Coolbeth Bounces Back from Injury to Top an All-Harley Podium in Iowa
Harley-Davidson® Screamin’ Eagle® Factory Team rider Kenny Coolbeth won his first race of the season at the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Grand National Championship event on the Knoxville Raceway half mile. Zanotti Racing/Schaeffer`s Harley-Davison rider Jake Johnson finished second, followed by South East Harley-Davidson rider Sammy Halbert, as Harley-Davidson® XR750 motorcycle racers filled the podium.
The win is a big come-back for Coolbeth, who suffered a fractured leg in a race at Lima, Ohio, on June 30 and missed two Twins races before returning to action on Aug. 18 at the Indianapolis Mile. Coolbeth was competitive and finished fifth at Indy despite having not trained on a motorcycle since his injury. At Knoxville, Coolbeth took the lead on a restart and set the pace for the rest of the 25-lap main event to earn his 27th career Grand National win.
“The Harley team is really meshing right now,” said Coolbeth. “I felt like we were pretty fast right off the trailer tonight, and then every adjustment we made improved the bike. I got by Mees right after the restart and then my Harley was just hooked up, and I could inch away from those guys. We might be out of the hunt for a championship because of the races I missed, but I think the team will make some more noise before the season is over.”
Coolbeth won his heat race to advance to the main, and finished third in the four-lap Dash for Cash sprint bonus race, which was won by Rogers Racing/Blue Springs Harley-Davidson rider Jared Mees.
It was Mees leading the pack at the start of the main, with Johnson, Coolbeth and Dodge Brothers Racing/Perry’s Harley-Davidson rider Brad Baker in pursuit. But the race was stopped after three laps for a downed rider, and Coolbeth jumped from second to first one lap after the restart. Coolbeth led Mees and Johnson by 0.604 seconds on lap nine and gradually pulled away. Coolbeth opened a gap of 1.8 seconds by lap 15, with Mees and Johnson in a tight battle for second place. Mees left the race on lap 16 with a mechanical problem. Baker was out of the race on lap 17. As the laps wound down Johnson whittled away at Coolbeth’s lead, getting within one second on lap 21 and down to 0.501 second at the finish. Halbert was third, 8.913 seconds behind Coolbeth. Robert Pearson was fourth on the Eaken Racing/Dick Ford Kawasaki, followed by Bryan Smith on the Crosley Radio Harley-Davidson.
After 11 of 16 AMA Grand National events, Mees leads the series with 202 points. Johnson moves into second place with 197 points, bumping Halbert down to third with 196 points. Smith is fourth with 136 points. Coolbeth is ninth with 99 points.
The Grand National Twins will next race on September 16 on the Springfield Mile at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield. This event originally scheduled for September 2 was postponed due to heavy rain.