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Thunder in the mountains -- the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship comes to Thunder Ridge Raceway. PICKERINGTON, Ohio-- The Appalachian Mountains will serve as a backdrop as the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track ...

Thunder in the mountains -- the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship comes to Thunder Ridge Raceway.

PICKERINGTON, Ohio-- The Appalachian Mountains will serve as a backdrop as the AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship rumbles into Prestonsburg, Kentucky, and the Thunder Ridge Raceway Half-mile this Saturday, July 13. Prestonsburg is round nine of the 20-race championship series and defending champion Chris Carr holds a narrow points lead coming into Saturday's race. Carr, of Fleetwood, Pa., has a nine-point lead on fellow Pennsylvanian Kevin Varnes. Third ranked Johnny Murphree, of Forsyth, Ill., is also right there as well, just 11 points out of the series lead. In fact, this year's AMA Grand National Series has been one of the closest in years with seven different winners in the first eight rounds.

Kentucky's own Nicky Hayden became the first two-time winner of the series with a victory in Springfield, Ill., last week. Hayden will not be racing in Prestonsburg due to his commitments in the World Superbike and AMA Superbike doubleheader this weekend in Monterey, Calif.

The race Saturday in Prestonsburg marks the first time in over a decade that the Commonwealth has hosted an AMA Grand National. Louisville was the last town in Kentucky to host the series in 1991. This also brings motorcycle racing to Thunder Ridge Raceway for the first time. The half-mile pea gravel/clay mix track should make for exciting wheel-to-wheel racing action.

Three-time AMA National Champion Jay Springsteen is the leader among active riders in terms of wins on half-miles. Springsteen, 45, of Lapeer, Mich., has 21 AMA half-mile wins to his credit. Even at 45, "Springer" is still a threat to win on the cushion tracks such as Thunder Ridge. Carr, himself a three-time champ, has an excellent record on half-miles as well, having earned 17 wins on circuits since the mid-1980s. Carr would love to put a little breathing room between him and second place with a win Saturday, but he realizes that everyone will be starting from scratch at Prestonsburg.

"It's a new track so no one should have an advantage," said Carr, who was a former winner of the Louisville Half-Mile race. "You go to a track like Prestonsburg and try to set up your bike according to tracks that are similar, but you never really know until you're able to put some laps under your belt."

In addition to the AMA Grand National, there will also be a round of the Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Series at Prestonsburg. Jared Mees, yet another rider from Pennsylvania, is leading that championship with three wins to his credit. Scott Scherb, of Texas, Rusty Rogers from Virginia, and James Hart of Illinois are locked in a great battle for second in the standings.

For additional information contact Thunder Ridge Raceway (606) 886-7223. 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. <pre> AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE U.S. FLAT TRACK CHAMPIONSHIP SCHEDULE OF EVENTS THUNDER RIDGE RACEWAY, PRESTONSBURG, KY HALF-MILE-- JULY 13, 2002

SATURDAY, JULY 13, 2002 5:00 p.m. - 5:45 p.m. - Practice 6:00 p.m. - Qualifying heats 7:30 p.m. - 8:00 p.m. - Opening Ceremonies 8:00 p.m. - 8:10 p.m. - 1st Harley-Davidson Sportster Peformance Heat 8:10 p.m. - 8:20 p.m. - 2nd Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Heat 8:20 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. - 3rd Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Heat 8:30 p.m. - 8:40 p.m. - 1st Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat 8:40 p.m. - 8:50 p.m. - 2nd Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat 8:50 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. - 3rd Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat 9:00 p.m. - 9:10 p.m. - 4th Progressive Insurance Grand National Heat 9:10 p.m. - 9:25 p.m. - HARLEY-DAVIDSON SPORTSTER PERFORMANCE FINAL 9:25 p.m. - 9:35 p.m. - Victory Circle for Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Final 9:35 p.m. - 9:45 p.m. - 1st Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 9:45 p.m. - 9:55 p.m. - 2nd Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 9:55 p.m. - 10:05 p.m. - 3rd Progressive Insurance Grand National Semi 10:20 p.m. - 10:35 p.m. - AMA PROGRESSIVE INSURANCE GRAND NATIONAL FINAL 10:35 p.m. - Victory Circle for Grand National

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Series AMA
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Chris Carr