FT: Kenny Coolbeth Springfield preview

COOLBETH WILL OPEN '07 RACING SEASON WITH A BULL'S-EYE ON HIS SCREAMIN' EAGLE RACING LEATHERS Wrecking Crew Adds Joe Kopp to Bolster Team; Jay Springsteen Wants One Last Shot MILWAUKEE (May 23, 2007) -- Kenny Coolbeth and the rest of the AMA...


Wrecking Crew Adds Joe Kopp to Bolster Team; Jay Springsteen Wants One Last Shot

MILWAUKEE (May 23, 2007) -- Kenny Coolbeth and the rest of the AMA Ford Quality Checked Flat Track GNC Twins racers competed at 10 events in 2006. Coolbeth was the points leader just once -- but it happened to be the only time it really mattered.

Coolbeth took over the points lead at the season finale in Columbus, Ohio after winning the race on his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson. It was his first career AMA Twins championship and the first championship in nine years for a Harley-Davidson factory-sponsored team.

Now he has a new perspective about what it will take to repeat as the champ in 2007.

"I know that I have a big bull's-eye on my back this season and I want to do whatever it takes to keep the No. 1 plate," said the Warren, Conn., native. "My goal is to win races and do the same thing I did in 2006 but I won't put any extra pressure on myself. I'm going to approach the season and each race the same way I always do. Having a different number on my motorcycle isn't going to change the way I ride. I go to each event knowing I'm going to do my best and go after every win possible."

Coolbeth earned three wins and three other podium finishes in 2006. The Wrecking Crew team earned a total of five wins and 17 podium appearances. The 2007 Wrecking Crew is out to increase those numbers.

Along with the factory-sponsored Coolbeth, the Wrecking Crew will feature Jared Mees on the Blue Springs Harley-Davidson, Bryan Smith on the Moroney's Harley-Davidson and the newest member of the team, Joe Kopp on his Team Latus Harley-Davidson.

If that weren't enough firepower for one team, the Wrecking Crew will also have a fifth rider for one race and one race only. Jay Springsteen, three-time AMA Grand National champion, will be an honorary Wrecking Crew member for his final appearance. Once the checkered flag drops at Springfield, the veteran racer will retire.

"I broke my back because of an accident at a race in July last year and I didn't want to end my career like that," the 50-year-old Michigan resident said. "The doctors said I could never race again and I proved them wrong. I want to retire on my own terms and I'm ready for this race.

"I think it's great to have the opportunity to not only race one last time, but to race one last time at the Springfield Mile and to do it wearing Harley-Davidson colors. I love racing on the mile and this is going to be the last time I race this event. It's going to be great."

Mees said having a legend like Springsteen on the team is just one more hurdle to the top of the podium.

"All of the Wrecking Crew guys are runners and you not only have to beat the rest of the field, but your own teammates, to get on the box," Mees said. "Jay can still send it into the corner better than anyone else and it's going to be great to be his teammate for this big race. This is something I will remember for the rest of my life. Being a teammate with the 'Gunslinger' during his final race is going to be great."

Mees, Smith and Kopp each earned a victory in '06 and Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso said Kopp will just add to the competitive power of the Wrecking Crew. Mees took second place in the final point standings while Smith and Kopp earned third and sixth place, respectively.

"We're really excited to have Joe on the Wrecking Crew because he's got experience and he's just as excited to be part of our team," Paluso said. "I think we're coming back stronger this season and Joe is one of the reasons for that. We're going to defend our championship along with second and third place from Jared and Bryan so we have a lot to live up to."

This will also be the first year that the Wrecking Crew has three dealer-sponsored teams.

"The Wrecking Crew was originally founded on a working relationship between dealers and racers," Paluso said. "We're lucky to have three successful Harley-Davidson dealers as our partners this season. Blue Springs came on board with Jared as his sponsor, Moroney's is back with Bryan and George Latus and his group have a great relationship with Joe. We have a great group of riders and sponsors and they are all working hard to make sure 2007 is just as, if not more, successful than 2006."

Mees will be defending his 2006 win in Saluda, Va., and will look to be in the running for the 2007 championship.

"Our communication as a team was great last year," Mees said. "I trust the guy turning the wrenches on the bike so much. We have great chemistry on the team and I'm really excited about what we can do with the knowledge we gained last year. Hopefully we can build on what we learned last season and make an even bigger push for the championship title."

Smith will be defending a big win from the second Springfield Mile event of the '06 season.

"I'm anxious for the season because we had a couple of things that happened that were more bad luck than anything else and we are doing whatever it takes to minimize the chances of those things happening again," Smith said. "I think I'm more excited about this season than I've ever been. We were in the championship chase and we didn't even come close to reaching our potential last year. I think our setup and results will just improve."

Kopp won the Greenville, Ohio, race in '06 and is looking to improve on his 6th place finish in the final standings.

"I'm aiming to win three times this season," Kopp said. "That's a tough goal to attain because the competition is so good and it's difficult to win one race, let alone three. But I think our team's consistency will help us. I think the team that makes mistakes won't be in the championship chase this season. One bad race could be the difference between being in the top five and being in 10th place. My team is ready to battle for wins and hopefully that will get us in championship contention by the end of the season."

Paluso said she expects nothing less than an exciting season from the entire Wrecking Crew team.

"I expect Kenny to go out and ride with the same passion and dedication that he showed in 2006," she said. "Kenny wants to defend the championship and he's got great competition from the field and that includes the rest of the Wrecking Crew. We want to see as many podium finishes as possible from all four riders.

"Last year the guys learned what it was like to work as a team and it paid off. Joe will help the younger riders with his experience and knowledge. Bryan and Jared were not only part of the championship chase but they also got to see what Kenny did to win the championship and because of that, I think everyone will have a more competitive season in 2007."

Coolbeth is just going to concentrate on one thing: winning.

"From the start of practice to every lap of the main event I am going to stay focused," Coolbeth said. "I'm still learning and I think there is so much that I can learn from communicating with mechanics to preparing for each race. Everyone on the team is a top contender. It's going to be a tough season but I'm ready. I can't wait for every race."

-credit: se

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