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The InSlide Line: Week 35

By Tyler Porter

Hello, and welcome to the InSlide Line Presented by Boughner Racing Suspension and Pro Plates. While the racing season is far from over, can you guys believe that it's already Springfield weekend again? That's right, Labor Day Weekend is upon us which marks the unofficial end of summer. Most kids are back in school, hopefully the temperatures start to drop soon, and in the racing world, we have a points battle heating up for the Grand National Championship. From re-capping the MEGA-Mile to getting you ready for the Springfield Mile, we have a lot to do this week, so let's get to work!

The race that mechanics throughout our sport were dreading is now behind us...the MEGA-Mile. While I have never been to the MEGA-Mile I have attended over 10 Springfield Miles, was fortunate enough to be on the track for one of them and have been to every one of the current Indy Miles except this year. I know how big a mile race track is. Duh, it's a mile you're thinking. What I mean is, I know the feel of a mile, the scale of it all. The Mega-Mile in New Kent Virginia just completely blows it out of the water. Sure, it's only a quarter mile longer, but when you watch the tape, the enormity of it all truly sinks in. If they give up on MEGA-Mile, perhaps they could use "Monster-Mile". This place is truly massive, and not only is the track long, but it is incredibly wide too. If this race continues to fit into our schedule each year, I HIGHLY encourage you to attend one time just to see it for yourself, I know I sure would like to!

The heat races got underway on our largest race track and it was Jake Johnson going to work early. The cool thing was that Jeremy Higgins came out to race on his limited schedule on the Baer Racing KTM and ripped a great start and ran right up front in the opening laps. Because of rain earlier in the week and a heavy overcast sky during the race, the track really stayed pretty nice and the crew prepped it pretty deep also. This does keep the speeds down a bit, but it also cuts into a rider's visibility in a major way. Other than the battle for third that involved Briar Bauman and Stevie Bonsey, heat number 1 was pretty spread out. Just as things looked to calm down, Briar Bauman had a very hard crash into turn 2. Of course the red flag came out, but this was a serious crash. Briar did end up in the hospital from the accident, but luckily the only damage was a concussion and a broken thumb. I'm not sure at this time if Briar is planning to suit up for Springfield this weekend, but as you can imagine, he will be back on the race track soon.

When things got back under way it was Jake Johnson once again out to an early lead, but it wouldn't last long as his Ducati gave up the ghost coming off of turn two which gave Jeremy Higgins the lead heading down the back straight. Brandon Robinson had also just made a pass for third and was making his way through the field despite being on a rough track with a tender shoulder. Brandon Robinson kept the charge going and made it a real race to the checkers, but the power of Jeremy Higgins' KTM was too much and Jeremy ended up taking his first ever Expert heat race win.

Off the start in heat race number two it was Bryan Smith ripping the start but man did Jake Shoemaker have a bad launch. From the front row to nearly last off the start, he put himself in a bad spot quickly. There was a lot of work to be done! Joe Kopp saddled up on the Latus Motorsports Triumph to give things a go and the former national champ was sitting 2nd in heat number two. Matt Weidman also made his return to the race track after claiming that Daytona was going to be his last ride. With Bryan Smith out front and to a huge lead, you could catch a listen to the bike as he went around. Folks, it didn't sound like Bryan was lifting at all. If he was backing away from being wide open, he MAY have been going down to just half-throttle, but even with that, these are nearly 100 horsepower twins here and they aren't backing off. This place is FAST! One thing Bryan did manage to do, and we've seen this from him before, is that even with a big lead, he was racing very smart. At a limestone race like this, nearly every time, the low line will be brushed off, the middle will be extremely deep, rough, and choppy and the high line will be a little drier, but smooth. Bryan kept inching up the track until he was up high in the smooth stuff, keeping his chassis balanced and moving forward. Henry Wiles made things interesting as he put on a charge as the laps wound down on his Don's Kawasaki. Wiles got around Matt Weidman who was piloting the Scott Motorsports Kawasaki. From his terrible start, Jake Shoemaker clawed his way up to a transfer to the main event when he tracked down Matt Weidman and made the pass. It would be Bryan Smith with the win with Joe Kopp, Henry Wiles and Jake Shoemaker joining him in the main event. Kenny Coolbeth slowed to a stop on the final lap, and just like heat race number one, the casualties were starting to stack up.

