Courtesy of AMA Pro Racing
Kenny Coolbeth Jr., of Center Hill, Fla., leads the Harley-Davidson GNC1 presented by Vance & Hines Championship coming into this Saturday’s (May 30) Sacramento Mile at Cal Expo. Coolbeth, who rides for Zanotti Racing Harley-Davidson, is seven points up on defending AMA Pro Grand National Champion Jared Mees (53-46) and Coolbeth is hoping to nail down his first win at Sacramento.
The Sacramento Mile has not been especially kind to Coolbeth. He’s raced the track dating back to 1994 and has only twice finished inside the top five – not the greatest record for a three-time AMA Grand National Champion. His best result at Cal Expo came in 1998 when he finished fourth. He was fifth in last year’s race. Yet in spite of what might be considered a sub-par record for Coolbeth at Sacramento, he approaches this race no differently than any other on the schedule.
“We need to step it up for sure out there,” Coolbeth said immediately after finishing seventh at the Springfield (Ill.) Mile this past Sunday. “After today we were kind of scrambling, but we’ll keep our heads down and go in there to get some points. We want to win obviously, but we’re looking at the big picture and want to win the championship. Consistency all year is what’s going to do it.”
Since he’s never had particularly good luck at Sacramento, he was asked if there was anything about the race that he dreaded.
“I don’t dread going to any racetrack really,” he said. “It’s one of those things, I’m a racer. Sacramento is unique; it’s feels kind of like a big Half Mile really. It’s tough. That green bike down there (pointing at rival Bryan Smith’s Kawasaki) is going to be tough all year. I’m glad he had a bad Daytona. He’s making up for that now. We’ll get it figured out, so don’t count us out.”
Coolbeth, the all-time wins leader among active riders, leads the GNC1 championship after scoring two podiums, including a victory, at the season-opening Daytona Short Track doubleheader in March. He’s coming off a disappointing seventh this past weekend in Springfield. The rider Coolbeth is most immediately worried about is defending series champ Jared Mees. Mees had an up and down Daytona (2nd and 11th) before narrowing the gap in the standings with runner-up finish in Springfield.
“Sacramento is one of my favorite miles,” Mees said. “I always enjoy it. Last year I felt like I had a really good shot. I’m looking forward to it, but obviously Bryan’s always strong there. He’s probably looking to go two in a row, but I want to break it – I want to stop him.”
Mees said two in a row, but Smith is actually looking to win five in a row at Sacramento on Saturday. Smith’s built a record four-race winning streak at the Sacramento Mile coming into this year’s race. He’ll be looking to add to that impressive record, especially after putting himself in a deep hole in the standings after a terrible Daytona where he finished 16th on the first night and failed to qualify the second night. Yet Smith is on the upswing after winning last week in Springfield. He’s up to seventh in the standings, 25 points behind Coolbeth. Smith now turns to a track in Sacramento that he calls his home away from home. Never known as being overconfident, even Smith acknowledges that he’ll be the rider everyone will be aiming to top at Sacramento.
“I’ve got a great combination behind me,” Smith admitted. “I’ve got a great team, our Kawasaki is obviously the strongest motorcycle on the miles and I just seem to click at Sacramento. I think we’ll be tough to beat there.”
Of the home state riders Briar Bauman and Stevie Bonsey, both of Salinas, Calif., are ranked inside the top 10 of the series standings and will be looking to have good performances at Sacramento.
The AMA Pro Grand National Championship series is one of the longest running motorcycle racing championships in the world. On the long straights of the Sacramento Mile top speeds can reach 130 miles per hour. Flat track racing has produced many of America’s Motorcycle Grand Prix Champions such as Kenny Roberts, Eddie Lawson, Wayne Rainey, Kenny Roberts, Jr. and Nicky Hayden. Visit www.sactomile.com to keep up with all the latest on the event.
For additional series info visit: www.amaproracing.com/ft
Practice for the 50th Sacramento Mile begins on Saturday, May 30 at 2:00 p.m. and opening ceremonies for the evening program kick off at 6:00 p.m.
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2015 Ticket Information: Ticket information is available for the May 30, 2015 Sacramento Mile at www.sactomile.com.
Fans can order tickets online at https://secure.interactiveticketing.com/b/ae283e, by calling (844) SAC-MILE (844-722-6453).
Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the Cal Expo Group Sales Department at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.