2010 Lucas Oil Indy Mile

Kawasaki nets first ever AMA Flat Track win

Round 12 of the AMA Pro Flat Track 2010 Grand National Championship schedule – that’s a mouthful – brought together the very best of late summer in the American Midwest. You had your perfect August evening, most of a full moon, and an enthusiastic, well-oiled crowd approaching 10,000. You had scores, hundreds, heck, scores of hundreds of young, shapely women strutting their stuff clad in halters, short shorts and what we used to call CFMP’s, now known as five inch stilettos. At times like this, the thoughts of young (and not-so-young) men naturally turn to, well, high octane gasoline, loud, fast bikes and the wonders of the internal combustion engine.

Scheduled, as it is, during Indianapolis’ MotoGP weekend, the AMA makes every effort to leverage its lineage with its rich European relatives (though the contrasts could not be starker). Nicky Hayden, sitting on the front row of Sunday’s Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix, had been named Grand Marshall of the Indy Mile this year, and made a surprisingly long and relaxed appearance tonight, as if he really didn’t have anything better to do. After his time on stage, he hung around, gave a few interviews, and took a few laps on Joe Kopp’s Ducati Hypermotard 1100EVO before heading off to God knows where with his posse.

Grand Marshal Nicky Hayden rode a few laps on a Ducati Hypermotard 1100EVO.

I had a chance to ask him about teaming up with Valentino Rossi next season, and he spoke positively about it, but seemed to hedge his enthusiasm somewhat. At least they won’t be building a wall down the middle of their garage, as Vale and Lorenzo have done. I will say one more thing about Hayden – he has one of the most devastating smiles of anyone I’ve ever seen. Hundreds of perfectly white, straight teeth, enough even to distract you from his ridiculous haircut.

Where was I? Dirt track racing was invented in America, and has historically been the provenance of American manufacturers, first and foremost Harley-Davidson. But the times they are a changin’, as recent events in the AMA have shown. Early this season, Joe Kopp rode his Ducati to a win in Arizona that marked the Italian manufacturer’s first ever AMA dirt track win. The victory broke H-D’s 134 consecutive win streak in AMA’s big bike series, known to fans as GNC twins, dating back to 1998. And tonight, Bryan Smith rode his Kawasaki Ninja 650R from the pole to the win, another chink in Harley’s once invincible armor.

Bryan Smith won Kawasaki its first AMA Pro Flat Track victory.

While I’m not sure that MotoGP fans attending races really get their money’s worth – although the European fans go as equally nuts over the 125s as they do the premier class – the AMA gives their fans a ton of racing for their dollar. Tonight, for instance, featured five heats, something called the Pro LCQ (Last Chance Qualifier), a 6 rider Dash for Cash, two semi-final races and the two main events. That’s 11 races, all of which are equally entertaining, although the final two go for 12 and 25 laps, respectively, compared to the four-to-eight lap tilts of the preliminaries.

Former Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup Champion J.D. Beach won the Pro Singles race.

The Pro Singles race tonight was won by one J.D. Beach, who out-dueled Michael Toon and Jeffrey Carver, Jr. on his Honda. In the main event, Smith and Chris Carr ran 1-2 the entire race, with Smith taking the lead for good with perhaps four laps left. As the race was starting, I figured that Old and Crafty – Carr – would prevail over Young and Strong – Smith – but was, once again, wrong. Just the way I was probably wrong in predicting Rossi to win the Indianapolis Grand Prix. Whatever.

Some of these dirt trackers, from whence we got Nicky Hayden, are young guys, guys we’ll see a few years down the road in World Superbike and the lower legions of MotoGP. The riders tonight that I found more intriguing were the older guys – Carr, Kopp, and Larry Pegram (also on a Ducati) – who long ago gave up on the dream of having umbrella girls and decided instead to scratch out a living in the Springfields, Gas Citys and Hagerstowns of America, doing what they love to do. And for these decisions I salute them.

Chris Carr picked up a Nicky Hayden Tissot watch after finishing second at Indianapolis.

With the exception of a rider whose name I didn’t catch, who appeared seriously injured in the second turn of the first lap of the first race, pretty much everyone seemed to go home happy tonight. This would include at least eleven riders, 10,000 race fans, and one old, beat up freelance writer. None of us, however, would approach the ecstasy of the thousands of moths and bugs, some the size of sparrows, that would fly into the pole lights and try to immolate themselves in a smoking, sizzling pop – FLY INTO THE LIGHT! FLY INTO THE LIGHT! – of a perfect late summer night in America’s heartland.

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