In heat race number 3 it looked like we were going to have a real battle on our hands. Johnny Lewis got the jump on his KTM but Brad Baker on the Factory Harley Davidson and Shawn Baer on a Kawasaki were going to make it a fight. Johnny Lewis took the point but Shawn Baer was NOT going to let him go. Poor Brad Baker was eating roost from both of them which slowed his Harley down and allowed Jared Mees to get into the mix. Johnny Lewis may have been out front, but his KTM chassis was not a happy camper. I would guess Johnny was having to put in a lot of effort to keep it driving forward because it was wiggling and wobbling all the way down the straights. Brad Baker was able to get back around Shawn Baer for the 2nd spot and made sure Shawn got his own dose of roost as he did it. This track was gnarly! Brad Baker really put his head down and went after Johnny Lewis. While Johnny was about mid-track making his laps, Brad went down to the low side and made up a lot of ground. On the last lap they started swapping positions. Brad was obviously much better in the corners, but the power of the KTM would launch Johnny into the lead on the straights. This was the racing action that the fans came to see. Try as he might, Brad just couldn't hold off the power of the KTM and Johnny Lewis would take the win in heat number 3. Shawn Baer and Jared Mees would join the front runners to qualify for the main.

In the Expert Dash for Cash we had a diverse group of bikes! Two Kawasaki's, 2 KTM's, 1 Triumph and 1 Harley. I'm sure no one saw that sort of line up coming! Off the start though it was Bryan Smith rocketing to the lead, but Joe Kopp wasn't going to let him have it easily on the big Triumph. As you would imagine, Bryan Smith was just in complete control. Johnny Lewis grabbed the 2nd spot from Joe Kopp, but it was really the Bryan Smith show. The Dash may not have been real exciting, but what was exciting was the points battle. Jared Mees didn't make the dash, and Bryan Smith won it. That meant that going into the main event that Bryan Smith was just 4 points out of the championship points lead.

In the first semi, it was Matt Weidman with the holeshot but Jeffery Carver decided early that he wanted to lead the field. Jeffery Carver kept the Weirbach Suzuki out front as pressure started mounting back in the field. Matt Weidman hadn't given up yet and was within striking distance of Jeffery as the laps ticked by. Nichole Mees decided to make things interesting as she started to put pressure on Cory Texter for the final transfer spot in semi number 1. Nichole briefly took the lead but Cory got right back around her to secure the spot. It looked to me like Nichole Mees pulled all of her tear offs at once in the early stages of the race, as I could see her wiping her face shield. Wiping your face shield is an instinct thing. As a racer, we ALL know that wiping it with your glove makes it worse. However, we still do it. When you can't see, you'll try any remedy, and I know for myself, I always think, "No, this time it will work, this time it will help...oh crap, now I REALLY can't see!" Once Cory was in front of Nichole she got one more helping of Virginian limestone and suddenly she got into a defensive position on the bike instead of being aggressive ...I'm pretty sure she was riding blind. The winner would be Jeffery Carver with Matt Weidman and Cory Texter heading to the main.

In Semi number 2 Shayna Texter made the most popular move of the day when she rocketed into turn one, grabbing the holeshot on her Latus Triumph. She can no longer say that she can't get a start! It wasn't just a holeshot either, Shayna was going to give the boys a lesson or two. She had Jake Johnson behind her and she was still pulling a lead. Shayna was riding extremely well, but it was also obvious that the Triumph's are FAST. I'm pretty sure Jake was back on another Ducati, and she yarded him down the straight. Into turn one Jake went for it, and I mean WENT for it in turn 1. He was going for the lead until...wait for it...the Ducati lost power again, sending him to the top of the track and sending him to the pits looking for his provisional start card. This was the first time Jake Johnson has ever had to use a provisional to get into the main! While Shayna was laying a whoopin' on the boys out in the lead, Kenny Coolbeth and Danny Koelsch were having a huge battle for the 2nd spot. Who would have predicted that one? At the checkers it was Shayna by a MEGA-Mile and then Kenny Coolbeth ended up getting a draft to pass Danny Koelsch for 2nd, Danny taking the 3rd and final transfer to the main event. They had one heck of a battle too.

