Print this page

Sedalia Races

Written by  September 30, 2004

Racing fans arrived at the Missouri State Fairgrounds in Sedalia on Saturday, August 28, expecting to see round 12 of the AMA Progressive Insurance Flat Track Championship Series. However, a mid-afternoon cloudburst had turned the half-mile oval into a swamp forcing a one-day postponement of the event. Promotor, Rick Yeager stated that with more than an inch of rain Saturday afternoon on an already wet track, there was no way to prepare the surface in time to avoid postponement. He explained that track preparation for motorcycles is different than for auto races. Rolling out the track leaves the surface too rough for the bikes. Fortunately, the remainder of the weekend was dry. After track preparation and practice laps were completed, the first qualifying races commenced at about 3 p.m. on Sunday.

The audience was somewhat smaller than it would have been for Saturday evening races, but the fans who turned out enjoyed an afternoon of very competitive racing. There were lots of thrills and a few spills, thankfully with no serious injuries.

The top three finishers in the Harley-Davidson Sportster Performance class were Christopher Hart of Farmington, New York, Robert Lewis of Tarboro, North Carolina, and William Seyle of Hanahan, South Carolina. Hart led the final 9 laps of 12 for his third win of the season.
A field of 38 riders was entered in the Progressive Insurance Grand National class. Qualifying heat races were won by Jared Mees, Bryan Bigelow, Kevin Atherton, Chris Carr, Joe Kopp, and Ken Coolbeth. Heat race winners were Mees, Jake Johnson, Carr, and Kopp. In the semi-finals, Glen Schnabel, Rich King, and Shaun Russell led the way.

During a break in the action, announcer J.B. Norris interviewed Austin Kathkart of Kansas City who had finished second at the Sedalia race 51 years earlier on a Harley. Austin observed that today’s bikes are a lot faster. He didn’t remember how much he won for his second place finish but thought it was about $100, good money in those days. He said he probably spent it getting ready for the Springfield Mile the next weekend. J.B. kidded Austin a bit about his difficulty remembering how successful the Indian riders were against the Harleys back then.

When the Grand National final race began, defending series champion Chris Carr took an early lead followed by Joe Kopp, Jake Johnson, and Johnny Murphree. Carr held the lead for the first nine laps, but then slid out of the groove and allowed Kopp and Murphree to pass. Three laps later Murphree claimed the lead, passing Kopp on the inside in turn one. On lap 20, Mike Hacker and Kevin Atherton tangled and went down bringing out the red flag. With six laps remaining, Murphree pulled away on the restart and was never challenged for the win. Kopp finished second followed by his teammate Ken Coolbeth. Carr and Shaun Russell rounded out the top five.
After the awards ceremony, Murphree who hails from Paso Robles, California, was interviewed by J.B. Norris.

J.B.: How long were those last six laps?
Johnny: It seemed like they lasted an eternity, but I could tell after the restart that there was nobody as close behind me as there was before the restart. I was just riding around thinking, man if I can just keep this rhythm going, I might be able to do this all day.

J.B.: Johnny, you had a tough first part of the season, but now you’re hitting your stride--second last week and a victory today.
Johnny: Yeah, that’s kind of what we were looking for after the first part of the season. It was tough to get everything going, but it’s good to finally get some results. We’ve got a lot of strong people behind us-Coziahr H-D/National Cycle, Troy Lee Designs, Shoei Helmets, Hap Jones, Poli Trucking, Motion Pro and American Supercamp. We’ve got a lot of guys in there who are really kicking down and making this team what it is. And of course my mechanic, Mike Wheeler--he’s unreal! He’s got the bike working perfectly. Now all I’ve got to do is my job.

Major sponsors of the event were Yeager Cycle Sales, Budweiser, FedEx and R.K. Stratman. The Iron Horsemen Motorcycle Club also donated $1,000 to the purse for the Sportster class.

Story by Stripe

Photos by Stripe and Mike Schweder