to join her hubby, Jared, in the main. It was all Nichole, with Cory Texter now in second. Meanwhile, Kopp was having issues with his ride. The last transfer went to Jeffrey Carver, who finished third. Willie McCoy was just out of a transfer spot.
In the second Pro Expert Twins semi, Kawasaki jockey Jake Shoemaker sat on the pole set and was ready to go, along with 17 of his friends, waiting until the green light flashed. Robert “Bugs” Pearson led the hungry pack as they come to full song. Bugs had Shoemaker and Mick Kirkness looking for a draft-pass. Kirkness is visiting from Australia on a work visa, and he was getting busy, but Steve Murray was looking to spoil it for Kirkness. Kirkness went down in turn four, giving the last transfer to Murray.
For the Pro Singles main event, Ryan Foster sat on the pole, with Davis Fisher, Jarod Vanderkooi, Kyle Johnson, Nick McFadden and Nick Armstrong completing row one. Jace Castles, Bronson Bauman, Jamison Minor, Dan Bromley and Brandon Wilhelm were on second row. Row three had Jeffrey Lowery, Andrew Butler, Dan McRoberts, Cole Anderson, Mac McGrew and Tyler Butts. They all lined up for 12 laps of the best support class in racing. Known for close finishes, these guys really hang it out.
At the flash of the green, it was Vanderkooi leading off turn two, but going into turn three, there was a rider down – Dan McRoberts hit the air fence hard enough to puncture it, bringing out a red flag. There would be a full restart, and all the riders headed to the hot box, with the AMA Pro Blue Crew watching.
Repairs were made to the air fence, and once again the field lined up. Kevin Clark readied the field
At the green light, Foster led the pack of hungry riders into turn one, with Vanderkooi racing in the draft. Davis Fisher was moving toward the front, and he took over the lead, ahead of Vanderkooi. Meanwhile, Kyle Johnson making his move.
Now it was Fisher, Johnson and Vanderkooi as the laps clicked off. Fisher gapped second though fifth by four bikelengths. Then Johnson went into the lead after a three-wide shut-off battle going into turn two. It was so close, the computer screen said “0.000.” The four digits gave Vanderkooi, on the Woody Kyle Racing Honda, the Indy Mile Pro Singles victory by ten-thousandths of a second. Kyle Johnson and Nick Armstrong completed the top three.
The 18 riders rolled out to the starting line for the Pro Expert Twins Grand National Championship. On the pole sat Kenny Coolbeth Jr., on the Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson, with two wins in 2014. Bryan Smith is second in the points chase, behind points leader Jared Mees, on the Rogers Racing H-D. Next was Brandon Robinson, on the USC Kawasaki/ Hart Racing entry. Then came Jake Johnson, on the Ramspur Winery Kawasaki; factory H-D rider Brad Baker; Stevie Bonsey, on the other Zanotti H-D; Briar Bauman, on the Werner/ Springsteen Kawasaki; Factory Triumph-mounted Mikey Martin; Sammy Halbert, on the South East H-D; Henry Wiles, on the Don’s Kawasaki entry; Doug Lawrence, on the Moto Town H-D; Rob Pearson, on the Weirbach Racing Kawasaki; Nichole Mees, on the Black Hills H-D; Jake Shoemaker; Cory Texter, on the Racing Unlimited Kawasaki; Steve Murray; and Jeffrey Carver Jr. None of the rookies made the main; this was all the best in the world lining up for 25 laps.
Looking for the holeshot, Bryan Smith led the pack off of turn two, only to have Jake Johnson draft past into turn three. Coolbeth took over second, catching the draft of Johnson as they ran three-wide, with Coolbeth leading off turn two. Then Coolbeth set sail, leaving the battle second place behind him.
Jared Mees and Jake Johnson were going back and forth for second. Brad Baker worked his way into fourth. The top four comprised a tight package of fast.
On lap 10, the front-runners were Coolbeth, Jared Mees and Johnson. Baker made the pass into second, only to see Johnson draft past at 110-plus mph.
At halfway, the top five were Coolbeth, Jared Mees, Baker, Johnson and Smith. Coolbeth was gaining some real estate on Jared Mees, in second place. Smith was putting on a charge like he’d been saving something for the closing laps. Second through six was a tight battle for the all-important points and money.
After hanging with the lead pack, Brandon Robinson had a mechanical and headed for the pits.
Two laps before the finish, Coolbeth was out front, while Jared Mees and Bryan Smith were swapping air and positions, with Smith in front of Jared as they took Kevin Clark’s double checkered flags.
Kenny Coolbeth Jr. now has his 32nd victory and, after a few bad races, gained on the points lead.
“Eight laps to go, my tire was going away,” Kenny said. “I put my head down and went after it!”
This is Kenny’s second win at the legendary Indy Mile.
Jared Mees finished third.
“It was pretty dicey out there tonight,” Mees noted.
“It was a scrap,” said runner-up Bryan Smith. “Jared and I were going at it. Even though they said it was a 100-percent chance of rain, we got it in.”
Rusty of D&D Performance Exhaust, which has stepped up to add to the awards for AMA Pro Racing, handed Kenny a check for the win – and for using the best exhaust in the business.
For the people on the sidelines, it is hard (if not impossible) to understand the efforts these athletes go through at each AMA Pro Grand National Championship event to make it the best motor racing on the planet.
Indy Mile at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Results: August 8, 2014 (Round 11)
PRO SINGLES MAIN: 1. Jarod Vanderkooi (Hon); 2. Kyle Johnson (Hon); 3. Nick Armstrong (Hon); 4. Ryan Foster (Hon); 5. Jeffrey Lowery (Hon). 6. Dan Bromley (KTM); 7. Brandon Wilhelm (Hon); 8. Nick McFadden (Hon); 9. Bronson Bauman (Hon); 10. Jace Castles (Yam); 11. Cole Anderson (Hon); 12. Andrew Butler (Hon); 13. Tyler Butts (Hon); 14. Dan McRoberts (Hon); 15. Macintosh McGrew (Hon); 16. Davis Fisher (Hon); 17. Jamison Minor (Hon); 18. Ryan Wells (KTM).
PRO EX TWINS MAIN: 1. Kenny Coolbeth Jr. (H-D); 2. Bryan Smith (Kaw); 3. Jared Mees (H-D); 4. Jake Johnson (Duc); 5. Brad Baker (H-D); 6. Henry Wiles (Kaw); 7. Stevie Bonsey (H-D); 8. Briar Bauman (Kaw); 9. Jake Shoemaker (Kaw); 10. Robert Pearson (Kaw); 11. Cory Texter (Kaw); 12. Mikey Martin (Tri); 13. Doug Lawrence (H-D); 14. Jeffrey Carver Jr. (H-D); 15. Sammy Halbert (Kaw); 16. Nichole Mees (H-D); 17. Brandon Robinson (Kaw); 18. Steve Murray (H-D).