Harley-Davidson® Screamin’ Eagle® Factory Team substitute rider Brad Baker finished seventh in the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship main on the Sacramento Mile at Cal Expo Fair. It was the second top-ten finish for Baker as a stand-in for the injured Harley-Davidson® Screamin’ Eagle® Factory Team rider Kenny Coolbeth. The race was won by Crosley Radio Kawasaki rider Bryan Smith.
Baker advanced to the main by winning a semi-final after finishing fifth in his first heat race. That put Baker in the 13th position for the 25-lap main, but the 19-year-old rider from Dryad, Wash., got a good start and finished the first lap in sixth place. Smith took the lead at the start, with polesitter Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer`s Harley-Davison Jake Johnson, Rogers Racing/Blue Springs Harley-Davidson rider Jared Mees, Werner-Springsteen Racing Kawasaki rider Brandon Robinson, and South East Harley-Davidson rider Sammy Halbert quickly forming a pack that drafted away from the field. Smith, Mees and Johnson each led the race in the early laps, with Smith regaining the lead for good on lap six. From that point on the top three riders – Smith, Johnson and Mees – raced wheel-to-wheel, with Halbert and Robinson falling back and then regaining the lead draft. Baker ran as high as fifth place early in the race.
“I got a great start from the outside and passed a bunch of bikes when the field bottle necked up in the first corner, and I used my momentum to go around on the cushion,” said Baker. “That got us into contention, but I never quite had the power tonight to make a pass and stick with the lead group. I had the speed in the corners to stay with Halbert, would fall behind a little bit down the straight, and just couldn’t draft him.”
Smith managed to hold off last-lap passing attempts to win by 0.037 seconds over Johnson, with Mees just 0.106 seconds behind. Robinson was fourth, 0.149 seconds behind Smith. Halbert finished fifth, followed by Jeff Carver Jr. on the Kiewsow Racing Harley-Davidson in sixth place.
Earlier in the evening, Johnson won the four-lap Dash for Cash sprint bonus race.
Coolbeth is rehabilitating from a leg fracture earlier in the season with the goal of returning to the Harley-Davidson® Screamin’ Eagle® Factory Team for the August 18 race on the Indy Mile in Indianapolis.
After seven of 16 AMA Grand National events, Mees leads the series with 141 points, followed by Johnson with 130 points. Halbert moves up to third place with 108 points, followed by Smith with 100, and Scott Powersports Kawasaki rider Johnny Lewis with 97 points. Baker and Carver are tied for sixth place with 71 points.
The Grand National Twins will next race on August 18 on the Indy Mile at the Indiana State Fairgrounds inIndianapolis.