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Zanotti Racing Knoxville Race Report - Coolbeth KO's the Field
Welcome to the team Zanotti Knoxville Iowa race report. The team left from Michigan and California to meet up in Iowa with quite a bit of trepidation as the local forecast was predicting a 60% chance of rain for the day of the National. We met on Friday with ominous skies above to discuss our schedule and logistics for the weekend. Saturday we were requested to put on an exhibition for the crowd at the World of Outlaws event. We arrived around 4 pm and set up the bikes to wait to be called to the track to put on a show. Around 9:30 AM, we were called out to the line with maybe 8 other regular competitors from our circuit. Though it was only an exhibition, at the drop of the green flag Bonsey and Coolbeth went immediately to the front. On the last lap of the exhibition Bonsey pulled off with an electrical issue. Kenny continued and finished comfortably in front. The crowd seemed to enjoy the race quite a bit and we felt confident we were on the right track for the racing the next day.
Sunday, the day of the race, we woke once again to threatening skies and headed out to the track bright and early. AMA Pro once again did a stellar job organizing the pits and preparing the facility for the race (no small feat with cars on the track till near midnight the previous evening). We were unloaded, set up, teched, and ready to hit the track in no time. Team Zanotti has enjoyed success every time we have race at Knoxville, therefore we were confident as both riders rolled out to the track in the first group for free practice. With the car races the night before and the threat of rain all weekend, prepping the track must have been a challenge. The track was a little rough and slow in the first practice. The lap times were in the low 25s with Kenny 3rd overall in that session with a time of 25.101. Stevie was 9th overall with a time of 25.235. The odd fact was the slower groupings coming out to the track after, were putting up times just as fast or faster as the track was coming in and taking on rubber. In the first timed qualifying session the track had changed drastically. Kenny had the 2nd fastest time dropping over a second off his previous time with a fast lap of 23.954. Stevie was 5th overall in that session with a 24.070, also dropping over a second off his previous time. In the second and final qualifying session Kenny was once again ultra-fast and smooth. He was once again 2nd overall with a 23.541, only 8/100ths from fast time of the day. Stevie was caught in traffic and without a clear track was only able to muster a 10th overall in that session with a time of 23.954.
Once qualifying was completed the pits were opened up to the fans for an abbreviated autograph signing and photo op session. When the pits were cleared of the fans, preparations were made for the heat races. Stevie drew the first heat with some stiff competition including former 2 time National Champion Jake Johnson and the previous race winner at the Springfield Mile, Brian Smith. When the light went green Stevie got a mediocre start entering turn1 in 4th. Down the back chute 3 riders swamped the leader moving Stevie into 3rd. In the following turn he got under Smith for second and set his sights on Johnson. Johnson slipped the groove in the following turn and Stevie was leading the pack. Stevie led until the midway point of the race then he also slipped up letting Johnson by. The rest of the race he fought off Smith and tried to make ground back up on the leader. He finished second and not only earned a front row start in the main but a spot in the ever so important dash for cash. Kenny's heat immediately followed and he was in the pole position. Kenny also got a mediocre start and was 4th coming out of the first turn. Sammy Halbert was leading and getting away a bit but Kenny made quick work of the riders in front of him and his chase for the lead began. Before the halfway flags were shown he had not only caught the leader but passed him with relative ease. For the remainder of the race he rode his normal fast and smooth pace, putting distance on the field and winning with relative ease. With two riders in the DFC we were ecstatic. Dash for cash points are bonus points available to put a gap between our competitors who didn't qualify for the event. This race at each National can be the difference between winning a championship or not.
As the race drew near we decided on a last minute set up change to try on Kenny's bike. We as a team pulled his bike up to staging a few minutes late. This proved to be a costly mistake as it relegated Kenny to the second row in a short 4 lap race. At the flash of green, all six riders dropped the clutch yet only five moved forward, Stevie's chain broke at the line which ended his chance of gaining valuable points. Kenny got into the first turn in 4th and was pushing hard. The leader went high which moved everyone up a spot and that is where he finished. With his 3rd place finish Kenny was able to pick up one point on his nearest rival in the championship chase and 3 points on his rivals who failed to qualify for the dash. Preparations for the main event were relatively easy, a new chain for Stevie and minor set up adjustments on Kenny's bike. Off to staging, then rider introductions, a sighting lap and the race was lined up and ready to start.
