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MOTORCYCLE RACING: Avila stars as cycle event debuts at NCS

Sam Wiggins (56A) of Coatesville, Penn., and Dustin Cassidy of Walnut, Ill., rac1 / 2
Kevin Anderson of Cambridge skated a foot along the ground as his Ducati motorcy2 / 2

BARROWS — Michael Avila drove to his sixth win of the year in the inaugural run of the AMA Pro Motorcycle Pro Singles main event Saturday night at North Central Speedway.

Avila’s team was celebrating afterward as his win kept him in front of Gerit Callies, and 16 points back of leader Michael Martin with two weeks to go in the season.

Avila ended up having to spend time in the ambulance after the win. It wasn’t as a result of the racing, but the champagne celebration afterwards. 

“I couldn’t figure out how to get the champagne bottle open so I decided to smash it and I cut my hand open,” Avila said. “I can’t complain. We got the win here today.”

Avila and the rest of the drivers who were seeing the NCS track arrived early in the day and experienced warm fall temperatures. The temperature dropped fast after the sun went down, which made the track slick.

“I was here early and looked at the track. It looked fast but we weren’t sure,” Avila said. “No one has been here before so it was a new slate for everyone. We went into it with an open mind. Everything just worked out and fell into place.”

Judging from the fans’ reaction, and the drivers comments, the first AMA Motorcycle event at NCS was a success. 

Fans got the opportunity to see the Pros Singles run, and the Grand National Twins. 

Jared Mees widened his lead over Kenny Coolbeth, Jr. as he led the 25-lap main event from flag to flag. Coolbeth won the four-lap Dash for Cash, and Mees was surprised he was able to stay out front of Coolbeth. 

“I got a great start and I picked up on a few key things that I was struggling with through the night, especially on turns three and four,” Mees said.

 “About halfway through the night I had that dialed in and I had the feeling that I could win. I expected to be on the podium tonight but I didn’t know about beating Coolbeth.”

Drivers needed to get used to the cool, early fall chill and also to the short track on which they would be driving. On a short track like NCS, the start was key as it is a standing start off a light tree.

“The start is very important on this type of track but you can’t really go anywhere to practice it,” Avila said. “You try to stay as sharp on it as you can in the offseason. The thing is that a driver either has the quick reaction or they don’t. Luckily, I have been getting good starts all year and that has been to my advantage.”

Mees also pointed out that he doesn’t get a lot of extra time to spend on it, but the start is key. 

He struggled with the cool conditions and the shortness of the track a little bit, but was able to make in-race adjustments. 

“Fog and mildew on the face shield and the moisture coming up through the track led to a slippery surface,” Mees said of his challenges for the night. 

“It was chilly, but I am used to that living in Michigan,” he added. “The track was a little small for the Twins, but the fans want to see it and we understand it.” 

The fans who braved the chill did get to see a clean racing event with very few caution flags. In the two main events, there were no yellow or red flags waved. 

“In my class of Pro Singles we get impatient and start making mistakes that we shouldn’t,” Avila said. “There is usually quite a few flags, but it was surprising that for this type of track that there wasn’t any. It was kind of surprising.”

The Grand National Championship series has a 20-race schedule and starts with racing at Daytona, Fla., and ends in Pomona, Calif., on Oct. 15. There are two races after Brainerd so the race came at a key time for drivers.

Mees left Brainerd with a nice cushion in the standings, while Avila has momentum, but has to make up ground on Martin quickly to be able to win the points championship. 

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