Ducati: Flat Track Racing History

Yavapai Downs Mile

History was made on May 1st at the Arizona Mile in Prescott Valley, AZ held at Yavapai Downs when Joe Kopp riding a Ducati passed Sammy Halbert on the Harley-Davidson in the last twenty feet of the 20 lap Grand National for the win.

The inaugural motorcycle-racing Mile was held in front of a capacity crowd with a finish that had the crowd on their feet throughout the 20 laps. Many riders called the track fun and challenging with Flat Track riders taking to the top of the racetrack "chassin the cushion" then running low on the blue groove in turns 3-4.

This was the first Twins race in almost two decades that the XR750 Harley has lost. AMA Pro Racing The AMA Pro Grand National Championship is the oldest and most traditional form of motorcycle racing, tracing it’s roots back to the early 1900’s when young daredevils tested each other on county fairground ovals all around the United States.

It’s been several years coming, but Joe Kopp did indeed give the Lloyd Brothers Motorsports Team their first AMA Pro Flat Track Grand National Championship victory at the Budweiser Arizona Mile.

The first time event was full of firsts. The first win for Ducati, the first BMW in a Flat Track National since 1954 and the first Kawasaki since 1975 to make a National Main.

All day long it appeared that Halbert Family / Kings Kustom’s Sammy Halbert was going to pick up where he left off in Daytona as he set fast time in qualifying, won the fastest heat and the five point, $1,000 Dash for Cash on his Harley-Davidson.

While Kopp had been fast all day, he didn’t give Halbert too much trouble in their heat as he finished second on his Latus Harley-Davidson / ENI R&M backed Ducati well behind Halbert.

When the National started, Kopp roared to the front as Halbert suddenly looked to be off his game, dropping to third behind Zanotti Racing’s Jake Johnson.

On lap seven Johnson’s race started to unravel as he was passed by both Halbert and Lancaster Harley-Davidson / Dallas fort Worth Honda’s Chris Carr.

"I realized I had to pick up the pace, I was afraid Joe was going to get away," said Halbert.

One more lap and Halbert was back in the lead and cruising. Kopp settled into second with Carr in third, but by lap thirteen Carr was under attack as Defending Grand National Twins Champion Jared Mees had his Rogers Lake Racing / Blue Springs Harley-Davidson backed Harley in contention for the last podium spot, taking third on lap fifteen.

Just as suddenly on lap seventeen Kenny Coolbeth pushed his Harley-Davidson Motor Company backed XR-750 around both Carr and Mees, dropping Mees to fifth. Mees was able to regroup, re-pass Carr and just miss making a last lap pass for third.

While this was a good race the race for the win suddenly heated up.

Joe Kopp says: "It looked like Sammy was having some brake problems, but he said not," said Kopp. "With a couple of laps to go I realized I had a shot. On the last lap I caught him down the back straight, but I thought I better wait for the front straight to pass him. I was just barely able to draft past at the finish line."

Sammy Halbert says: "I let this one get away, it’s a learning experience for me I’ll not let that happen again," said Halbert. "I should have won this."

Earlier in the day Rod Lake / Mike Velasco / Brothers Powersport’s Brad Baker had captured the Pro Singles Main as he led the twelve lap race wire to wire.

Yamaha Corp / GTYR / Van’s Yamaha’s Jeffery Carver fought his way into second, but finished four plus seconds behind Baker.

The race for third was a dandy as Monster Energy / Kawasaki / Werner-Springsteen Racing’s Chaz Springsteen and Priestley Racing / Vadnais Machine’s Corey Crawford ducked it out. Fast Qualifier Crawford was able to come out on top.

Flat Track Results

AMA Pro Racing GNC Twins National: 1. Joe Kopp (Duc); 2. Sammy Halbert (H-D); 3. Kenny Coolbeth (H-D); 4. Jared Mees (H-D); 5. Chris Carr (H-D); 6. Jake Johnson (H-D); 7. JR Schnabel (H-D); 8. Rob Pearson (H-D); 9. Don Taylor (H-D); 10. Luke Gough (Suz); 11. Henry Wiles (H-D); 12. Aaron King (Rot); 13. Brandon Robinson (H-D); 14. Mick Kirkness (H-D); 15. Chad Cose (Suz); 16. Nichole Cheza (H-D); 17. Bryan Smith (Kaw); 18. Matt Wait (BMW).

AMA Pro Singles Main: 1. Brad Baker (Hon); 2. Jeffery Carver (Yam); 3. Corey Crawford (Hon); 4. Chaz Springsteen (Kaw); 5. Mike Avila (Hon); 6. Jeremy Hamilton (Hon); 7. Mike LaBelle (Hon); 8. Wyatt Maguire (Yam); 9. Tony Davila (Hon); 10. Jake Cunningham (Suz); 11. Russ Wikle (Hon); 12. Harley Dunn (Hon); 13. Shayna Texter (Hon); 14. Michael Toon (Hon); 15. Mike Martin (Hon); 16. Chris Ponderous (Hon); 17. Kenny Malaguarnero (Hon); 18. Colt Chebultz (Hon).  

In 1954, the first Grand National Champion was crowned as Joe Leonard had accumulated the most points in the new series. Since then major changes have come to the series and now 55 years later the AMA Pro Grand National Championship Series will crown the 2009 Grand National Twins Champion, Grand National Singles Champion and the Grand National Pro Singles Champion.

This was the first Expert Twins National held at a new venue Mile (Yavapai Downs in Prescott Valley, Arizona – May 1, 2010). It is currently the only track in the western part of the country to feature Mile Nationals. The series will return to Yavapai Downs (October 9-10, 2010) with back-to-back Nationals.