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Illinois Fair: Event preview

Springfield's Memorial Day weekend AMA races celebrated its 20th Anniversary. PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The annual Memorial Day AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship races at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield are coming...

Springfield's Memorial Day weekend AMA races celebrated its 20th Anniversary.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio -- The annual Memorial Day AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship races at the Illinois State Fairgrounds in Springfield are coming on May 25-26. The event is celebrating its 20th anniversary and will feature a TT race on Saturday and the Memorial Day Mile on Sunday. Illinois' own Johnny Murphree comes into the doubleheader AMA Grand National weekend ranked first in the series. Murphree, a California native who now calls Forsyth, Ill., his home, is expected to return to racing at Springfield after suffering a badly broken leg in a motocross accident last month. Murphree, who rides for Coziar Harley-Davidson will race on the Springfield Mile Sunday, but is sitting out the TT.

"I dodged a bullet when the Columbus race was rescheduled due to rain," admitted Murphree. "I've been really fortunate that my leg has healed quickly. I feel like I should be ready to race and be competitive. Springfield is such a big race for us that it would be hard to keep me off the bike for this event."

With Murphree expected to miss half of the doubleheader weekend it's likely that a new series leader will emerge at Springfield. Only four points separate second-ranked Kevin Varnes from fifth-ranked Mike Hacker, so it's a toss-up on who might leave Springfield with the points lead. Defending AMA Grand National Champion Chris Carr will be looking to make up ground at Springfield. The Pennsylvania rider who is sponsored by Quality Checked Certified Pre-Own Ford, comes into this weekend's race with the knowledge that Springfield has been good to him over the years. Carr has won the Memorial Day Mile twice and is always a threat to win.

Joining Carr as former Springfield Memorial Weekend winners are Jay Springsteen and Kevin Atherton. Springsteen surprised everyone by winning on the mile two years ago. The seemingly ageless 45-year-old veteran rider from Lapeer, Mich., continues to amaze his fans and fellow competitors by continuing to be competitive after 27 years on the circuit. "Springer" comes into this weekend's races ranked ninth in the standings on his Bartel's Harley-Davidson. Fellow Michigander Atherton made a remarkable comeback after suffering a badly shattered leg in 1999. He won this race in 1999 and hopes to put his Saddleman Harley-Davidson on top of the podium once again.

Springfield, which has hosted the traditional Labor Day weekend AMA national championship races at the fairgrounds since the 1930s, began the Memorial Weekend tradition in 1982. The late-great Ricky Graham won that first race in 1982.

The TT race is a new addition to the Memorial Weekend at Springfield. Last year Tommy Hayden, oldest of the three racing Hayden brothers from Owensboro, Ky., took a weekend off from AMA Superbike road-racing and won the inaugural TT race on a converted Yamaha motocross bike.

Riders will use completely different motorcycles for the two races. On the mile they will use 750cc and 1000cc twin-cylinder machines and on the smaller TT circuit they will run lightweight 505cc single-cylinder motorcycles.

In addition to the doubleheader Grand National races, the Springfield Mile will also host a round of the Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Series. Rookie Jacob Johnson, from Deptford, N.J., leads that series after winning the series opener in Oklahoma last month. Last year's AMA Flat Track Rookie of the Year and defending Sportster Performance champ Bryan Smith, of Flint, Mich., is ranked second and Virginian Rusty Rogers is third. A couple of Illinois riders, John Faulkner III, of Marion, and James Hart, of Centralia, are both ranked in the top ten coming into this weekend. <pre> The Springfield races will be taped and shown on Speed Channel throughout the month of June as listed below. Tuesday, June 4 10-11 p.m. Grand National Mile Tuesday, June 4 3-4 a.m. Grand National Mile Tuesday, June 4 11-11:30 p.m. Sportster Performance Mile Tuesday, June 11 3-4 p.m. Grand National Mile Tuesday, June 11 4-4:30 p.m. Sportster Performance Mile Tuesday, June 18 11-11:30 p.m. Sportster Performance Mile Tuesday, June 18 10-11 p.m. Grand National TT Tuesday, June 18 3-4 a.m. Grand National TT Tuesday, June 25 3:30-4 p.m. Sportster Performance Mile Tuesday, June 25 11:30-12 p.m. Sportster Performance Mile Tuesday, June 25 2-3 p.m. Grand National TT

There will be a special golf outing with the AMA Pros at The Rail Golf Coarse on May 24. For golf outing and or race ticket information contact the Illinois Motorcycle Dealers Association (IMDA) at (217) 753-8866 or visit www.illinoismda.com.

AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE U.S. FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE OF EVENTS ILLINOIS STATE FAIRGROUNDS, SPRINGFIELD, ILLINOIS

SATURDAY, MAY 25, 2002 TT 4:30 p.m. Practice 5:30 p.m. - Qualifying Heats 7:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. Opening Ceremonies 7:30 p.m. - 7:40 p.m. 1st Progressive Insurance Grand National heat 7:40 p.m. - 7:50 p.m. 2nd Progressive Insurance Grand National heat 7:50 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. 3rd Progressive Insurance Grand National heat 8:00 p.m. - 8:10 p.m. 4th Progressive Insurance Grand National heat 8:10 p.m. - 8:20 p.m. 1st Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 8:20 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. 2nd Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 8:30 p.m. - 8:40 p.m. 3rd Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 8:55 p.m. - 9:10 p.m. AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE GRAND NATIONAL FINAL 9:15 p.m. Victory Circle for Grand National Final

SUNDAY, MAY 26, 2002 MILE 10:30 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. Practice 11:30 a.m. - Qualifying Heats 1:00 p.m. - Opening Ceremonies 1:30 p.m. - 1:40 p.m. 1st Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance heat 1:40 p.m. - 1:50 p.m. 2nd Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance heat 1:50 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. 3rd Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance heat 2:00 p.m. - 2:10 p.m. 1st Progressive Insurance Grand National heat 2:10 p.m. - 2:20 p.m. 2nd Progressive Insurance Grand National heat 2:20 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. 3rd Progressive Insurance Grand National heat 2:30 p.m. - 2:40 p.m. 4th Progressive Insurance Grand National heat 2:40 p.m. - 2:55 p.m. HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER PERFORMANCE FINAL 2:55 p.m. - 3:05 p.m. Victory Circle for Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Final 3:05 p.m. - 3:15 p.m. 1st Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 3:15 p.m. - 3:25 p.m. 2nd Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 3:25 p.m. - 3:35 p.m. 3rd Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 3:50 p.m. - 4:05 p.m. AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE GRAND NATIONAL FINAL 4:05 p.m. Victory Circle for Grand National Final

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 Championships.

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Series AMA
Drivers Tommy Hayden , John Faulkner , Chris Carr