On The Record: Chris Carr, Seven-Time AMA Pro Grand National Champion

Chris Carr won the Springfield Mile 11 times, more than any other rider in the history of AMA Pro Flat Track excepting long-time rival fellow Harley-Davidson XR-750 rider Scott Parker, with 14.

Carr retired from the sport after the 2011 season with seven Grand National Championships, but the 48-year-old California native remains active, performing exhibition runs at the Sacramento Mile and playing a color-commentating role on FansChoice.tv.

Before the start of the traditional Memorial Day event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, I sat down with Carr to learn what makes the Springfield Mile unique.

Springfield Mile logo

Watch Sunday’s 2015 AMA Pro Flat Track Springfield Mile Live on FansChoice.tv.

During my time, when the majority of the bikes were Harley-Davidsons, the bikes were pretty equally matched. Winning Springfield became very difficult because the race was so strategic.

The reason Scott Parker, Ricky Graham, and I have so many wins at Springfield is that we had so many opportunities. This track has been running two miles a year since 1983, the only track to do that. Other mile tracks we go to—Indianapolis and Sacramento—had a 10-year hiatus. And we were only going to them once a year. Nobody had a leg up.

Springfield is a symmetric mile: quarter-mile straightaways, quarter-mile turns. There are no other tracks like it in the country. Springfield wasn’t just built for horses; it’s a multi-purpose mile with concrete all the way around it. World of Outlaws and modifieds have run around here.

Another unique thing about Springfield is that the finish line is halfway down the straightaway. At Indy, the finish line is five-eighths of the way down the straightaway. At Du Quoin, it’s seven-eighths of the way down the straightaway. Sacramento is three-quarters.

You learn the subtleties of how to win Springfield by getting beat. If you look at the guys on the win list, we raced each other a lot. I benefitted greatly from getting beat by Scotty, Ricky, and Bubba Shobert at Springfield. The lessons that I learned I applied to win races when they weren’t there.

The strategy at Springfield today—the way the races have played out the past four or five years—is a different style of mile racing than when it was essentially Harley-only. Typically, the fastest bike on the racetrack is towing the Harleys around.

I predict with 99 percent certainty that someone who has won here before will win on Sunday. During the last few years, in the multi-brand era we’re in now, there have been some exceptions. Brandon Robinson swept Springfield in 2013. But last year, veterans Bryan Smith and Kenny Coolbeth won.

Smith has dominated mile racing with what is undoubtedly the fastest straight-line dirt tracker since Kenny Roberts’ Yamaha TZ750. We see a lot of guys fighting for Smith’s draft, especially here at Springfield.

It’s going to be hard to bet against Smith and the Crosley Kawasaki team. They are the mile favorites wherever we go.

We have more story lines coming into the first mile race of this year than we had in my entire career: riders on different brands, three-time Superbike World Champion Troy Bayliss coming in for five miles, innovation finding its way back into dirt track. It’s pretty cool.

Chris Carr won the Springfield Mile 11 times, more than any other rider in the history of AMA Pro Flat Track excepting long-time rival fellow Harley-Davidson XR-750 rider Scott Parker, with 14.

Carr retired from the sport after the 2011 season with seven Grand National Championships, but the 48-year-old California native remains active, performing exhibition runs at the Sacramento Mile and playing a color-commentating role on FansChoice.tv.

Before the start of the traditional Memorial Day event at the Illinois State Fairgrounds, I sat down with Carr to learn what makes the Springfield Mile unique.

Springfield Mile logo

Watch Sunday’s 2015 AMA Pro Flat Track Springfield Mile Live on FansChoice.tv.

During my time, when the majority of the bikes were Harley-Davidsons, the bikes were pretty equally matched. Winning Springfield became very difficult because the race was so strategic.

The reason Scott Parker, Ricky Graham, and I have so many wins at Springfield is that we had so many opportunities. This track has been running two miles a year since 1983, the only track to do that. Other mile tracks we go to—Indianapolis and Sacramento—had a 10-year hiatus. And we were only going to them once a year. Nobody had a leg up.

Springfield is a symmetric mile: quarter-mile straightaways, quarter-mile turns. There are no other tracks like it in the country. Springfield wasn’t just built for horses; it’s a multi-purpose mile with concrete all the way around it. World of Outlaws and modifieds have run around here.

Another unique thing about Springfield is that the finish line is halfway down the straightaway. At Indy, the finish line is five-eighths of the way down the straightaway. At Du Quoin, it’s seven-eighths of the way down the straightaway. Sacramento is three-quarters.

You learn the subtleties of how to win Springfield by getting beat. If you look at the guys on the win list, we raced each other a lot. I benefitted greatly from getting beat by Scotty, Ricky, and Bubba Shobert at Springfield. The lessons that I learned I applied to win races when they weren’t there.

The strategy at Springfield today—the way the races have played out the past four or five years—is a different style of mile racing than when it was essentially Harley-only. Typically, the fastest bike on the racetrack is towing the Harleys around.

I predict with 99 percent certainty that someone who has won here before will win on Sunday. During the last few years, in the multi-brand era we’re in now, there have been some exceptions. Brandon Robinson swept Springfield in 2013. But last year, veterans Bryan Smith and Kenny Coolbeth won.

Smith has dominated mile racing with what is undoubtedly the fastest straight-line dirt tracker since Kenny Roberts’ Yamaha TZ750. We see a lot of guys fighting for Smith’s draft, especially here at Springfield.

It’s going to be hard to bet against Smith and the Crosley Kawasaki team. They are the mile favorites wherever we go.

We have more story lines coming into the first mile race of this year than we had in my entire career: riders on different brands, three-time Superbike World Champion Troy Bayliss coming in for five miles, innovation finding its way back into dirt track. It’s pretty cool.