Having spent the day Saturday at the Motor Speedway watching qualifications, I shuffled off to the Indiana State Fairgrounds last night to watch the AMA Grand National. The contrasts between MotoGP at the IMS and AMA at the Fairgrounds could not be more stark. Think 747 vs. DC-3.
The crowds were only marginally different, the fans at the Fairgrounds were more cruiser-oriented – more ponytails on the men, more tattoos and more drunks. The drunk part could be because the cruisers run at night, while the imports run during the day. While the stands at the IMS figure to be half-empty today, the AMA race was close to sold out, and the crowd seemed to enjoy itself thoroughly.
As to the race itself, the GNC Twin class was dominated by Harley-Davidson. The 25 lap main event included three crashes, each of which necessitated a re-start. The first was very early in the race, and the last two occurred during the final 5 laps. The re-start procedure resembled a Chinese firedrill, in that the riders and their bikes pull off to the side of the track and get 4 minutes to fix up their bikes for the remainder of the race. They were allowed to do anything to the bike they want in the allotted 4 minutes, which makes for some hectic moments. Then, the crews vacate the track, the riders are arranged in a complex starting grid, and off they go again. There are no yellows, and no finishing the race under an adrenaline-killing flag, such as occurs with NASCAR and Indy cars.
Early in the race, Bryan Smith took the lead, and spent most of the race defending it against Ken Coolbeth and Chris Carr; all three riders were on Harleys. On the re-starts, the three played musical chairs and swapped positions several times. Unlike auto racing, the re-starts did not permit trailing riders to catch up and challenge for the lead. Each time they re-started, the same three riders emerged and ran away from the field. On the last re-start, it came down to Coolbeth and Carr, who entered the final turn side-by-side. As they floored it down the main straight, the grandstand went absolutely nuts. They crossed the finish line in a blur, hugging their handlebars, Carr beating Coolbeth by roughly six inches. And that was that.
There was a brief, rather awkward, somewhat home-grown podium ceremony after the race. The two obligatory Podium Babes, clad in very skimpy black and pink hotpants. Carr and Smith, who finished second and third, respectively, didn't seem as happy to be on the podium as the MotoGP riders do. AMA riders love what they do, that’s for sure, but they would probably love it even more with the millions of dollars.
Today, I’m back at the Motor Speedway. We will have full race results tomorrow.