American Flat Track Heads to Springfield for a Memorial Day Doubleheader
The Springfield TT returns the night before the Harley-Davidson Springfield Mile I
American Flat Track travels to the hallowed grounds of the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield, Ill., for a doubleheader on Memorial Day Weekend, May 27-28. Saturday evening will feature the return of the Springfield TT following a four-year absence with the rising stars of the AFT Singles class taking center stage. The following afternoon the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines will be in the spotlight, as the action moves to the big track for the Harley-Davidson Springfield Mile I.
Sunday’s Harley-Davidson Springfield Mile I will mark the 84th main event held at the Mile circuit since the Grand National Championship was formalized in 1954. Over the decades, five different makes (Harley-Davidson, Honda, Kawasaki, BSA, Triumph) have claimed victories on the Mile, but the weapon of choice for top contenders has been Harley-Davidson, with the American marque topping the podium in 61 out of 83 attempts.
This year, the Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team is led by veteran Kenny Coolbeth (No. 2 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R), a five-time winner of the Springfield Mile including a victorious performance in the most recent running of the race last September. Additionally, his teammates, Jake Johnson (No. 5 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R) and Brandon Robinson (No. 44 Harley-Davidson Factory Flat Track Team XG750R), each rank as two-time winners of the Springfield Mile themselves.
Meanwhile, there’s little debate over who stands as the favorite heading into the weekend.
As the series hits the halfway point on its tour of five Miles in six weeks, ‘Mile Specialist’ Bryan Smith (No. 1 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) arrives in Springfield with the AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines points lead on the strength of three consecutive wins, including back-to-back Mile victories.
Don’t look for him to slow down any this weekend; Smith has proven himself a master of the Springfield Mile time and again, with an awe-inspiring seven previous triumphs in the prestigious race.
“It’s pretty simple really – I want to keep winning,” Smith said. “Springfield’s another place where I feel right at home. And I think we can make some tweaks to my bike for Springfield that will make it even better so that we can take home another ‘W’.”
However, it would be a mistake to underestimate the challenge that stands before him if he hopes to increase that tally to eight. A combined 0.082 of a second is all that separates Smith’s Arizona Mile and Sacramento Mile triumphs from a pair of runner-ups (and just 0.642 of a second from two third-place finishes).
The Indian Wrecking Crew has dismantled the competition at the Miles in recent weeks, logging a pair of runaway podium sweeps. While Smith has emerged on top thanks to some nifty late-race maneuvering, expect Jared Mees (No. 9 Indian Motorcycle Rogers Racing Scout FTR750) and Brad Baker (No. 6 Indian Motorcycle Racing backed by Allstate Scout FTR750) to come to Springfield ready with revised tactics.
Mees is a former Springfield Mile winner himself, while Baker has shown more pace than any other rider as of late, and he’s desperate to finally secure his first win aboard the Scout FTR750.
Mees said, “I’m looking forward to the Springfield Mile and ending Bryan’s three-race win streak… and starting a new one up again of my own. Sacramento was some good racing, but I think Springfield allows the riders to move around some in the corners. It should be another good show.”
While the Indian Wrecking Crew has garnered 13 of a possible 15 podiums on the season, Sammy Halbert (No. 69 Estenson Logistics Yamaha FZ-07) splits them in the championship order in third place. Halbert has shown himself a consistent presence near the front all season long and would love to serve up an upset this weekend.
Meanwhile, young gun Jarod Vanderkooi (No. 20 Richie Morris Racing Kawasaki Ninja 650) continues to rank in the top five with another solid top-ten run last weekend in Sacramento.
Complementing the program Sunday on the Mile is the Harley-Davidson Support Class, an exhibition race designed to allow up-and-coming riders a chance to cut their teeth on the legendary Mile aboard Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
AFT Singles return to the Springfield TT
The history of the Springfield TT glitters with memorable performances by the likes of Henry Wiles, Jake Johnson, and JR Schnabel, among others. However, perhaps the standout of them all belongs to the late Nicky Hayden. Hayden, who tragically passed away earlier this week following a cycling accident, won the 2002 Springfield TT and was joined on the podium by brothers Tommy and Roger, who finished second and third, respectively.
Shayna Texter (No. 52 Richie Morris Racing Honda CRF450R) enters this year’s Springfield TT with a healthy 17-point advantage in the AFT Singles title fight. She does so following four consecutive podium results, including back-to-back wins at the recent Arizona and Sacramento Miles.
However, swapping the high-speed sliding and drafting tactics of the Miles for the chicanes, tight rights, and jumps of a TT could leave Texter vulnerable this weekend. She is the first to admit that the TT is her weakest discipline, and her points advantage may be in jeopardy. Simply advancing to the Main would be considered a personal triumph for Texter.
Kolby Carlile (No. 36 Parkinson Brothers Racing Honda CRF450R) could be well poised to strike. Showing a nice blend of all-around skills in 2017, Carlile has finished no worse than seventh this season, including a podium finish at the season-opening DAYTONA TT. As a result, he’s currently second in the standings and in strong position to steal the points lead with another big outing.
Sitting third in the point standings and looking for his first win is Brandon Price (No. 92 DPC Racing/Don’s Kawasaki KX450F). DAYTONA TT best qualifier, lap leader, and race runner-up Wyatt Anderson (No. 120 Waters Autobody Racing KTM 450 SX-F) is another rider to keep an eye on in the Springfield TT this weekend.
In addition to the on-track activities, Hall’s Harley-Davidson will be hosting a pre-race kickoff party featuring the “wall of death stunt show” on both Friday and Saturday. They will also have live music with food & beverage vendors and free admission to the show. Also on Friday night, local favorite Boon’s Saloon will be hosting a car/bike show and pre-race party.
On-track action begins on Saturday, May 27, with AFT Singles practice sessions for the Springfield TT at 2:00 p.m. CT (3:00 p.m. ET) with Opening Ceremonies commencing at 6:30 p.m. CT (7:30 p.m. ET). AFT Twins presented by Vance & Hines practice for the Harley-Davidson Springfield Mile I will kick off on Sunday, May 28, at 10:00 a.m. CT (11:00 a.m. ET) followed by Opening Ceremonies at 1:00 p.m. (2:00 p.m. ET).
Tickets for the Harley-Davidson Springfield Mile I are now on sale and can be purchased at https://www.springfieldmile.org/.
Catch all the Action on NBCSN and FansChoice.tv
As part of American Flat Track’s television broadcast package with NBCSN, the cable network will air the Springfield Mile I in a primetime telecast in early August. The one-hour show will feature flag-to-flag coverage of both Main Events along with exclusive features giving fans a behind-the-scenes window into the sport. The complete television schedule for American Flat Track on NBCSN will be released in the coming weeks.
Live streaming coverage of every second from the Springfield TT and Harley-Davidson Springfield Mile I can be viewed on FansChoice.tv at www.fanschoice.tv/watch-live/american-flat-track.
Fans can also keep up-to-date with race day action by following American Flat Track on Facebook (American Flat Track), Twitter (@AmericanFlatTrk) and Instagram (@AmericanFlatTrack).