In the Expert main event the 1st start went to Johnny Lewis as he lead the field back to the red flag with Joe Kopp in tow. Jeremy Higgins botched the best starting spot of his life when he spun hard off the line, but he'd get another shot at it. Bryan Smith jumped the start and would be sent back to the 4th row. Bryan argued his case the best he could, but he still wound up on the 4th row. Johnny Lewis probably had the worst luck of the day though. He had a prime shot at being the first man to win a twins race on a KTM and it let him down in turn 1. Luckily everybody made it around him safely, but it sure was a bummer moment. Bryan Smith was riding with fire in his eyes and perhaps steam coming from his ears and out of turn one, he was already half way through the field! Joe Kopp was out to the lead and who thought I would ever be typing that again! The big Triumph was hauling! Johnny Lewis got his KTM going once again, but he sure wasn't in the lead this time.

Brad Baker decided that the start of lap 2 was a great time to go to the lead on the Harley Davidson. At this point Bryan Smith was already in the 5th spot and still moving forward. If you didn't think Bryan Smith was one of the greatest twins riders our sport has ever seen, maybe this will wake that brain of yours up. Joe Kopp wasn't done leading the MEGA-Mile either and he went by Brad Baker on the back straight. We had a fight on our hands! By the start of the 3rd lap, Bryan Smith had joined Baker and Kopp at the lead and he ripped a tear off going into turn one, Bryan had clear vision. On this day, Bryan would NOT be denied. Going into turn 3 we saw Brad Baker draft by the Joe Kopp and that hadn't happened all day, the Triumph was yarding the field all day long and this is where Joe Kopp's troubles began. Let me just say this...Bryan Smith may be one of the best milers in the game, but holy hay bales is his Kawasaki fast. When he went by Brad Baker, it looked like Brad's Harley decided to tie itself to a hitching post. Perhaps Brad got into the deep stuff or spun it up too hard off the corner, but Bryan got a MONSTER drive on him and sailed past no problem. By the time the 4th lap started, Bryan was gone. Five laps in and two riders were moving forward in a hurry. It was a pair of Jakes, Jake Johnson and Jake Shoemaker. With Jake Shoemaker in the 2nd spot, Jake Johnson was the only rider left moving forward that I could see.

With just 5 laps to go, Brad Baker was forced back to the 4th spot by Jake Johnson, but Brad never gave up. Even though it looked like he was out gunned, he was still digging deep and going for it. As the laps wound down, Baker went back by Johnson for the 3rd spot; the podium wasn't decided yet. On the next lap Jake Shoemaker lost his second spot to a charging Brad Baker too. Jake Johnson started having problems with his bike, he was back in the 4th spot with his left leg hanging off of the bike and his left hand trying to hold on to something. At this point in the race, you are already worn have to try to juggle something and not be able to rest your leg while remaining in the top 5 is insane! The entire time that we had all of this craziness happening in the 2nd through 4th spots, Bryan Smith just stayed calm and kept moving higher and higher on the race track, looking for smooth lines.

Bryan Smith lined up for the checkers and grabbed them by a handy margin while Jake Shoemaker got a huge help to his 2nd place finish when Brad Baker's motor let go coming to the checkers. This also let Jake Johnson by to capture the last podium spot on his Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Kawasaki. Brad still never gave up though and he paddled his XR across the line for 4th. THAT is showing a lot of heart. Jared Mees worked his way up from the 4th row to round out the top 5. Where Bryan Smith limited his damages in Peoria, Jared Mees did the same in Virginia, though not making the Dash really hurt him. Bryan Smith will now go into Springfield with the points lead by only 6 points. Jake Johnson is a little further back, 18 points, but he was in a worse hole when he won his last title, so anything is possible right now as we wrap up the season.

