COOLBETH ALREADY LOOKING FORWARD TO DEFENDING AMA FLAT TRACK TWINS CHAMPIONSHIP IN 2008 Screamin' Eagle Wrecking Crew Riders Take Final Podium Positions MILWAUKEE (Oct. 26, 2007) -- For the second consecutive season Kenny Coolbeth is spending...
COOLBETH ALREADY LOOKING FORWARD TO DEFENDING AMA FLAT TRACK TWINS CHAMPIONSHIP IN 2008
Screamin' Eagle Wrecking Crew Riders Take Final Podium Positions
MILWAUKEE (Oct. 26, 2007) -- For the second consecutive season Kenny Coolbeth is spending his AMA Flat Track Twins offseason with the No. 1 plate. The Harley-Davidson Screamin' Eagle factory rider won the Twins championship again this season and he once more has earned the honor of having the No. 1 plate attached to his Harley-Davidson.
Coolbeth may have done all the riding on the track, but he's quick to hand out the credit to his team.
"We communicated so much better this season and I think our team wanted it more than any other team out there," said Coolbeth, a Warren, Conn., native. "It takes an amazing group of people to do what we did this season. Winning the second championship feels just as good as the first one. Our team wants to keep doing this and we've already put our focus on next season."
What Coolbeth did this season, however, deserves mention. Not only did Coolbeth win six times, but also he finished in second place three times. He did not earn a podium finish at just two races out of 11 national events this season.
"We had big goals to accomplish this season and I think we did that," Coolbeth said. "But I was lucky to have the best mechanics and the best motorcycles out on the track. Looking back, it seems crazy that we were able to win six races this season. The entire year was great. From winning the first race at Springfield to the last win (Monticello, N.Y.) it was just a wonderful season. There were a lot of highlights this year."
With two championships and 15 national Twins events to his name, Coolbeth can only look forward to the next race.
"We won three races in 2006 and we improved on that this season," Coolbeth said. "I think it would be very difficult to improve on six wins, but we're going to approach 2008 the same way we did in 2007. We want to win every race we go to. That's always been our goal and that won't change. It took an entire team of people to win this championship and I'm just happy to be surrounded by such a talented crew."
Some of Coolbeth's strongest competition came from his Wrecking Crew team. Wrecking Crew riders Jared Mees, Bryan Smith and Joe Kopp finished in second, third and sixth place this season, respectively.
"Kenny is just the 10th person in AMA history to win back-to-back championships and not only that, but he had an amazing season," Harley-Davidson Racing Manager Anne Paluso said. "He won an incredible amount of races and his Wrecking Crew teammates had a great season as well. The Wrecking Crew won every race except one and finished on the podium 19 times, which speaks to how good the teams are and how prepared they were for the season.
"Kenny and Jared had a hard-fought battle and it made for a very exciting part of the season for all of the fans. We're excited that Kenny is going to lead the way in defending this championship next season."
Mees and the Blue Springs Harley-Davidson team made it especially difficult for Coolbeth at times. Mess earned three victories this season, giving him six career national event wins.
Mees may have finished in second place for the second consecutive season, but he made some big improvements over the 2006 season. Along with his three wins and four second place finishes, Mees also was the points leader following five events this year.
"We had a great beginning to the season, winning three in a row starting with Bulls Gap (Ten.)," Mees said. "The biggest goal of each season for me is to do better than the previous season and we did that. Kenny just doubled my win total and that was the difference. He raced an incredible season but I'm still very happy with what we were able to accomplish.
"Blue Springs was a new sponsor this season and now they are pumped and ready for another season. It was a great season for us and the entire Harley-Davidson Wrecking Crew and it just makes us anxious to get back to racing."
Now that Mees has been in the championship hunt, he is addicted to the thought of winning a championship some day. This season, he said, can help him accomplish that goal.
"Last year we kind of fell into second place at the last race," Mees said. "I had never been in a run-and-gun race for the championship before this season and I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot this season and what it feels like to be racing for the title. I know our team can do a few things differently and hopefully that will affect the outcome next season."
Mees said Coolbeth was one of the main reasons he was so competitive in 2007.
"Kenny really stepped up this season," Mees said. "Last year it was a new team for him and this year they were the team to beat at every race. It's disappointing knowing that the championship chase is over and we didn't win the title, but we gave it our best shot.
"It's a great feeling knowing that I gave it everything I had. Kenny was just flat out better than me in the second half. But it was a great experience and I'll do better next season because of it."
Smith finished on the podium four times for the Pat Moroney's Harley-Davidson team, earning him third place in the standings for the second consecutive season. He didn't win this year, but he has every intention of making sure he doesn't go winless again in 2008.
"We struggled this season but have still been able to keep our third place in the standings," Smith said. "We had some new challenges this year that we were just unprepared for and didn't have a lot of experience with. It seems like we have a long list of mistakes that we've made and I think we have too good of a team to not earn a win. The best news is that we still finished in third place and we learned so much this season. All of our hurdles this year will make us a better team for 2008 and beyond."
At one point of the season, Smith was as low as sixth place in the standings. Smith said this season has only increased his appetite for a victory.
"We're going to learn from our mistakes and we're going to come out fighting for a championship in 2008," Smith said. "We're too good of a team to let the lack of wins get us down. It's going to help us stay focused throughout the offseason. We're going to be a better team next year."
Kopp, the 2000 AMA Grand National champion, earned one victory en route to his sixth place finish. He won the Tucson, Ariz., event -- the last race of the season.
"The win helped the season a lot," Kopp said. "It seems like we've faced new challenges every week like a flat tire, the bike having problems and a few other things that kept us from really getting into the championship mix. When I got a flat tire with two laps to go in Bulls Gap, it really put a dagger in my heart. It was the second race of the season and it seemed like I was already fighting my way out of the basement after that race."
Kopp said the competition makes it difficult to climb back into championship contention.
"This is a very tough group of riders and I didn't feel like I was at the top of my game all season long," Kopp said. "I had a difficult time finding that little extra edge that would separate me from the rest of the pack. I got a lot of confidence back in Tucson and I just hope that carries over into the offseason and into next year. It was a very trying year but it felt great to finally get that win and get back on top."
Coolbeth said he can't possibly know what it will take to win another championship next season, but he's preparing for anything.
"Someone said it would take seven wins to take the title this season and they weren't that far off," Coolbeth said. "It sounds crazy to think about winning more than we did this season. But no matter what, our team is going to be prepared. We work so well together and it makes it fun. Everyone is going to be spending the offseason looking for ways to be better and more competitive. That includes us. I'm already excited about 2008."