The AMA Pro Grand National Championship is the oldest and most traditional form of motorcycle racing in America, tracing its roots back to the early 1900's. This year, the day after the K&N Filters Grand National Championship came to an end on the Yavapai Downs Mile, AMA Pro Racing hosted the 2010 Awards Ceremony at the Prescott Resort and Convention Center. By all measures, and according to those in attendance, the event was a striking success, filled with a renewed sense of dedication and emotion.
At the beginning of 2010, K&N's Johnny Jump and Hall of Fame racer Mike Kidd began discussions. With the help of series sponsor Parts-Unlimited, the creation of the AMA Pro K&N Filters Grand National Championship Series became a reality.
This was the first time since 2006 that a single rider was crowned Grand National Champion. Special Thanks to Zanotti Racing, Dave Zanotti, Ted McDermitt and Mike Hacker.
"I almost have a 40 year relationship with K&N, from racing, promoting and now working as the Director of Flat Track for AMA Pro Racing," explained Hall of Fame racer Mike Kidd.
"Earlier this year I made a call to John Jump (Brand Manager of the Powersports Division) to offer K&N Filters the title position of the series, which would include a $50,000.00 expert Grand National Championship points fund. We named the series AMA Pro K&N Filters Grand National Championship Series, with an awards banquet following the final race in Prescott, Arizona, to honor all our champions."
K&N's Johnny Jump gives Jake Johnson a $10,000 check for winning the K&N Filters AMA Grand National Championship Series presented by Motorcycle-Superstore.com.
What made this year's ceremony particularly exceptional was that it marked the first time since 2006 that the official overall Grand National Champion was crowned. By virtue of his 20 point win over both Joe Kopp and Jared Mees, Jake Johnson came away with the lion's share of hardware and cash.
Johnson won $10,000 from K&N Filters, and $5,000 from Harley-Davidson Motor Company, plus another $2,500 for winning the "Twins" Championship. Kopp and Mees collected checks for $8,000 and $6,000 respectively from the K&N points fund.
The class of 1972, three AMA Hall of Famers, Mike Kidd, Kenny Roberts and Gary Scott.
We asked Kidd to clarify the significance of what it meant to award the Overall Grand National Champion at this year's banquet?
"It gets a bit complicated, but here goes," said Kidd. "The Grand National Series began in 1954 with 18 races consisting of Short Track, TT, Half Mile, Mile and Road Race. In 1986 road race was split off from flat track to run their own Championship Series, so from 1986 through 2005 the series consisted of all aspects of flat track racing, with points accumulated from each round going to crown AMA Pro Grand National Champion. Then, in 2006 AMA Pro Racing split flat track into two series, singles and twins, resulting in a Singles National Champion and Twins National Champion."
Kidd goes on to explain that there were many people who felt splitting the series into singles and twins took away from the magnitude of a Grand National Champion, in which only one rider carried the number one plate. Beginning in 2006, unless a one rider won both the Singles and Twins Championship, Flat Track would have two riders with number one plates, somewhat diluting the meaning of a Grand National Champion.
"In 2010 AMA Pro Racing elected to go back to a combined singles and twins series to crown one Grand National Champion," adds Kidd. "AMA Pro Racing will still recognize the expert Singles National Champion and Twins National Champion to allow marketing benefits to teams, riders and manufacturers who only campaign the singles or twins class, however, only the Grand National Champion will carry the number one plate."
Kidd says there were many heartfelt moments during this year's ceremony, but there was one in particular that sticks out.
"I knew sometime during the awards ceremony that Joe Kopp was going to mention his retirement from competing on a full schedule. I remember when I announced my retirement, it was extremely hard to hold back the emotions from the hard work, dedication and commitment it takes to be competitive. Since that time I have seen my fair share of riders who just cannot hold back their emotions either from winning or announcing their retirement, so I was anxiously waiting to see how Joe would handle his announcement."
"When Joe began speaking of retiring, here came the emotions….and not just from Joe, but everyone in the room. That was a special moment, where he shared his feelings on racing and the commitment to be with his family."
Kidd's initial involvement with K&N reaches back to 1971, when he was riding Yamaha's in the Junior Division. Norm McDonald, the "N" in K&N, approached him to ask if he would be interested in racing for the innovative company, which had only been in existence two years at that point.
"I raced my Junior and Expert rookie season for K&N with some great success. As a rookie expert at the 1972 season opener at the Houston Astrodome we were second to Kenny Roberts in the Short Track National," recalls Kidd. "It was pretty cool, because Kenny Roberts, Gary Scott and I were all three rookies sitting on the pole for the Short Track National. Throughout my entire professional racing career I have never used any other filter than a K&N."
At the conclusion of this year's awards ceremony, Kidd remarked, "It was obvious the riders and teams appreciated the points fund, and the commitment from all our sponsors towards the series."
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