Another packed house turned out on another cold night for Round Two of the AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship. The new DAYTONA Flat Track presented the riders with a whole different race track from the Series opener. Despite being much smoother and faster the slick surface proved to be a major challenge all night.
Jake Johnson is sporting a new number on a new team, but the Zanotti Racing backed veteran ended the night with his fifth Daytona National win on his number 5 Zanotti Racing / Leo Vince backed Honda.
Jake Johnson Speaks…
"I knew I had to get out front and stay smooth," said Johnson. "I could hear someone back there and with about four laps left I peeked. I saw that big number two and thought, ‘Oh oh here comes Coolbeth.’ I knew I had to keep my concentration and stay on my lines."
Johnson had obviously been fast all night, but last night’s winner Sammy Halbert had been fast qualifier on his # 7 Woody Kyle Racing / Fredericktown Yamaha / Kings Kustoms backed Yamaha, picking up the $250 Arai fast qualifier check.
Johnson’s win in the second qualifying heat would put him on the pole for the National as the other two heats were red flagged at some point, ending any chance for fast time.
In the GNC Dash Sammy Halbert showed the same speed and determination as he had with last night’s win. Halbert stayed glued to the bottom while Joe Kopp had his # 3 American Agip / Latus Harley-Davidson backed Honda riding the rim.
Kopp came up just inches short at the line as the two Washington riders charged out of turn four. Johnson was just a tick back in third.
The start of the twenty five lap National saw Johnson on the point with Sammy Halbert right on his heels. As Halbert tried to shoot under Johnson exiting turn two he hit a slick spot starting and started a slow spin right in front of the entire field. Somehow everyone missed him and with the engine still running Halbert rejoined the chase.
Johnson had been presented a gift of a little space on the field as the avoided the # 7 bike and he made the most of it. Kopp was back up at the top of the track in second with Johnny Lewis and his # 10 Scott Powersports / Pit Posse / Monster Energy backed Honda in third.
Defending GNC Singles Champion Henry Wiles was also on the high line with his Kawasaki USA / Don’s Kawasaki / Shift Racing / Jones Brothers Racing backed # 1 Kawasaki, but that high line would go away and both Kopp and Wiles would fade into the pack.
While Johnson was cruising, the large crowds attention was riveted on the # 7 as Halbert caught the back of the pack by lap night and started working his way to the front, by lap fourteen he was in tenth place and still working forward. That was where the fairytale ended however as his Yamaha gave up and Sammy’s night was over too soon.
Almost unnoticed, Jared Mees had been working his Pro Honda Oils / Montgomeryville Cycle Center / Rogers Lake Racing backed # 21 Honda into second, but that was short lived as Kenny Coolbeth was coming from even farther back on his # 2 Bettencourt’s Honda / Jason Perry backed Honda.
Coolbeth was able to come from ninth to second by lap twelve, but that is where is drive stalled. Coolbeth cut into Johnson’s lead, but never challenged.
Johnny Lewis capped off a fine couple of days on his # 10 Scott Powersports / Pit Posse / Monster Energy backed Honda with a fourth place finish. Jethro Halbert kept Halbert Family racing in the mix as he rode a steady race to fifth on his # 69 Woddy Kyle Racing / Fredericktown Yamaha / Kings Kustom backed Yamaha.
In the Pro Singles class JD Beach had been road racing at the neighboring speedway all day and missed practice, but was allowed to ride one four lap qualifying session. He was able to turn sixth fast time his # 95C Alpinestars / Arai / Oakley / Team 95 backed Honda.
In the Pro Singles Main, defending Pro Singles Champion Brad Baker got the hole shot on his # 1 Mike Velasco Racing / Brothers Power Sports / Rod Lake backed Honda, but he had a whole horde of riders right behind.
On lap four Beach wedged himself under Baker as they exited turn two and took command for the remaining twelve laps. Stephen Vanderkuur pushed the # 10J Dallas Fort Worth Honda / D&D Exhaust backed Honda to the front of a three way battle over second.
As Beach cruised, the podium appeared to be set, but a last lap shake-up saw last nights winner, Jeff Carver slip his # 24P Van`s Yamaha / Yamaha Motor Co / GYTR / Carver`s BBQ backed Yamaha into second. Baker held on for third.
Grand National Championship
1. Jake Johnson (Hon); 2. Kenny Coolbeth (Hon); 3. Jared Mees (Hon); 4. Johnny Lewis (Hon); 5. Jethro Halbert (Yam); 6. Bryan Smith (Kaw); 7. Joe Kopp (Hon); 8. Henry Wiles (Kaw); 9. JR Schnabel (Yam); 10. Don Mullen (Hon); 11. Brandan Bergen (Hon); 12. Rob Pearson (Yam); 13. Mick Kirkness (Suz); 14. Raun Wood (Hon); 15. Chris Carr (Hon); 16. Gary Conklin (Hon); 17. Sammy Halbert (Yam); DQ. Matt Weidman (Hon).
1. JD Beach (Hon); 2. Jeffery Carver (Yam); 3. Brad Baker (Hon); 4. Stephen Vanderkuur (Hon); 5. Mikey Avila (Hon); 6. James Rispoli (Hon); 7. Cory Strickler (Yam); 8. Shane Narbonne (Hon); 9. Mikey Martin (Hon); 10. Rob McClendon (KTM); 11. Mickey Fay (Hon); 12. John Long (Suz); 13. Mike LaBelle (Hon); 14. Wyatt Maguire (Yam); 15. Andrew Smith (Hon); 16. Adam Cobb (Yam); 17. William Cato (Hon); 18. Jacob Constantine (Hon).
GRAND NATIONAL POINT STANDINGS
1. Jake Johnson (42 pts / 1 win); 2. (TIE) Henry Wiles / Joe Kopp / Johnny Lewis (34); 5. Sammy Halbert (33 / 1 win); 6. Kenny Coolbeth (32); 7. Jethro Halbert (29); 8. Jared Mees (25); 9. Bryan Smith (18); 10. Don Mullen (17).
PRO SINGLES POINT STANDINGS
1. Jeffery Carver (42 pts / 1 win); 2. JD Beach (35 / 1 win); 3. James Rispoli (32); 4. Stephen Vanderkuur (31); 5. Brad Baker (30); 6. Mikey Avila (29); 7. Mikey Martin (19); 8. John Long (14); 9. (TIE) Cory Strickler / Mike Poe (13).