Nope, it was way worse. Oh well, all's forgiven now that the Triumph's running again.
|I thought battery life could be a problem on those electric bikes...|
Walking into the arena itself was a little underwhelming. It's no Astrodome, if you're talking indoor nationals. It's not even a Cow Palace. There's about 2,500 seats along one side, and the bikes were packed into a space about 30 feet wide between turns 2 & 3, and the outside wall of the arena.
The surface in the arena started out fantastic. Walking across it in my sneakers, it was so tacky that that my feet actually made little sucking sounds with each step. Chris Carr told me, "It's great! It's the 'Mile' dirt but it's indoors so it won't dry out."
AMA Pro worked the surface at every opportunity in practice and qualifying, when the riders - as much as possible on such a tiny track - tried to stay out of each others' way and put in a clean lap. 55 Experts showed up (54 guys and Nichole Cheza.) There were more Experts than Pro class riders. With only 48 slots up for grabs in the heats, that meant several guys would be sent packing after - get this - a total of less than two minutes of practice and qualifying. You had to come out of the pen with your hair on fire from the first moment.
|Early in the night, grip was not an issue.|
As the stands filled up (not totally, but I'm guessing there were at least 1,500 people for the show) AMA Pro let the groove develop; fans, understandably, would rather watch racing than the tractor. Everyone I talked to before the heats had expected a groove, but most of them thought it would have enough grip that the winning tactic would be to nail your start and then pole-putt around the inside.
Instead the groove got slick, and the fast line was at the edge of the cushion. Carr and Coolbeth, in particular, dominated their respective heats. Kenny Tolbert must've forgotten to tell Chris that he's an old, slow guy on the verge of retirement. He looked about 19 out there.
With the inside line that slick - it was slippery even to walk on it - there was not much chance to "high-low" the guy in front of you. The door seemed to be open, but there were very few guys who could hook up on it at all. It got pretty physical out there, although the Experts might've been slightly chastened by watching a Pro crashfest that included a couple of real pile-ups.
At the end of the night, while anything might've happened and we could've seen an unexpected winner - one of my tipsters picked Jimmy Wood - it was Coolbeth who took advantage of Carr's one bobble in duel between the two smoothest and fastest guys out there. Jake Johnson was the best of the rest, so the three single-digit guys on the podium were the same guys who've accounted for something like 200 Grand National wins between themselves.
|One insider tipped Chad Cose (49) as a dark horse going into the event. He spends the winter riding the Barn Burner series in NorCal, and raced Cow Palace before Du Quoin. Indeed, he led Coolbeth early in their heat, then on the next lap...|
|...this happened. Coolbeth was not to be denied, all night.|
|By the time the Main rolled around, the groove was so slippery I could tell it was useless to race on just by walking across it.|