When the green light flashed both Zanotti riders rocketed off the line with Stevie in 1st and Kenny right on his rear wheel. Down the back chute Kenny went by Stevie and they completed the first lap leading the pack. About the fifth time they entered turned one Slamin Sammy Halbert made good on his name and used Stevie as a backstop entering the turn. This pushed Stevie up the track and 4 riders were able to get by moving Stevie from 2nd to 6th in one fell swoop. Meanwhile, up front, Kenny was putting on a clinic. From lap 1 through lap 19 he was putting an average of 3/10ths of a second on the field per lap. Lap after lap his lead slowly grew till he had over a 4 second lead on the field. Around lap 20 Kenny began to reel in the back of the pack. He backed off his pace a bit as he was lapping riders giving back almost a second to the field. He lapped up to the 12th place rider, even lapping one rider twice. Kenny was a model for smooth consistency. Lap after lap he was putting up times in the mid 22 second range. His fast lap of the race of 22.677 was the fastest lap recorded all day. That time equates to an 80 mph average speed around the half mile circuit. One onlooker was heard to say, "If this was a fight they woulda stopped it". This race was very reminiscent of his dominating performance in Daytona. To beat the best in the world at what they do in this dominate fashion is magical to watch. Meanwhile, after Stevie was slammed by Halbert, it took him a couple of laps to regroup. He had Bryan Smith on his rear wheel
and Brad Baker had about 6 bike lengths on him. He put his head down and went to work closing the gap on Baker, catching him about lap 21. After looking for room to pass for 3 laps he made a very
aggressive pass in the last corner on the last lap to salvage a 5th place finish for the race. He crossed the line a scant 1 second behind the 4th place rider. Overall a win and a 5th place finish is an excellent day, but we always strive for more.
We had a real chance of putting both riders on the box in Knoxville. Kenny has extended his lead in the championship series to 8 over the 2nd place rider and 16 over the 3rd ranked rider. Stevie leap frogged to 8th in the title chase a mere 13 points separating him from 4th. Kenny has been on the podium in 3 of the 4 races contested, Stevie 1. We take pride at Zanotti racing having the highest percentage of podium appearances of any team since 2010. This season is helping that stat greatly. Now we are off to Lima cushion half mile to try to protect and hopefully extend our lead in the championship chase. Please tune in to watch live on Fanschoice.tv if you can't be there on June 28th.
As always we would like to thank our sponsors, without whom none of this would be possible, Moroney's Harley Davidson, Classic Harley Davidson of Reading PA, Top 1 Oil and Lubricants, Galfer Brakes, Drew Massa Trucking, Mikuni USA, K&N Filters, Motion Pro, Ron Guzman of RGR Racing, The Motor Cafe in Sunnyvale CA, Bazzaz, Works Connection, Ride Engineering, Vortex, Millennium Technologies, Pinit Motorsports of Seaside CA, Wiseco, Billbuilt Pipes, G2 Ergonomics, Weiss Racing, CC4, Pro Plates, Boughner Racing, Chickenhawk Racing, and Cometic Gaskets.
Kenny Coolbeth would also like to thank his personal sponsors, all of which are very important to making this a successful year. Arai Helmets, D's Leathers, Burt Ives Honda, Jones Honda of Missouri, Specialty Fabrication, West Coast Hot Shoes, Strictly Dirt, Dragon Goggles, Acerbis, Saddleman, Ride Academy, RLJ Racing, Trantolo & Trantolo, HBD Moto Graphix, STRIKT, Barnett, Wrex, Prewitt Automotive.
Stevie Bonsey also has important personal sponsors to thank, Arai Helmets, Alpine Stars Apparel, EKS Goggles, Santa Cruz Bicycles, OB1 Trucking, Coolbreeze, Team Intents, Camilla Payne, Bill Graham, Richard Matuzek, and Skip Sandman.