Slim 11-point margin separates two riders with four races remaining PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 3, 2003) -- Johnny Murphree's victory last weekend in Milwaukee, Wisc., in front of a throng of Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary revelers, combined...
Slim 11-point margin separates two riders with four races remaining
PICKERINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 3, 2003) -- Johnny Murphree's victory last weekend in Milwaukee, Wisc., in front of a throng of Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary revelers, combined with the DNF by defending champ and series leader Chris Carr instantly made the 2003 AMA Progressive Insurance U.S. Flat Track Championship mighty interesting as the series heads down the homestretch.
This weekend the championship moves to the picturesque Vernon Downs Mile, in Vernon, N.Y. for round 14 of the 17-race series. This will be the fourth year the thundering AMA Grand National bikes have raced at Vernon Downs and already the race has become a favorite venue for fans and racers alike. In addition to the Grand National, fans will also get to watch a round of the Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Series.
Murphree, a 24-year-old Californian who is in his seventh year of AMA Grand National competition, was runner-up to Carr in the championship last year. This season Murphree has been hanging with Carr by being consistently on the podium, but until last weekend he had not earned a victory. He's hoping that the win near Milwaukee last week will carry over and allow him to make a strong final push to catch Carr in the title chase. Last year the Vernon race may have cost Murphree a shot at his first title.
"I was fast early on in practice last year," Murphree explained. "Then I just barely slipped off the groove and went down. We weren't able to get the bike together in time and I missed qualifying for the race."
Even though Murphree is happy that he went from 31 points down to Carr to only 11 in the course of one race, he's trying not to think too far ahead. "It's great that I'm back in the mix for the championship, but right now I've got to concentrate from week to week doing the best I can at each race and try not to get overly excited with the prospect of a close championship battle. "
Kevin Atherton comes into the race the defending winner at Vernon Downs. He along with Carr and Rich King are the three previous winners at the track. Murphree's best result came in 2000 when he finished third. Carr is trying to become only the second rider in AMA Grand National history to win five championships.
By far the most consistent rider at Vernon the last three years has been Connecticut's Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. Coolbeth was runner-up in the 2001 and 2002 race at Vernon and was fourth in the inaugural outing there in 2000. He is ranked fourth in the series this year.
Only three rounds of the 2003 Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance Series remain, including this weekend's round at Vernon Downs. Texan Scott Scherb is riding a three-race winning streak coming into Saturday's race and has opened an 11-point lead on Scott Stump. Scherb hopes to improve on his fifth-place finish in the Sportster race at Vernon last year.
For additional information on Saturday's race at Vernon Downs call (315) 829-2201 or visit www.vernondowns.com. Hotel accommodations are available at the track.
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.