PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 15, 2003) -- The 2003 AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship is winding down to its final three races. As the series comes to Scioto Downs' half-mile harness racing oval in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday,...
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 15, 2003) -- The 2003 AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship is winding down to its final three races. As the series comes to Scioto Downs' half-mile harness racing oval in Columbus, Ohio, on Saturday, Sept. 20, four riders still have a shot at winning the championship. In addition to hosting round 15 of the 17-race Grand National Series Scioto Downs racing fans will also see the second-to-last round of the Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Series. Five riders in that series are battling to win the Sportster title. This race is considered a homecoming for the series since AMA Pro Racing is headquartered in the Columbus suburb of Pickerington.
Defending champion Chris Carr leads the standings coming into Scioto Downs. Carr, of Fleetwood, Pa., is attempting to become only the second rider in the history of the AMA Grand National Series to become a five-time champion. Carr was runner-up to Ken Coolbeth in last year's inaugural AMA National at Scioto Downs and is approaching this weekend's race with enthusiasm.
"I go to Columbus like I do at every race and that's expecting to win," said Carr, who has been racing professionally since 1985 when he was AMA Rookie of the Year. "We had built up a pretty good lead in the championship and unfortunately a mechanical problem cost us a big portion of that lead. Now the job is to go out there in the last three races and give it all I've got. I think if you start trying to protect a lead that is when you start getting into trouble."
Californian Johnny Murphree has closed to within 13 points of Carr in the championship after earning three podium finishes in the last four races, including a victory in Milwaukee last month. Murphree hopes to finish in front of Carr at Scioto Downs to bring the championship even closer by the time the series heads to the final weekend of racing in Springfield, Ill., on September 27 and 28. Murphree is seeking his first AMA Grand National Championship after finishing runner-up to Carr in the series last year.
Former AMA champ Joe Kopp and last year's Scioto Downs winner Ken Coolbeth are the other two riders with at least an outside shot at winning this year's championship. Should Carr and Murphree have problems in the last three rounds Kopp and Coolbeth could be in a great position to swoop in and take away the title. Kopp knows what it takes to win the championship. He did just that in 2000. Coolbeth could easily be considered the pre-race favorite at Scioto Downs. Not only is the Connecticut rider last year's winner, but he's also the hottest rider on the circuit right now. Coolbeth has gone on a late-season tear and has won two out of the last three races.
One other rider to watch for at Scioto Downs could be Canadian Steve Beattie. Beattie loves these types of "cushion" tracks and finished on the podium at Scioto Downs last year. Ohio fans will be cheering for Ohio's own George Roeder II. Roeder comes into this race ranked 14th in the standings. His best result of the season came on home soil when he finished second at Lima, Ohio, in June.
Scott Scherb and Scott Stump are involved in a very tight race for the Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Series title. Only four points separate the leading two riders. A total of five riders are still at least mathematically in the hunt for the Sportster crown. Riders are pitted against one another on equally prepared Harley-Davidson 883 Sportsters.
Both the Grand National and Sportster Performance races will be taped and televised on Speed Channel. The Grand National will be shown during primetime in its first showing at 10 p.m. Eastern on Oct. 7. The Sportster Performance race will be first shown on Oct. 21 at 10:30 p.m. Eastern.
For additional information on this weekend's race contact (877) 274-1184 or visit www.sciotodowns.com.
For immediate post-race results, points, in-depth series and rider information, regular columnists and much more, log onto www.1800FlatTrack.com, the official website of the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship.