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FT: Jake Johnson 2006 Grand National Singles champion

JAKE JOHNSON: 2006 AMA GRAND NATIONAL SINGLES CHAMPION PICKERINGTON, Ohio (September 8, 2006) -- Jake Johnson will go down in the record books as the first Ford Quality Checked Grand National Singles Champion. Johnson, the 22-year-old American...

JAKE JOHNSON: 2006 AMA GRAND NATIONAL SINGLES CHAMPION

PICKERINGTON, Ohio (September 8, 2006) -- Jake Johnson will go down in the record books as the first Ford Quality Checked Grand National Singles Champion. Johnson, the 22-year-old American Suzuki rider from Franklinville, N.J., overcame a first-turn crash to finish ninth at the final round in Springfield, Ill., on Sept. 2 to secure the title.

The Grand National Singles Championship is a new AMA National Championship instituted this year that features single-cylinder Grand National racing motorcycles racing on short track and TT circuits. The Grand National Twins feature Twin cylinder racing machines on the bigger half-mile and mile flat tracks. That championship will conclude on Sept. 23 in Columbus, Ohio.

This marks the first national title for Johnson. He won the series with a string of consistent top-10 finishes including a victory at the historic Castle Rock TT National in August.

"I don't think it's set in yet," Johnson said of his accomplishment. "It definitely feels good. It was a goal of mine since I started racing."

The championship battle came down to the final event. Johnson said he may have sprouted a few gray hairs at the Springfield Finale.

"It was one of the most stressful days I've ever gone through I'm pretty sure," Johnson laughs. "Joe Kopp was fast all day long in practice so that didn't make me feel too confident. Unfortunately for him he had a few bad starts and missed the main so that took a little pressure off, but it also reminded me just how weird things can get at a short track race."

And weird it got in the final. Johnson's entire season flashed before his eyes when he was caught up in a first-lap, first-turn crash.

"Jimmy Wood and Sam Halbert went down in front of me and I hit them and went over the handlebars," Johnson said. "While this was all going on I just had to laugh. I couldn't believe it was happening to me."

Fortunately Johnson's bike wasn't damaged too badly and he was able to make the restart and cruise to the finish for the championship.

Johnson was near the top of the standings all season. He was second in the points chase to Bryan Smith after the opening two rounds in Daytona in March. He then trailed Joe Kopp in the standings after the Springfield TT over Memorial Day weekend. Johnson finally broke through to the series lead after winning at Castle Rock in August. He held the lead the rest of the way.

Johnson said his victory as Castle Rock was a major milestone.

"I had my doubts about how I'd do at that race since there are so many fast local riders who race Castle Rock all the time," Johnson admitted. "The track was also supposed to be pretty slippery and I usually don't do too well on those kinds of tracks since I have sort of a snappy throttle hand. But it turned out to be a real good night for me."

Johnson rode a Suzuki RMZ450-based machine tuned by Ronnie Brown. He split time between a Suzuki with a flat track frame and one with the stock frame.

-credit: ama

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