In the Pro Singles class, they only ran 2 heat races, no LCQ as the entries were so low that they let the top 9 from the heats make the main. This was done because of the low Pro Singles turn out, but also to save the somewhat fragile 450 motors from spinning any extra laps. While I'm sure a few riders could have benefiting from an LCQ, as a whole, this was a very smart move on the part of AMA Pro Racing. The cool part about heat number 1 was seeing JR Addison back on the race track. JR was in a horrific crash in Springfield that unfortunately I had a front seat for. When that crash happened, I truly thought that he would never race again, however, JR's injuries were not as severe as they could have been and through a lot of hard work, he was back on the track just 3 months later. Not only that, but he grabbed the holeshot and the early lead! While JR Addison grabbed the lead, Tyler Butts, Bronson Bauman, Ryan Wells and Brandon Wilhelm were having a BIG battle for that 2nd spot. The field started to spread out a bit as the laps ticked by with Ryan Wells taking over that 2nd spot. As the crew came to the white flag lap, Jeffery Lowery made his move to the 2nd spot. Jeffery has really struggled this year. I believe he has good equipment, but let me tell you, at this level of the sport, the game is 90% mental. I think Jeffery's confidence may have dipped a little or maybe it was something else. Whatever it was, it was certainly behind him and he was back at the front of the field. At the checkers though it was JR Addison with the win and Ryan Wells managed to slide back into the 2nd spot, sending Jeffery Lowery to third.

In Pro Singles heat 2 it was Jarod Vanderkooi grabbing the early lead but he had a hungry pack behind him. Dan Bromley was in the mix in this heat and he used his size and strength along with his talent to put him out into the lead as they started lap 2. While Pro Heat 1 wasn't all that exciting, heat 2 had all of the action. Just as soon as Dan Bromley took the lead, it was Kyle Johnson who stepped in and took the point. Dan Bromley was forced into taking the high line which killed his momentum making it Jarod Vanderkooi's turn to capture that second spot as Kyle Johnson did his best to pull away. With one lap to go, the field did start to sort itself out, but with the way the cushion can stop a 450 in its tracks, anything could have happened to shake up the leader board. The checkered flag fell for Kyle Johnson with Jarod Vanderkooi coming home 2nd and your big battle was for the 3rd spot, taken by Dan Bromley. In 4th was Kolby Carlile, "The Flying Tomato". It was good to see Kolby back on the track after suffering an injury earlier in the season. I'm sure he was enjoying the track and a giant Mountain Dew in his pits.

In the Pro Singles Main Event, Jarod Vanderkooi ripped a great start and lead the pack into turn one. However, by the end of lap one, it was Kyle Johnson who had the point. While Kyle was trying to check out, just one spot back, JR Addison made a move on Jarod Vanderkooi and was coming to the front. Bronson Bauman was having a great ride and in a battle with Jeffery Lowery for the 4th spot. The top 6 riders totally broke away from the field, and there was a 4 rider battle for the 3rd spot between Jarod Vanderkooi, Jeffery Lowery, Bronson Bauman and Ryan Wells. JR Addison continued to claw his way to the front aboard a Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda, while his teammate Kyle Johnson was doing everything in his power to break away. Jeffery Lowery broke away from the 4 rider battle to secure the 3rd spot, leaving Bronson Bauman, Ryan Wells and Jarod Vanderkooi to make the decision on who would take the 4th spot. Going into turn one on the last lap, JR Addison pulled alongside Kyle Johnson, but Kyle left turn 2 first. It looked like JR MAY have got a whiff of Johnson's draft and burned it off into three, taking the low line. Johnson tried to get back on the throttle and cut down, but that meant crossing the roost of JR Addison, which it a lot like putting on the brakes. Kyle Johnson is one heck of a racer and he lined up and played the draft as best he could. He pulled out but it just wasn't enough, JR Addison won the main event at his first race back since his injury in Springfield. Jeffery Lowery would round out the podium with Jarod Vanderkooi finishing 4th and Bronson Bauman rounding out the top 5. AMA Pro Racing may have cut the laps short to save the bikes and to avoid crashes, but as usual, the Pro Singles class put on one heck of a show!

This weekend the racing continues in Springfield. Check out where you need to be below.

Springfield Mile AMA Pro Racing Grand National
Springfield Short Track All Star Series Event
Springfield Short Track Amateur Program
Neoga, IL TT
Delta, PA Short Track
Paris, ONT Short Track Canada

Next weekend we bust into September but there are still lots of races going on!

