Status QUO At The Springfield Mile

New Players, But It's The Same Old Song And Dance

Dirt-track racing is dead, or dying, say the critics, but you never would have known that at the Springfield Mile on Memorial Day weekend. The grandstands at the Illinois State Fairgrounds were packed and the entry lists were full to bursting, with 53 competitors signed up for the new 450cc Pro Singles class and 60 in the long-running Grand National Twins class. More impressive was the number of brands represented: six in the Singles class and eight in the Twins, the latter an all-time record.

Predictably, the Twins field was largely composed of Harley-Davidson XR750s, the dinosaur workhorses that have dominated this form of motorsports since they were introduced in 1972. Fold the results of qualifying and there was only one non-Harley showing in the top half: the solitary Rotax-powered BMW F800S built and tuned by the legendary Ron Wood. A beautiful motorcycle, compact and businesslike and painted fire-engine-red like all the Wood-Rotax Singles that came before, it qualified 25th in the hands of Steve Murray but failed to make the main event.

Though there were no fewer than 19 non-Harleys entered, the only one that made the cut was the Foremost Insurance/Lloyd Brothers Ducati of Larry Pegram (#72F pictured), the AMA Superbike-winning roadracer returning to his dirt-track roots. The team hastily transformed a stock-framed GT1000 into a dirt-tracker and Pegram finished fourth to transfer straight from his heat-no small feat on a largely untested motorcycle. Sadly the bike got slower as it got hot, and Pegram fell unhurt while trying to make up for the power deficit in the main.

After a brief interruption due to a passing thundershower, Bryan Smith won the 25-lap main over reigning number-one plate-holder Kenny Coolbeth Jr. and seven-time champ Chris Carr. But Smith was disqualified after a post-race technical inspection deemed his fuel illegal, handing Coolbeth the win.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.