June 6, 2011, Santa Fe Springs, CA – Making its return to Road America, the scenic road course at Elkhart Lake where the AMA Pro Vance & Hines XR1200 Series made its debut only twelve months, the fans were treated to one of the most exciting races the series has produced to date, where the top seven riders were separated by less than one second as they crossed the finish line led by Richie Morris Racing’s Chris Fillmore.
Coming into the weekend with the points lead, Fillmore was quick from the start, setting the fastest time in Saturday morning practice in preparation for qualifying for Sunday’s race. With a grid that has doubled in size since the series debut, this weekend the XR class also saw the return of some of the veterans from last season, including Travis Wyman, riding for Harv’s Harley-Davidson, setting the second quickest time in practice, and Shawn Higbee riding for WFOracingOnline.com.
With beautiful weather throughout the weekend providing excellent track conditions, the racers were able to really stretch out the legs on the XR1200s and set some really fast times in qualifying. Again, setting the pace for the field, Fillmore broke into the 2:35s to take the pole position, followed by J&P Cycles rider, Michael Beck, earning his highest grid position to date along with Parts Limited rider and winner of the last round at Miller, Steve Rapp, and Drag Specialties rider, Michael Barnes, rounding out the front row.
With nearly the entire first two rows consisting of either previous race winners or podium finishers, all mounted on identical bikes per the spec rules for the XR1200 Series, and on one of the fastest road courses in the country, all the ingredients for an intense seven lap battle were in place as the lights went out for the start of the fourth round of the championship. Sure enough through the opening laps, a close pack of eight riders broke away from the rest of the field drafting one another through the straights and making out-braking maneuvers that saw the positions for the lead riders changing three or four times per lap.
Leading for a good portion of the opening laps, Fillmore got a little off-line on lap four, falling to the back of the pack. “About halfway through I went off the track at Turn 5 and by the time I got back out I was back to eighth or so,” said Fillmore in the post race conference. “I just had to put my head down from there and play catch-up.”
Fillmore’s teammate Danny Eslick, making his second appearance on the XR this season, wowed the fans, as usual, with his dramatic display of making lurid slides into the corners, like the kink after the Carousel, to put the moves on other riders in the lead pack to make his way to the front.
With the long uphill front straight providing the opportunity for slingshot passes at the line, it was like a game of chess as the front runners knew that leading out of the final corner would mean a likelihood of getting passed before the checkered flag. With some of the riders checking-up in the last couple of corners, Fillmore took the gamble, making a good run out of Turn 14 and tucking in as tight as he could in the run to the line. “It was the only lap where nobody passed me on the front straight…. it was tough out there with the draft, third or fourth place wouldn’t just creep by, they’d fly by you” said Fillmore. “I knew the race was anybody’s…so to get the win here, I was super happy.” Rounding out the podium was Eslick in second and Travis Wyman in third, in his first race back on the XR1200 since the season opener at Daytona.
Another major announcement for the series made this weekend is the news that XR1200s have been invited to be the only AMA class to participate in the upcoming Red Bull Indianapolis GP at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, August 26-28. This is going to be a huge event for the XR’s to compete in front of an international audience at one of the most famous racetracks in the world. It’s expected that competitors from XR1200 championships in Canada and Europe will also be planning to compete at this very special event.
Next up, the XR1200 Series will be at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, June 17-19.