Parkesburg, PA TT
Indianapolis, IN Short Track
Lake Odessa, MI Half-Mile
Jerseyville, IL Half-Mile
Kamrar, IA Short Track
Erie, CO Short Track
Kansas City, KS Half-Mile
Spokane, WA TT
Chowchilla, CA Short Track
Lodi, CA Short Track

Here we are, our 2nd trip to Springfield! Of course, make sure you get there on Saturday to watch the top Pros, Experts and Amateurs do battle on the awesome Springfield Short Track during the All-Star Series event. However, we are here to rev you up for the AMA Pro Grand National on the Springfield Mile. You know, before Indianapolis, my rev ups for the miles were pretty easy. I told you Bryan Smith or Brandon Robinson was going to win, I picked somebody I liked who had a Harley to fill up the top five and I sent you on your way to the weekend. Then there was a man named Kenny Coolbeth. Armed with a Zanotti Racing Harley tuned by "Super" Dave Atherton, he destroyed everything I knew about race predicting when he laid solid wood to the field on his Harley to win the Indy Mile. I sarcastically thanked him after the race for making my job more difficult. However, what is difficult for me makes things a lot more fun for you, the reader.

It's still hard not to pick Bryan Smith to win at Springfield, or to call on Brandon Robinson to make some things happen. However, now we have Kenny to throw in the mix. Jake Johnson not only has a good Harley, but he has a stable, no, a full barn of good motorcycles to choose from, whether it's the Ducati or the Kawasaki. After seeing how well they ran in Virginia, I think that Factory Harley Davidson possibly found a few ponies and they could put Brad Baker right into the mix. Will Jake Shoemaker use the purse money from Virginia to make it to the Land of Lincoln to do battle with the big boys again? Will Sammy Halbert be back from his tough crash in Peoria? Lots of questions out there and we won't have the answers until Sunday afternoon. Jared Mees is in a REAL battle to take the number 1 plate back. You can be sure that Kenny Tolbert has an incredible bike prepared for him to take to the starting line. Johnny Lewis is signed up for the mile. He was very impressive on the KTM in Virginia until the bike let him down. With those gremlins fixed, could he repeat the performance on a groove?

Henry Wiles has shown flashes of brilliance on the Don's Kawasaki all season long, could he hold it together for his best finish at Springfield of his career? Willie McCoy, Jeffery Carver, Wyatt Maguire, both Shayna and Cory Texter, I mean, we have a full field for Springfield and a lot of fast names. Dougie Lawrence has put in some solid rides this year and I could see him inside of the top 10. We have some seasoned veterans making the call, Ronnie Jones and Danny Koelsch. Danny is having a whale of a season too, so maybe he can put it in yet another main event. There is a lot to look forward to, so I can't wait to get back to the world's fastest mile!

If I'm calling a top 5, I just have to put Bryan Smith on top. After that though, it gets pretty confusing. I think I like Jared Mees for the 2nd spot and I'll put Brad Baker in 3rd. Fourth, I'll take Jake Johnson with Brandon Robinson rounding out the top 5. Brandon Robinson though I feel is a tough pick just because I know he is riding with quite a bit of pain from his shoulder. Like I said, lots of stuff to watch for!

In the Pro Twins class, we have a much smaller field, but the talent is sure there. There are only 14 entries, so I'll just cut to my top five here, I'm taking Jarod Vanderkooi for the win, solely because no one could touch in at the spring race. After that, Brandon Wilhelm, Ryan Varnes, Tyler Butts and Jamison Minor for the top 5. I know the entries are low here, but hopefully they will put on some kind of show. I know the fans want the 450's back on the mile, but I still feel that I would rather have 14 Pro Twins on the mile than 40 Pro Singles out there racing like complete morons like they were doing. The Mile isn't a game and the consequences are incredibly serious. That's my opinion and if you want to go get a hot dog during the Pro Twins main, that is fine, the tickets are sold to watch the experts any way. I'd rather have our young racers mature into the stars of our sport than to see the ambulance leave the track.

One quick reminder!! After heavy rains in the area last night, the District 17 Amateur Race has been CANCELLED for Today (Friday). It will be run SATURDAY MORNING with gates opening at 7am and practice starting at 9am. After that, they will run the All-Star Program.

With that, I wrap things up for the week. There's some yard mowing and oil changing to do before I leave for Springfield but it sure is nice to type a column out from the great commonwealth of Kentucky for the first time in a LONG time. Just like our race teams are getting a break in the action after Springfield, I am too! It's been a long busy summer for us all, and the break is very welcome. However, the column will still be coming to you, so be right back here next Friday morning. Thanks for reading and have a great weekend.

Best Of's

Happiest Birthday Of The Week: Ted Weirbach

Worst Exhaust Modification: JD Beach

Best Ice Bucket Challenge Video: Steve Murray