MILWAUKEE (May 25, 2011) - The Harley-Davidson Screamin' Eagle Factory Team will have three-time champion rider Kenny Coolbeth in the saddle to open the 2011 Grand National Twins portion of the AMA Pro Harley-Davidson Insurance Flat Track Championship on May 22 at the historic Springfield Mile in Springfield, Ill. Coolbeth returns for a sixth season aboard the factory Harley-Davidson XR750.
"I'm off to a good start this season, but it will be good to get on the big bike again," said Coolbeth, who is currently in third place in the Grand National standings after five short-track races on single-cylinder motorcycles, including a win at DuQuoin, Ill. "I enjoy both styles of flat-track, but I've always done better on the twins. I expect this to be another competitive season, with a lot of the same racers up front. This series really keeps you on your toes."
Tuning for Coolbeth will be Craig Lager, now in his 12th season with the team and his seventh as Harley-Davidson Factory Team crew chief.
"We'll open the season with the same rules package as last year," said Lager, "so we won't have a learning curve in that regard. We used the off season to develop the bike and keep our edge. In this series there are always some tracks that favor certain riders and bikes, so we've got to be as competitive as possible at every venue."
Coolbeth has won three times on the Springfield Mile track, located at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, where riders can reach 140 mph on the long straights and often race elbow-to-elbow in packs that average better than 100 mph for each lap.
"The Harley team is ready for the Twins season," said Coolbeth. "We did some testing on the half-mile at Circleville, Ohio, a few weeks ago and learned some things. I've been riding motocross to stay in shape and have raced my XR750 in some local events."
The 12-race Grand National Twins schedule includes a June 11 stop at a new venue, the Hartford Motor Speedway half-mile in Hartford, Mich. The series also makes a return after more than 10 years to the famous Sacramento Mile for a July 30 race that will be a feature of the California State Fair at the Cal Expo Center.
"I think both those tracks will be good for the Harley-Davidson team," said Lager. "Kenny has raced at Sacramento in the past and done well there. The Hartford track will be new for all the teams, but it's very similar to the I-96 Speedway in Lake Odessa, Mich., and we've won there in the past."
Coolbeth Brings Experience
Coolbeth has been racing - and winning - on motorcycles since he was five years old. The 33-year-old Connecticut native is a third-generation motorcycle racer and has been a member of the Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson flat track team since 2006. Coolbeth, a three-time Grand National Champion riding for the Harley-Davidson Screamin' Eagle Factory Team (2006-2008), finished the 2010 season in fifth place. Coolbeth won on the Canterbury Mile in Shakopee, Minn., on Sept. 11, and had six other podium appearances in 16 races. He has 24 wins in seven seasons of racing at the Grand National level. Coolbeth was named the AMA Flat Track Rookie of the Year in 1994, and began a steady climb up the ranks in Grand National competition. He won his first Grand National race in 2002.
Coolbeth once worked construction jobs between races, but now races full-time for a living, training between events on both flat-track and motocross motorcycles. During the long New England winters, ice racing on local ponds keeps his skills sharp.
"Riding for the Harley-Davidson Factory Team is still the best opportunity in the sport," said Coolbeth. "They give me excellent equipment and put me in position to win the championship every season. This team has produced so many Grand National champions over the years, I feel like all those great riders are with me every time I zip up the factory leathers."
Harley-Davidson Motor Company produces heavyweight custom, cruiser and touring motorcycles and offers a complete line of Harley-Davidson motorcycle parts, accessories, riding gear and apparel, and general merchandise. For more information, visit harley-davidson.com. The Screamin' Eagle Flat Track team is sponsored by Matco Tools.